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Jun-11-2012 21:35printcomments

AMA Member: Inflammatory article twists facts, denigrates motorcyclists

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Motorcycle riders and enthusiasts gather before a rally at the state capitol. Salem, Oregon. File Photo by Bonnie King

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - An article by published on June 7 and subsequently picked up by USA Today and other news outlets, “Despite Death Toll, Motorcycle Groups Strive to Muzzle U.S. Regulators,” contains biased reporting and derogatory language toward motorcyclists.

The article selectively cites statistics that lead uninformed readers to the conclusion that motorcyclist fatalities are on the rise and that helmet mandates and motorcycle-only checkpoints are necessary to promote public safety.

Michael Dabbs, president of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, is quoted in the article, saying, “Maybe we ought to save some of the costs when police or emergency responders go to the scene of a crash and the person is not wearing a helmet. Perhaps they ought to be left there like roadkill.”

This statement displays crassness and exemplifies editorial bias because there is no evidence that injured motorcyclists are any more likely to be a public burden than other roadway users.

A Harborview Medical Center study published in 1988 reported that injured motorcyclists in the trauma center relied on public funds a lower percentage of the time than did automobile drivers to pay their hospital bills during the same time period. Also, a 1992 study by the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center reported that automobile drivers and motorcyclists have their medical costs covered by insurance at a nearly identical rate.

The article selectively cites statistics to suggest that motorcycle fatalities are on the rise, yet failed to point out that motorcycle sales surged dramatically during the same period, or that motorcycle fatalities dropped 16 percent in 2009 and have stayed relatively flat in 2010 and 2011.

The article portrays rider education as ineffective, yet failed to cite the federally funded motorcycle crash causation study, conducted by Professor Hugh “Harry” Hurt, Jr., documenting the efficacy of rider education.

The 1981 report said: "The basic Motorcycle Rider Course of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is effective in training motorcycle riders and those trained riders are both less involved and less injured in motorcycle accidents."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also cited rider education as effective in its 2005 report, "Promising Practices in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing." The report states: "Although evidence of the effectiveness of rider education on crash reduction is mixed, several studies have shown that trained riders tend to have fewer crashes, less severe crashes, and overall lower cost of damage resulting from crashes."

All of this information was provided to the author of the article, Rick Schmitt, in correspondence with the AMA before publication. The AMA can only assume that the editor selectively edited the reporter’s copy to fit a preconceived desire to promote helmet mandates and motorcycle-only checkpoints.

The AMA strongly advocates helmet use and protective apparel, but opposes mandates because they do nothing to prevent crashes. Motorcycle crash prevention should be the overarching policy of our elected officials and the regulatory community.

Programs such as rider training and motorist awareness are effective, yet history has taught us that when helmet mandates are enforced, scarce resource dollars are siphoned away from these programs.

The AMA opposes motorcycle-only checkpoints because they target a select group of legal road users simply because they choose to ride on two- or three-wheeled vehicles.

We applaud the courage of legislators, such as U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who have taken on the powerful anti-motorcycling interest groups that seem less concerned with promoting policies that prevent motorcycle crashes, and more concerned with reducing insurance payments after crashes occur.

With more and more newspapers printing articles attributing this biased story, the AMA needs your help to send a pre-written letter to newspaper editors if you see this report in your paper. To improve the chance of your response being printed, please personalize your letter.

Act now to contribute a non-tax deductible amount to the AMA. To contribute, please call Membership Services at 800-262-5646.

Another option is for you to help us support our friends in Congress, such as Sensenbrenner. The AMA has the American Motorcyclist Political Action Committee (AMPAC), which allows us to provide support to members of Congress who battle to preserve your rights.

Source: AMA Press Release


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Daniel Johnson June 12, 2012 3:15 pm (Pacific time)

Has anyone compared the injury and fatality rates to jurisdictions, like Canada, that do have helmet mandates?

I think it's self-evident that helmet mandates do not prevent crashes; I think it is equally self-evident that wearing a helmet significantly reduces death and injuries in crashes which is what I think Dabbs was alluding to. People who are killed or badly injured in motorcycle accidents when not wearing a helmet are to a large extent, authors of their own misfortune.

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