THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. For more information, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit us on our website at http://www.on-a-bike.com/.
NCOM NEWS BYTES
Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)
BIKERS RALLY TO SAVE SAFETY FUNDING When word got out that the US House of Representatives was considering a transportation appropriations bill in late July, and an amendment to eliminate funding for motorcycle safety funds was being proposed, the biker community rallied to the call and succeeded in saving $6 million in grant money provided to 44 states for motorcycle safety programs.
After being reminded by scores of concerned riders across the country that saving lives is more important than saving a few dollars, the amendment by Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling was never introduced and the Section 2010 motorcycle safety funds remained intact as the $104.4 billion dollar FY2008 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (HR 3074) went on to pass by a vote of 268-153.
TRAFFIC DEATHS REACH HISTORIC LOWS, WHILE MOTORCYCLE FATALITIES CLIMB Declining traffic deaths has lead to the lowest highway fatality rate ever recorded, announced the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of people who died on the nationÂ’s roads fell by 868 deaths last year, the largest drop in total fatalities in 15 years; representing a 2% decline that contributed to the historic low fatality rate of 1.42 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), reported U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
But while total highway deaths fell from 43,510 in 2005 to 42,642 in 2006, the lowest level in five years, motorcycle fatalities continued to escalate for the ninth consecutive year following a decade of steadily declining fatality rates. Data from NHTSAÂ’s 2006 Annual Assessment of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities and Injuries shows that 4,810 motorcyclists were killed on AmericaÂ’s roadways last year, an increase of 5.1 percent over 2005. Motorcycle rider fatalities now account for 11 percent of total fatalities, exceeding the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first time since NHTSA began collecting fatal motor vehicle crash data in 1975.
Many blame the increase on the rise in popularity of motorcycles, with states experiencing record numbers of registrations and dealers selling record numbers of new bikes year after year for over a decade. Other experts cite the aging ridership, bigger bikes, changing traffic mix, miles traveled and other factors.
A comprehensive study into the causation of traffic accidents involving motorcycles is expected to begin later this year at the Oklahoma Transportation Center at Oklahoma State University, the first such motorcycle-crash study since the Hurt Report in 1980.
The National Transportation Safety Board conducted a motorcycle safety forum late last year to explore safety concerns in that sector of transportation.
While driving has never been safer in the U.S., internationally the United States ranks 42nd of 48 countries measured in the number of highway fatalities per capita. And although the fatality rate has plummeted since 1970, when the U.S. led the world in road safety with the lowest death rate among industrialized countries reporting data, it now ranks 11th in fatalities per distance driven.
Safety experts say the reasons are many. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the North American director of Make Roads Safe, a nonprofit organization based in London, said other countries have stricter laws, better enforcement, more accessible public transportation, greater awareness, public support and more rigorous training and licensing standards.
But expert after expert said the real problem was one of culture. With personal freedom being a cornerstone of the United States, many states are loath to pass legislation that curtails them, even when it comes to road safety. So while the governments of other countries can easily pass laws to make driving safer, like a national ban on hand-held cellphone use, those laws here are left up to the states to impose, and that is often not so easy. Fred Wegman, managing director of the National Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, said attitudes were different in Europe. There, he said, safety is not just about the individual, but is the responsibility of society as a whole. Â“European countries fundamentally pay more political attention to road safety,Â” he said.
HELMETS DONÂ’T SAVE LOUISIANA MOTORCYCLISTS Despite passing a mandatory helmet law in 2004, motorcycle fatalities in Louisiana are on a record pace and on course for one of the worst totals in the country, Highway Safety Commission executive director James Champagne told attendees at a safety summit in Baton Rouge.
The summit, produced by the Louisiana Motorcyclist Safety and Awareness Committee and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission was convened to decrease the number of motorcycle fatalities and injuries in Louisiana. Achieving that goal is urgent.
Champagne told summit attendees that more motorcycle fatalities are projected for this year in Louisiana than in any other year in the state's history. If the trend continues, we will have not only the state's worst year, but also one of the worst totals in the country.
At the Louisiana summit, safety officials pinpointed reasons for the alarming increase in motorcycle fatalities. One is lack of professional training. Champagne says training should be required before a cycle owner or rider can apply for a license.
Ultimately, according to Champagne, almost all the factors that contribute to the problem can be reduced by new legislation, enforcement of existing laws - and mandated education.
LOUD PIPES TICKET DISMISSED The first and only ticket that police have issued to a motorcyclist under Denver's controversial new noise ordinance has been dismissed. Attorney Wade Eldridge, himself a biker, challenged the law on behalf of his client, Stuart Sacks, who was pulled over in LoDo and ticketed for having an "unlawful modified muffler," records show.
"The officer neither inspected his bike to see if it had the stamp nor did he use a sound meter," Eldridge said. "So the most they would have had was the officer's gut feeling that it was too loud, which is not enough."
Designed to curb motorcycle noise, the controversial new ordinance took effect July 1st and limits noise levels to 82 decibels from a distance of 25 feet, and requires motorcyclists with bikes made after 1982 to have a muffler with an EPA noise-certification stamp.
Eldridge, who is the Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) Attorney for Colorado and legal counsel for the Confederation of Clubs of Colorado, also claims the noise ordinance is unconstitutionally vague. The law "lends itself to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement," he told the Rocky Mountain News. "The police can stop you for whatever reason."
Eldridge said the law leaves enforcement up to the "unfettered discretion of the individual officer," adding that his client was told he was stopped because his pipes were too loud.
Police Capt. Eric Rubin, who used to head the Traffic Operations Bureau, didn't know the details of that stop but said officers are using their training and experience in the field "as reasonable suspicion to briefly stop the rider" and check for the EPA stamp.
But the city's decision to drop the case highlighted a fundamental flaw in the law - Denver police aren't equipped with the $1,000 noise monitors needed to make the charge stick, said Eldridge, adding that, "In any case in which it's properly challenged, the city has an impossible burden." The reason Assistant City Attorney April Snook cited in her motion to dismiss the case was the city was "unable to prove charge beyond a reasonable doubt."
Ellen Dumm, spokeswoman for the city's Environmental Health Department, said an "oversight" caused the case to be dismissed. "The police officer did not inspect the pipes for the required (Environmental Protection Agency) sticker," she said, adding that the dismissal was a "one-time" thing and that the ordinance's enforcement will result in quieter streets.
Eldridge points out that even police bikes may be louder than DenverÂ’s allowable limits. According to court documents, tests conducted by the city on police motorcycles found sound levels at redline of 81.3 decibels and 81.7 decibels, and since the accuracy of the sound meters the city used is within plus or minus .5 decibels, police motorcycles may be in violation of the new noise law, Eldridge said.
PATCH BAN AT STURGIS BAR SPURS BOYCOTT, POSSIBLE LEGISLATION A beef with Hells Angels could inspire legislation to protect wearing motorcycle-club Â“colors,Â” a state legislator told Rapid City Journal columnist Bill Harlan during Sturgis Bike Week. One-Eyed Jacks saloon on Main Street was boycotted during the rally because it is the only bar in town that bans motorcycle club insignia, and they even barred South Dakota State Representative Jim Putnam from entering while wearing the colors of his own dangerous motorcycle club, the Lawmakers.
Â“If this persists, IÂ’ll consider it,Â” said Rep. Putnam, R-Armour, who sometimes wears a Sturgis motorcycle rally necktie during the legislative session. Â“PuttÂ” is not only a long-time motorcyclist himself, but is also a long-serving member of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists Legislative Task Force (NCOM-LTF), and anti-biker discrimination legislation is on their agenda.
Putnam added that legislation protecting motorcycle attire passed the state House in the early 1990s. It failed in the Senate, he said, but a similar Minnesota law has survived court challenges.
Now, Putnam supports a boycott of the saloon. Â“IÂ’m not going in there,Â” he told the Journal. But One-Eyed Jack's owner Ray Gold is just as adamant about keeping his new ban on Â“back patches,Â” which he told the newspaper is to keep out the Hells Angels, whose Sturgis headquarters is near the bar.
But the ban on patches also angered Louis Nobs of Hibbing, Minn., who was barred entry wearing his Soldiers for Jesus colors. Â“You canÂ’t ban patches for just one group,Â” he said. Â“If you ban them for motorcyclists you have to ban them for bowling teams, the Knights of Columbus -- everyone.Â”
Nobs is on the board of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, and he helped distribute 60,000 fliers calling for the boycott.
ChiPS STAR NEVER GOT MOTORCYCLE LICENSE TV biker cop Erik Estrada has revealed he never passed his motorcycle test. Estrada played California Highway Patrol motorcycle cop Ponch in 1970s hit CHiPs, reports The Sun.
But he never actually had a motorcycle license for real. Estrada, now 58, had to hurriedly arrange a bike test when he was assigned to the California Highway Patrol for a new reality TV show.
And it took him three attempts to pass before he could appear on Â“Back To The GrindÂ”, a show that gets actors to try their TV jobs.
WEIRD NEWS: A motorcycle was once plucked out of the Los Angeles sewer system. It's the largest object ever found in there!
QUOTABLE QUOTE: Â“Knowledge is power (Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est).Â”Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) English statesman and philosopher