Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1980's

Cycle News 1988 06 08

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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an aim o kill freedom wice again, fellow motorcycle riders, we ave been singled out by the bullies in the ajority for humiliation ; first, and then xtinction. The real aim of both Senate Bill and Assembly Bill 36 is irnination of the motorcycle a viable vehicle. Take AB36, the California te motorcycl e helmet law. It is ured a s a sa fe ty mea sure, but formed motorcyclists kn ow. it is t, and so we o p pose it , not onl y a nuisance law , but because it is nasty precedent in th e eros io n of ersonal Iibert y. Helm et laws h av e been struck wn in most of the ' Un ited States. ut th e ca m pa ign for mandatory elmets co n tin ues, propped u p by a u sy, dedi cat ed sq uad of a n rio torcyc le zeal ots wh o know a ll th e ic ks . They go t the Cal i fornia gislature to go a long with them by bbing flo ods of dishonest " estia res" o f hordes of in j ured bikers, sting th e sta te "estimated" mil o ns, th at th is sacrifice of o ne big eedom , enjoyed by a n on-voti ng ino rity, p rom ises to save. T h e wm ak ers went for it. Yet n obody tuall y co u nted th e bike-injured tizens in Stat e Hospitals, or tallied e actual costs. . One of Clayton 's Rules of Lobbyg is: " If yo u want high numbers, stirnate; if you want low numbers, unt. " So we sent our ace investigtive reporter , Farren Williams, to unt th e bodies in Rancho Los migos, where most of the accident ictirns who ar e cared for by the state ide. Farren was frustrated in his k (see sidebar: How I tried, by arren Williams). State health offiials claim not to know how many e1metless motorcycle accident vicms there really are, or whai they st the state. For all o ur trained searchers and journalists were able discover, there are none! Why, then , make bareheaded otor-bikirrg a crime? Well , it riminalizes a large' minority of otorcycle riders who, for a: variety f reasons, have chosen to reject the nefit of engineered headgear. It rther makes lawbreakers of us who ke to wear h elmets, if we ever dare move them on a" nice, easy ride. hey have a simple answer for those this predicarnen t: Stop riding your otorcycle. Join the majority and e helmet law won't affect you. This could result in a sharp drop motorcycle accident statistics, ming to prove that the h elmet law ves lives. But the Hatlaw strategy ' c1udes filing high estimates that n later be compared to actual unts, to " p ro ve savings." This oesn't fool many, but it makes pealing th e h elmet laws more ifficult. That wouldn't be so bad, cept that those who ar e sin cerel y teres ted in sa fety, not m ot orcycledication , are denied real facts and gu res th at we nee d in o u r work. lifomia wo uld be the best tes t of e h elm et law 's safety effecti veness, in deed it becomes a la w. Bu t we -ill n ever kn ow unless we have rea l ct s and numb er s pre-l aw , fo r mparison. T h ere seems little doubtthat good elmets, willinl?ly worn, red uce th e .veri ty o f head injuries, The famous Hurt Report proves that most California motorcycle riders use good helmets, but often lack training o f what's inside, to know how to avoid a ccidents. Real motorcycle safet y will be accomplished by California's new law requiring successful completion o f a motorcycl e training co u rse by minors before receiving a m otorcycle operator's license. Many of th e sa me lobbyists who push h elmet laws ar e opposed to rid er training. This proves th at th ey don 't care about safety and will not' be satisfied until motorcycle riding is decl ared to be a high cr ime a n d misde meanor. lock-up-the-Deserts plan Whi le the hel met law a ttacks our freedom .to ride m ot orcycles o n th e road, Se nator Ala n C ra nsto n 's' "Desert Pro tection Act " wan ts to fence o ur traditional off-road recreation grou nds in th e deserts, ma in ly to keep d irt motorcycles a nd ATVs out. We were enjoying th e desert before any body else. We apprecia te the desert as much as a nyone. Ask th e BLM, they'll tell you that the o ffroad vehicle enth usias ts love an d respect th e deserts. But here again the a nti-moto rcycle zealots, not of the safety stripe, but the nature-preservers this time, are determined to deny us a place to exist. Senator Cranston points out a tiny, BLM-controlled place in his proposed plan where off-road vehicles may be allowed - the desert ghetto of a dying recreation, h e hopes. I resent these lying, sneaking attacks on motorcycling. I resent their calling our daring transportation and recreation a "prob lem." Motorcycling is a solution, not a problem. The state of .California faces a problem of ridlock. The a vera ge commute 0 45 minutes today will lengthen to two hours by the turn of the century, we are told by those who study traffic congestion. The only solution, they say is to pave more land, spend more billions on freeways. I suggest that there is a better solution: Don 't criminalize motorcycle riders : Rather, encourage California's commuters to motorcycle, like they promote car-pools. I used to commute from one side of Los Angeles County to th e other. It was two hours in a car, but only 45 minutes on a motorcycle. And it was fun . Motorcycling, I repeat, is a solution. And I resent the idea of locking up th e deserts. It is like keeping one out of his own back yard. Cranston's plan is pure hatred in actio n. The idea of policing th e desert s (by motor veh icle, o f course) to keep citizens from finding recr eation th ere is in sane and unworthy o f our grea t republ ic. A repub lic is supposed to protect th e rights of minori ties like us from th e tyran ny o f the m ajority. Sure, most people -in the U.S. don 't care o ne way or a nother ab out th e gr e t deserts o f th e sou th west. T he re a is just a lo ud, lying m in ority o f ORV haters and a quiet minority of O RV (Co n t i n ued t o page 45 ) How I tried By Farren Williams Officials a t Ranchos Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California, can tell you how I many head trauma pa- tients th ey trea t in a typical yea r (betwee n 225 and 250). They ca n tell you th e percentage o f head trauma patients they treat who wer e injured in motorcycle accidents (betwee n 20 and 25 percent). But they ca n ' t tell yo u how many of th e injured motorcyclists wer e wearing helm ets, or not wea ring helmet s, at th e time o f th eir accidents. Those sta tistics don 't exist. Assembl yman Ri chard Fl o yd (D-Garde na), who authored AB36, California 's p roposed mandat ory ' h elmet law , h as ci ted severa l sta tistics to drum up su p port for his hill. Floyd claims that 82 percent of, th e cos t of taking care o f motorcycl e acci dent victims who su ffer h ead in j uries i n Californ ia is borne by taxpayer-fin anced agenci es . H e a lso says uninsured m o to rcyclists who su ffer head injuri es in traffic accide n ts' cost Ca lifo rnia taxpayers $65 mi llion a yea r in medi cal bi lls. Floyd 's source fo r th ose sta tistics is th e ta te of California Office of Legisla tive Services. Bu t Legislati ve Se rv ices officia ls hav e a d m itted th at th e fi gures a re esti ma tes, and th ey ca n ' t really exp la in h ow th e numbers were tab ulated. In a n effort to co u nt th e number of motorcycle-related head injury cases that are treated in a typical hospital which cares for 'indigent patients, we chose what we con sidered a representative facility Ranchos Los Amigos in Downey - and started making phone calls. When we asked to talk with a spokesman for the head trauma unit at Ra nch os Los Amigos, we ' expected to get little cooperation. We expected to be lectured on the evils of motorcycle riding, and on th e virtures of Floyd's AB36. Boyl Were we off base. Maura Sullivan, coordinatior for the hospital's Adult Brain Injury Service, often rides h er Harley-Davison and sh e doesn 't wear a helmet. She feels helmets are dangerous because they often co n trib u te to accidents. She said helmets restrict visi on and hearing. She also pointed out that taxpayers often foot the bill for spinal injuries and numerous broken bones received in motorcycle accidents that many motorcyclists nev er would have suffered had th ey not been wearing helmets which impaired th eir hearing and VISIon. " By far , th e majority of motorcycle acciden ts occur to young males o n foreign-made m o torcycles," sa id Sullivan. " T h ey' ve owned th em for less th an three m onths, th ey don 't h ave a li cen se to operate them a nd th ey are in to xica ted a t th e time o f th e acci dent. " "In 50 p er cen t of th e fa ta l acci dents, th e operators had no motorcycle licen se," she sa id. " In 75 percent of th e fa tal acciden ts, the o p er a tors wer e under the influen ce o f a lco hol or drugs. "I rid e H ar ley-D av idson motor- cycles and I am against the helmet law," Su llivan said. " Persona ll y, I feel the helmet law is a BandAid a p p ro ach to the situation. They (legislators) need to get to th e root of the problem. They need to tighten alcohol an d drug abuse laws. And they need to monitor whoever buys motorcycles to make surethey have completed a trainin g course and have a motorcycle (o pe ra to r' s) license." Sullivan said th e Head Trauma Service at Ranchos Los Amigos treats between 225 to 250 patients in a typical year and between 20 and 25 percent of those patients ar e motorcycle accident victims. For 'acu te reh abiliation, a h ead trauma patient is· usuall y h ospitalized for three months. According to Bill Saar, a spokesman for the hospital's public affairs department, it costs ab out $ 1297 a day to treat a patient. Assu m ing th at 62.5 m ot orcycle acc ide nt victims were trea ted at Ran chos Los Amigos la st year (25 per cent of 250), a nd th ey eac h spent 90 days in th e hospital, it would co st $7 ,295,625 to tr eat th em . Because 80% o f th e head tra uma cases at Ran ch os Los Amigos are pa id by Med i-Cal , th e cos t to taxpayers, for thi s one hospita l, would be $5,836,500. In a n a tte m p t to verify tha t n u m ber , we phoned Pat Hol oda y wi th th e h o sp i ta l's Fina n c ial Se rv ices De p a rt m ent. H al oday sa id head tra u ma b ill in gs ar en ' t broken down by accident ca use, but sai d th at durin g fisca l yea r 1986/ 87, th e gro ss cha rges made to Medi-Cal by th e H ead Trauma Service were $19.2 million (w h ich represented 80% o f Ranch os Los Arnigos' h ead trauma cases ). Assuming 25 p ercent wer e motorcycle accident victims, ' the cos t to taxpa yers would be $4,800,000. If 14 other ho spitals have similar billings, Floyd's $64 million liability to so ciety is realized. But what does that mean? You can manipulate data all day long. We calculated the costs to taxpayers from motorcycle accident victims who are treated at Ra nch os Los Amigos using two different methods grven to us by different hospital officials. Our conclusions were $1 million in disagreement. And nowhere in th e data was the helmet factor considered. For all we - or Ranchos Los Amigos official s - know, every motorcyclist treated in th e head trauma unit was wearing a helmet at the time of hi s accident. How could making helmet use mandatory have reduced or prevented their injuries? When it comes to keeping track of dollars, the hospital is co nce r n ed with who o wes them money and how much . Not wh y. Holoda y admitted th at Financial Services doesn 't " ha ve any spe cifi c data on motorcycle injuries." "We don't have a lot of good data," sa id Sullivan. " Floyd 's j us t throwing o u t th at number ($65 million ) because th ere's not a lo t o f data. By this time nex t yea r, th ere will be da ta. (Ra nchos Los Am igos rece n tly receive d a grant to st udy h ead trauma ). We wi ll brea k da ta down into accide nts w here motorcyclis ts were wea rin g h elmets and wh ere theywere not. T ha t dat a does not ex is t now. " Floyd says th e hel met law will save them ," said Su ll iva n. "Tha t's so totall y false it 's in credibl e." • 3

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