Monday, May 21, 2018

Illinois condemns motorcyclists to death by leaving helmets off safety tip sheet

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
     What is it with rich guys and motorcycles? Sam Zell was always blasting around Majorca, Spain, on his Ducati. Maybe he liked it. Maybe it made him feel alive. Maybe he imaged the romance of the bike made him seem less vile.
     Bruce Rauner is the same — his motorcycle, like that Carhartt jacket, no doubt intended to foster the impression that he's a rough-and-tumble man of the people, and not a flint-hearted, out-of-touch millionaire with nine homes who spent the past three years trying to grease the seized-up gears of the state with the fat squeezed from the lives of the poor and the disabled.
     While my general attitude toward Rauner is to ignore him and patiently await the hook that will yank him offstage and into history, my attention was caught by a photo Rauner tweeted Thursday, showing himself with one crisp-jeaned leg draped over a Harley, and a little public service announcement:
     "Did you know that May is Motorcycle Awareness Month? As an avid rider, Gov. Rauner wants to make sure all Illinoisans are staying safe on the road. Click here for more info and safety tips:"
     I assume that was written by an underling and doesn't mean Rauner is now referring to himself in the third person — entering his royal phase, perhaps.
     Intrigued, I clicked the link and was brought to the Illinois Department of Transportation's "safety tips for motorcyclists" page.
     What are those tips? Just four: Be Visible ("Wear high-vis clothing to make yourself obvious!"); Intersections (not a tip, per se, but a place to be cautious. "Make sure you are free from other car's blind spots.") Passing ("Do not change lanes quickly...") and Following Distance ("All motorists should allow a minimum 3 second 'space cushion').
     Sensible enough. But anything missing? Besides an editor, I mean. An important aspect of safety is glaringly left out:
     Helmets.


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17 comments:

  1. There's a very good reason why people who need organ transplants call them "donorcycles"!

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    1. Wondering whether there was any validity to the "donorcycle" reference, I came across the follows:

      “Motorcycle fatalities are not only our No. 1 source of organs, they are also the highest-quality source of organs, because donors are usually young, healthy people with no other traumatic injuries to the body, except to the head… [a mandatory motorcycle helmet law] could put us out of business – or at least the business of organ transplants.”

      —Transplant surgeon quoted in “Brain Dead: Why Are There No Mandatory Helmet Laws?” by Jerry Garrett, New York Times online, July 7, 2008.

      So maybe helmet laws actually cost lives rather than save them.

      john

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    2. Not to worry. We'll always have guns.

      Tom

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    3. Interesting, if somewhat macabre.

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  2. I've visited Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and other such places, not as a patient, enough times to know you're well advised to wear a helmet when motorcycling or bicycling. DoT's website should have a fifth tip for motorcyclist, don't lane split. I've seen it in California for over several decades, it's a very dangerous technique where the cyclist rides on the white striped lines between lanes of traffic faster than the cars. I was surprised to see it on the Stevenson for the last couple of years every now and then. Here's a video of a few accidents. The amusing part is when they slam into someone and believe it's the car or truck drivers fault.

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    1. Yeah, that lane-splitting is some scary shit. The first place I noticed a lot of that happening was in Ireland. I finally asked a friend and she just said: "yeah, you have to be careful, they do that here."

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    2. California is the only state that permits lane splitting & then, only under 35 MPH.

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    3. You should see Korea. The motorbikes are ubiquitous and use every inch of space on a highway, passing on the right, and making left turns from the far right lane, and if you survive that they also come up on the sidewalk and make you dodge out of the way.

      john

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  3. A dear friend of mine was in an accident in which a motorcyclist fell to the pavement. He would have had a bad headache with a helmet. Lacking a helmet, he died. My friend has endured a legal nightmare out of Kafka that continues to this day.

    Watching this unfold I began to wonder why Illinois is one of only three states without helmet laws. If the legal justification of requiring seat belts stands up to legal challenges, why not helmet requirements?

    Laws in Illinois don't take their final shape without massaging from lobbyists. Lobbyists require money. As I've watched my friend's nightmare play out I've searched, without success, to discover what group or groups finance the challenges to Illinois helmet laws. Why would any group spend vast sums of money to keep motorcyclists unsafe? What is in it for them?

    47 states filled with cyclists have adapted to helmets quite well. People still enthusiastically ride. What forces are at work in Illinois that aren't at work elsewhere and how are they financed?

    If anyone reading this knows the answer to where the money comes from for anti helmet lobbying I would love to be enlightened.

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    1. ABATE of Illinois. Their motto is Education not Legislation, and they're vehemently opposed to mandatory helmet laws.

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    2. I wonder if the anti-helmet lobby would be cool with a law that says, "Fine, don't wear one if you don't want to. But if you get severely injured or killed as a result, you or your estate is barred from suing the other driver."

      I'm not seriously suggesting this, because it would be legally impossible as well as immoral. But I just wonder if the people who are so big on responsibility and consequences would go for it.

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  4. In Europe, where the high price of petrol makes motorcycling a necessity rather then a bit of fun for many people, you never see a helmetless rider. I believe it's required by law in all European countries and the UK.

    Tom

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  5. I'm old enough to remember when seat belt laws were this big controversy, because Free Dumb. The Tribune, in particular, kept running letters from this one nitwit who claimed to be "a former employee of the coroner's office" (meaning, I don't know, he mopped the floor of the morgue or something), recounting entirely imaginary anecdotes of car crash victims who got "tangled up" in seat belts.

    One of the keys to making democracy work is realize that while all people may be equal, their opinions are not.

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  6. I've been trying to figure out the significance of the photo at the top. Is that a eucalyptus tree?

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    1. No sure. It was next to the Best Western we stayed at outside Pomona. I thought it was pretty.

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  7. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, known as universal helmet laws. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists (usually minors) to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There is no motorcycle helmet use law in three states...Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire.

    In the past, many more states had universal helmet laws, thanks to pressure from the federal government. In 1967, states were required to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked. By the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. However, in 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws.

    Here in Ohio, a rider over 17 is not required to wear a helmet. Someone is killed in this state almost every summer weekend...usually several someones. When the bike boom began in the Nineties and everyone wanted a Harley, the number of riders here exploded like dandelions in the spring. At one point, only California had more registered motorcycles than Ohio. So many people wanted to learn to ride that the state-sanctioned motorcycle safety classes were overwhelmed, necessitating waiting lists and even a lottery. Classes were even scheduled for indoor venues in the winter. I never got bitten by the bug until I moved here. Ride in Chicago? You nuts? One friend lost a leg, and my brother-in-law had his bike stolen off the street at high noon...in the Loop.

    The test for a motorcycle endorsement stamp on an Ohio driver's lecense is a snap if you prepare for it. After a little studying of the manual, I scored in the 90s. But the class was so overcrowded that the instructors cut most of the required hours of classroom instruction, and then took us straight to the high-school parking lot, where bikes and an obstacle course awaited us. It was like getting behind the wheel without drivers' ed and then being ordered to ease on down the road. I had only been on a bike once before, at 19, and only a little Honda at that. So, at 56, even a small machine proved to be too much for me, and I wiped out twice. After the second time, they threw me off the course. I went to the hospital with an ankle injury. Luckily, it wasn't shattered or broken, and I did not end up with a limp.

    A first cousin, who's ridden bikes for decades, called me an old fool and told me to forget about riding. My wife's biker cousins told me I needed to get back in the saddle as soon as I healed. I took the first cousin's advice. I figured I'd probably end up killing myself. But I mostly blame the State of Ohio for this whole fiasco. Why have classes and provide bikes and helmets, supposedly to keep new riders from being injured or worse, if they're going to be half-assed about it, overload the classes, and rush everyone, especially neophytes, too-quickly through it?

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