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Coast to Coast Legislative Report from AIM and Bill Bish for June 2013

They're coming to get us, watch out Black Boxes in Vehicles

By Bill Bish, thanks to Richard Lester and NCOM, with photos from the Bob T. collection

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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. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit


Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)

Congress failed to pass legislation that would have required manufacturers to install event data recorders (EDRs) in all new vehicles, so a federal safety agency is using its rulemaking authority to mandate that all new cars sold in the United States be equipped with so-called“black boxes” - capable of capturing what happened in the moments before and during a crash.

Citing privacy concerns, House Republicans had succeeded in removing a Senate provision requiring EDRs from the final transportation bill last year, so the Obama administration is bypassing the legislative process in favor of the administrative rule.

Insisting the devices are meant for crash investigation purposes, and not for invading privacy, the U.S. DOT National Traffic Safety Administration mandate will require all automobiles and light trucks manufactured after September 1, 2014 to have an EDR device that stores driving information for federal investigators.

Automotive EDRs are similar to -- though not nearly as sophisticated as -- the black boxes used in commercial airliners, and they are already installed in nearly 92% of today's vehicles, according to industry officials, and provide important information for industry engineers and, in some circumstances, law enforcement authorities.

But Horace Cooper of the National Center for Public Policy Analysis called the move “an unprecedented breach of privacy for Americans.” Cooper said that contrary to what is being claimed, EDRs “can and will track the comings and goings of car owners and even their passengers” -- and what they can record is virtually unlimited.

In the meantime, U.S. Representatives Mike Capuano (D-MA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have announced their intentions to introduce the “Black Box Privacy Protection Act” that will protect drivers’ and riders’ rights by requiring dealers to disclose to consumers if a vehicle is equipped with an EDR, would require manufacturers to allow consumers to deactivate the device, and clarifies that the owner of the vehicle owns the data and it cannot be accessed without permission.

"Consumers should have control over the information collected by event data recorders in vehicles that they own and they should have the option of disabling the device if they choose to do so. This is a basic issue of privacy," said Rep. Capuano.

Record numbers of motorcycles over the past few years have resulted in an increased number of annual motorcyclist fatalities, and in light of overall motor vehicle fatalities steadily decreasing gives the impression that motorcycling is becoming more dangerous, but just the opposite is true.

While so-called safety experts point to more and more states relaxing their helmet laws as the root of all this evil, it’s in fact a numbers game that motorcycle enthusiasts are winning.

Over the past five years, since 2007 when there were just over seven million motorcycles in the U.S., motorcycle registrations nationwide have ballooned to eight and a half million; an increase of 15% more motorcycles on the road today, while at the same time fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles has actually decreased by nearly a quarter!

Moreover, over the past decade motorcycle registrations have risen 40.7% (from 5,004,156 in 2002 to 8,437,502 in 2011), but the fatality rate dropped 17.3% (from 65.35 per 100K to 54.66).
Check out the most current statistics acquired by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), compared to motorcycle registration numbers found on the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration website:

Year - Registered Motorcycles / Rider Fatalities = Fatality Rate per 100,000 Motorcycles
2007 - 7,138,476 / 5,174 = 72.48
2008 - 7,752,926 / 5,312 = 68.52
2009 - 7,929,724 / 4,469 = 56.35
2010 - 8,009,503 / 4,518 = 56.40
2011 - 8,437,502 / 4,612 = 54.66

**NOTE: According to these data analyzed by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, motorcycle registrations have increased 15.4% over the past five years, while fatalities decreased by 10.9% and the fatality rate declined 24.6%...why isn’t the news media reporting THESE facts?

A study carried out by the German Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim shows that motorcycle helmets could indeed be a lot safer if some other measurements would be taken into account, concluding that inner shell size alone is not enough for providing the best protection-to-fit ratio, and the head shape is just as critical.

The Hohenstein Institute study narrowed the head shapes to 6 major categories, with an amazing width variance of 3.5 cm (1.37”), determining that one helmet size cannot possibly offer the best fit for all these head shapes, even provided the circumference is the same.

With the way the inner impact layer fits on the rider's head being one of the critical elements in shock absorption and G-dispersion, it's apparent that the same shape will create different pressure points on a motorcyclist's skull, leading to various outcomes in similar crash conditions.

Spaces between the skull and the protective layer / liner result in less optimal protection in case of an impact, and such anthropometric head data could improve helmet design and manufacturing significantly, should the leading brands take notice of the study's finding.

The Kansas legislature unanimously passed House Bill 2318 which allows a motorcycle’s headlamp to be wired with a headlamp modulation system, which must meet federal standards. The bill also allows certain types of lights on the sides of motorcycles, visible only from the side and not from the front or rear and to not protrude beyond or outside the body or wheel of the motorcycle. The side lights may emit white, amber, or red light without glare.

The legislation was signed into law on April 4, 2013 by Governor Sam Brownback and goes into effect July 1st.

Purveyors of red-light cameras continue their quest to place cameras on every street corner in the nation, and one strategy is to put the hit on states that have traditionally been “protected” from cameras either through legislation or court ruling.

Redflex lobbyists recently swarmed over the Minnesota Statehouse pushing a bill to allow ticket cameras into the state. The bill was written to thwart a 2007 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that Minneapolis’ red-light camera program was unconstitutional. The bill was defeated in committee, thanks in part to the efforts of ABATE of Minnesota and the National Motorists Association (NMA).

In Michigan, where a 2007 ruling from the state’s attorney general has been keeping cameras at bay, recently introduced camera legislation has turned Michigan into the latest photo enforcement battleground state.

The NMA ( warns that if you live in one of the 15 states that have taken steps to keep cameras out, stay alert. Chances are that a camera company lobbyist is cozying up to a friendly state lawmaker with a nice campaign donation and a pre-written camera bill that needs support.

Most connected vehicle technologies have focused squarely on the car, but BMW and Honda are working to develop autonomous driving technologies that work on two wheels. Both BMW and Honda have already added plenty of connectivity to their cars, but now the two automotive giants are working with the University of Michigan and Australian startup Cohda Wireless to put networking smarts into their motorcycles.

Adelaide-based Cohda designs radio systems and software that will not only link nearby vehicles on the road to each other, but also to the road itself. The idea behind its autonomous car technology is to create an ever-changing ad-hoc network of vehicles communicating their intentions and interacting with the infrastructure of the road.

Known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), these technologies could help power self-driving cars of the future. The University of Michigan Transportation Institute (UMTRI) runs one of the key test-beds for that technology, and its lab is running an ongoing trial of 3,000 connected vehicles in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is where Honda and BMW will put their connected motorcycles through the paces, according to a report on

Motorcycles may not have much room on their instrument panels for the connected infotainment systems going into today’s cars, but they could definitely benefit from any technology that makes mounting a motorcycle safer, and one of the major goals of V2I and V2V efforts is to reduce accidents and improve safety on the road. Vehicles could make quicker and better driving decisions than drivers because they would be able to access more info from the networks around them and react to it nearly instantaneously (they’re also less easily distracted than human drivers).

As for motorcycle applications, Cohda and UMTRI plan to test technologies that let bikes talk to traffic lights, roadside beacons and other cars, warning them of green lights about to turn red and dangerous curves ahead requiring them to slow down. By using a long-range secure form of Wi-Fi, a motorcycle could communicate with a car long before the drivers can see one another as they both approach a blind intersection.

Previously, a riderless motorcycle was developed in 2005 by graduate students from UC Berkeley to compete in a 150-mile off-road race for autonomous vehicles to further develop self-navigating vehicles for the Department of Defense.

With an eye to calibrating insurance rates, Saskatchewan Government Insurance plans to use new technology to track how fast and how far motorcycles go. It's called telematics and someday could be used to help set insurance rates, among other things, but for now SGI is just trying the technology out with a pilot program.

It's looking for several hundred motorcycle users to volunteer to have their bikes equipped with telematics technology. The“black box”-type gadgets would record speed, braking, mileage and location. The volunteer riders would have weekly updates on their driving behavior, to show them what information SGI would be looking at.

"Usage-based insurance is the ultimate in rating fairness because it essentially lets the driver control their own insurance rate through their driving behavior," said Donna Harpauer, the minister responsible for SGI. "Simply put, those who drive responsibly pay less and those who don't pay more."

While no one's rates will be affected by the pilot program, the experiment is one of the ideas coming out of the Motorcycle Review Committee, a group formed in the wake of a storm of controversy after SGI had proposed boosting motorcycle rates an average of 73% to compensate for high injury claims. Government-owned SGI later withdrew its proposal and came back with some milder proposed increases for motorbikes, including the telematics pilot program that could begin as early as this season.


Thousands of Harley riders from around the world were blessed by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, June 16 as one of the stops in a worldwide celebration of the famous motorcycle maker's 110th anniversary, which will roar across 11 countries before concluding in Milwaukee over Labor Day Weekend.

Choral music mixed with revving engines as the Holy Father blessed a sea of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and riders from all parts of the planet flocking to Italy over the weekend of June 13-16 to celebrate Harley-Davidson’s milestone, and earlier in the weekend festivities, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church was presented with two white classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles for use by Papal police and his own black leather jacket.

Get in on the action while the anniversary tour is still in high gear. Check out for schedules and cities.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.”
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Roman philosopher and statesman

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