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USA reviews motorcycle safety laws as crash deaths increase

It's about CDC Propaganda

By Tony Kirby and Jeff Hennie

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Editor's Note: I've been holding on to this report for a while waiting on a response from the MRF, because I knew it was false. If the sky was blue, and these agencies weren't fighting for more money, they would support FREEDOM, training, and awareness campaigns, and fewer regs. This is why I have been working with the MRF to form an Industry Council. We've done it and need your support. Consider joining --K. Ball

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Against a backdrop of falling traffic collision fatalities in America, motorcycle crash deaths continue to increase, prompting a national review. Tony Kirby reports.

Unlike many high-income nations such as the UK, the USA has no universal law relating to use of motorcycle helmets. As of January, 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had partial helmet laws (generally requiring only young riders to wear helmets), and three states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) had no helmet law. The situation continues to change, with many states having a history of repeatedly enacting and repealing motorcycle helmet legislation. This has been, in part, related to whether or not the US Federal Government provides incentives to states that have compulsory helmet laws.

Rebecca Ivers is one of the world's leading injury experts, based at the George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Ivers and her team are working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a systematic review on motorcycle safety to guide America's policy in this controversial area. The results, due in the first half of 2013, will guide the US Community Preventive Services Task Force in recommendations they make. The Task Force reviews the evidence and uses it to make decisions and recommendations when enough good quality evidence is available. CDC and other partners then work to ensure the wide dissemination of the results.

“Our review will systematically examine epidemiological studies of helmet legislation from all over the world. The results are important not just for the US but also for low-income countries where motorcycle use is common”, says Ivers. Her task should be an easy one, since most published data clearly point to far better outcomes in states (and nations) that have compulsory helmet laws. Between 2008 and 2010, more than 14 000 motorcyclists (including passengers) were fatally injured on the USA's roads. Motorcycle-related crash deaths have risen by 55% since 2000, while motor vehicle-related deaths in all road users excluding motorcyclists decreased by 23%. There are many reasons behind the increasing motorcycle fatalities, including increasing numbers of motorcycles on the road, more larger engine motorcycles, speeding, inconsistent helmet use, drink driving, and increasing numbers of riders older than 40 years with increasing numbers of fatalities in that age group. Ivers also points to issues such as road design, maintenance, and roadside objects.

“According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12% of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets. In comparison, 64% of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79% of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws”, says Rebecca Naumann, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, CDC, who, in 2012, completed a study on motorcycle safety with colleague Ruth Shults for the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

“In 2010, the 4502 motorcyclists (riders and passengers) killed in motorcycle crashes made up 14% of all road traffic deaths, yet motorcycles accounted for less than 1% of all vehicle miles travelled”, she adds. The MMWR study by Naumann and Shults concludes, “helmets are proven to save lives and universal helmet laws are the most effective way to increase helmet use”.

They also point out that partial laws do not seem to protect the young riders they are meant for: 60% of fatally injured minors were unhelmeted in states with this type of law compared with 22% in states with universal helmet laws from 2008 to 2010. “Of course, it's not only lives helmet use saves, it's also huge costs”, adds Naumann, pointing out that, while helmet use saved the USA around US$3 billion in costs in 2010, another $1·4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, according to 2012 data as yet unpublished by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Research has shown that states that repeal compulsory helmet laws completely or partially experience sharp drops in helmet use and increases in motorcycle-related deaths, injuries, and costs. In 2000, Florida changed its universal helmet law to a partial helmet law that covered only riders aged 21 years and younger. In the subsequent 2 years, helmet use fell from 99% to 53%, the motorcyclist death rate increased by 21%, deaths among motorcycle riders aged younger than 21 years nearly tripled, and hospital admissions of motorcyclists with injuries to the head, brain, and skull almost doubled.

Conversely, helmet use increases and deaths fall in states that strengthen their laws, such as Louisiana (2004), which saw helmet use increase from 60% to 99%. Naumann and Shults highlight other research in the MMWR that shows “Riders who do not wear helmets are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, and riders who do not wear helmets also are less likely to have health insurance, and therefore require publicly funded health care.”

Three US states have no compulsory helmet laws and 28 have only partial laws
Motorcyclists comprise between 5% and 18% of road traffic injury deaths in high-income countries; however, in many low-income and middle-income countries, they comprise a substantially higher proportion. In Thailand and Indonesia, for instance, motorcycle fatalities account for 70% and 55% of total road fatalities, respectively. In most other countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region, there is an over-representation of fatalities among motorcyclists relative to the size of their motorcycle fleets. Data are showing that the risk to motorcyclists is also increasing in Africa and Latin America.

Ivers is equally active in the drive to bring down motorcycle injury in low-income and middle-income countries, through collaborations the George Institute has in locations such as Vietnam, which has recently enacted a law requiring all riders and passengers to wear helmets. Along with Ha Nguyen from the Center for Injury Policy and Prevention Research, Hanoi School of Public Health, Vietnam, and colleagues, Ivers has concluded that “the costs of dealing with head injuries in motorcycle collisions in Vietnam are 40% higher in cases where the injured persons are not wearing a helmet, and hospital costs can be equivalent to 6 months or more of the average annual wage in Vietnam…thus the country's new helmet law needs to be closely monitored and enforced.”

A new area of research for high-income and developing countries alike is the effectiveness of motorcycle protective clothing, and Ivers and colleague Liz de Rome have studied this in their home nation of Australia. The research, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, involved 212 motorcyclists and found they were less likely to be admitted to hospital if they crashed wearing protective clothing or body armour. But de Rome adds that: “Around a quarter of motorcycle designed gloves, jackets, and pants were assessed to have failed due to material damage in the crash, indicating a need for improved quality control.” Ivers concludes that “While at the moment, making protective clothing compulsory is not recommended, there could instead be incentives for using it, such as tax exemptions and health insurance premium reductions and rebates.”

Motorcycle safety is a growing issue around the world. WHO's Decade of Action for Road Safety Global Plan encourages countries to take action on a number of levels, including improving the safety of road networks in general. “We are working with a number of countries, including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Brazil to improve rates and monitoring of helmet use in motorcyclists”, says Margie Peden, Coordinator of Unintentional Injury Prevention in the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at WHO. “Cambodia is about to pass a new helmet law, and WHO has helped the country run a mass media campaign showing the potential tragic consequences of failing to wear a helmet”, says Peden. She adds it is vital to ensure that helmets meet minimum safety standards, since a substandard helmet can be as ineffective as no helmet at all. The Global status report on road safety 2013 published on March 14 showed that 155 countries around the world had comprehensive helmet laws in 2011, up from 131 in 2008.

Peden is also a coauthor of a recent review of helmet quality in low-income and middle-income countries, along with Robyn Norton, principal director of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and professor of global health at the University of Oxford, UK, who was the founding chair of the Road Traffic Injuries Research Network that undertook the review.

Their team analysed some 5500 helmets from motorcycle riders across nine low-income and middle-income countries: China, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam, and found that around half were likely to be substandard. “The lower costs of these substandard helmets—$10 or less—are the most significant factor associated with their use”, says Norton, with the study finding standard helmets were generally two to three times more expensive than non-standard helmets.

These findings suggest that the widespread use of non-standard helmets could negate the gains of compulsory helmet-wearing legislation in these poorer countries. “Consequently, we strongly recommend that as mandatory helmet laws are introduced, they are introduced in conjunction with relevant legislation and enforcement pertaining to helmet standards”, she says.

Back in the USA, the average age of motorcyclists killed in accidents is rising, with half now aged 40 years or older, up from 25% in 1995. High-income countries have had access to motorcycle safety data for some time, showing that helmets on motorcyclists reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%, while not reducing visibility or impairing hearing. In a country such as the USA, it seems staggering that any debate at all should be required, and it will be surprising if the US Community Preventive Services Task Force review stops anywhere short of recommending compulsory helmet laws across all states that do not currently have them.

The CDC and Propaganda 

Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) presented a study on motorcycle safety. Specifically the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention.

The study is nothing new, in fact it is a collection of conclusions drawn from past studies and old statistics, some of the CDC's conclusions even seem to be drawn from thin air.

CDC uses the same tired worn out examples we have seen again and again. They cite the Florida study that said fatalities increased 63.4% from 2000-2009. Which is true, but like every other instance of using this statistic they fail to mention that motorcycle registrations increased over 100% during the same time frame.

The study goes on to uses imaginary numbers to back up their position that motorcycle helmets save money. They claim that in 2008, the United States saved $3 billion because of helmet use and then claim that the US could have saved an additional $1.8 billion if mandatory helmet laws were on the books. They provide absolutely zero evidence of this supposed financial burden.
The CDC makes no mention of rider education. We know rider education to be the best way to prevent crashes.

Take New Hampshire for example, according to Robert LeTourneau, New Hampshire State Official Motorcycle Education Specialist, they have had 15 fatal motorcycle accidents of riders who took the class since 1990. Thats out of over 44,000 students trained in the same time period and .034% of fatal motorcycle accidents. All with no mandatory helmet law.

Of course, the CDC uses NHTSA's 1997 base year for motorcycle fatalities, which was also the lowest point of motorcycle fatalities over the past 30 years. In 1997, there were 2,116 fatalities for 3,826,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.055% of the motorcyclists were killed. In 2010, there were 4,502 fatalities for 8,368,000 motorcycles registered. Or 0.053% of the motorcyclists were killed.

So we have more than doubled the motorcycle population and we have actually reduced fatalities.
The study also contends that states without helmet laws have higher insurance costs. According to Insure.com, that's not true. Out of the top five most expensive states to buy insurance, only one allows for helmet free riding.

The supposed findings of this study are likely to show up in your local media. Do not let them get away with this.

The MRF encourages you to continue to use the “Fact or Fiction” pieces published by the MRF to combat the junk science in this study and all future attacks on our freedom. You can find the Fact or Fiction pieces HERE.

Read the CDC study HERE.
The MRF is working with Federal legislators on this report and to help redirect the priorities of the CDC on actual disease issues, not transportation.
To keep things in perspective, let me remind you that the CDC is the same organization that uses the idea of a zombie apocalypse as a way of scaring people into preparing for disaster. Seriously, read it here: click on the MRF Banner. 

For a full break down of the CDC study done by MRF VA State Representative Matt Danielson

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