SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Fatal Freedom
By Rusty Bongard


May 31, 2007

Reply to Fatal Freedom article: Last week, in a New York Times Op Ed entitled "Coming Clean," former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey noted that due to poor hygiene, hospital infections in the United States kill an estimated 103,000 patients every year. That is, the failure of hospitals to enforce cleanliness rules evidently results in the annual death of more patients in this country than AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined.)

Please, can we get our priorities in order?

Fact - 2/3 of all motorcycle crashes are caused by Right of Way violations committed by automobile drivers.

Fact- The majority of Michigan motorcycle drivers are well paid, hard working, insurance carrying people.

Take your own poll of the bikers you know.

If you're concerned that your tax dollars will be eaten up by vegetated people who did not have enough insurance to cover their long term health care, check out who makes up the majority of them. (Hint) They drive CARS! They are YOU!

The argument here is not about the Utility of helmets, it s about the Futility of helmet laws.

Let's go back a mile on the road BEFORE the crash. Was the rider properly trained and endorsed?

Was the rider on a bike that was appropriate for his/her abilities and experience?

Was the rider sober and straight?

Was the Automobile driver on a cell phone, DVD player, eating, changing CD's, yelling at kids through their rearview mirror, or doing anything but paying attention while driving?

Was the Automobile driver trained and well versed on driving on roadways with motorcycles, and aware of the importance of watching for them?

Were there severe enough penalties for Right of Way violations causing death or injury in place to make even the worst driver fear the consequences of not looking for motorcycles before entering an intersection or turning left? Was the Automobile Driver sober and straight?

This is what ABATE is all about. Freedom from tyrannical violations of rights, and education creating a safer environment for us to ride in. This, including education on the merits of helmets as a meaningful part of a much bigger and more complex motorcycle safety program. NOT helmet LAWS as THE myopic minded CURE for Motorcycle Safety. Most of us will continue to wear a helmet at those times we feel it is useful and prudent. We are not stupid, suicidal, or interested in living on the edge. We are experienced long term riders, and are quite certain that we can decide for ourselves what kind of safety devices will best benefit our riding situation. We do not need the government under the false pretense that they know what is best for us to FORCE a helmet to be worn on our head.

How much would it cost the State of Michigan to require Automobile Drivers Training Courses to include Motorcycles as part of the training curriculum?

How much would it cost the State of Michigan to reprint the license renewal tests to include several comprehensive questions on driving with and around motorcycles?

How much would it cost the State of Michigan to enact a serious fine and penalty for right of way violations that kill or injure motorcyclists?

The answer is very little financial cost.

Economically the gains to the State of Michigan Citizens would be immense.

An independent consulting firm, (Michigan Consultants) estimates an annual Tourism increase of 53.9 million dollars, New sales and accessory increases of 500 million dollars (motorcycle industry),and over 2700 new jobs between tourism and sales with a helmet law repeal. All of the great lakes states with the exception of Michigan are helmet choice. Michigan is a tremendous untapped resource for motorcycle touring, particularly the Upper Peninsula. It is a shame Michigan is not motorcycle friendly. Many of us leave the state to ride and spend our free time and money. Most out of state riders avoid our state. Michigan should be embracing the motorcycle touring phenomenon which has skyrocketed across our country with a fervor. The Upper Peninsula is being robbed of a huge financial boon that they NEED. The summer months in the Upper Peninsula which has the roads, motels, eateries, and casinos already in place for fall deer hunters and winter snowmobilers would find motorcyclists to be the perfect summer resource, that would have little impact on their roads, the wildlife, or be a negative intrusion upon the other seasonal activities.

It is dereliction of duty to the taxpayers and citizens of Michigan to forego this Economic gain. Just for the sake of AAA who neither insures nor offers to insure motorcyclists.

Annually Michigan Motorcyclist deaths from crashes is less than half of deaths attributable to pedestrians for criminys sake.

Bottom line: The Un-American, Unfair, Unworthwhile, Mandatory Helmet law has to go. A meaningful and comprehensive program to strikingly decrease motorcycle crashes has to be implemented. The result will be very economically salient for Michigan residents, and ultimately prove to be the best course for reducing not only head injuries but the whole vast field of paralysis, limb loss, blunt force trauma injuries, and severe orthopedic injuries that helmets do not protect us from anyway.

This is clear to the vast majority of Representatives and Senators in Michigan. It was clear to them last year also. The only reason Michigan still is not doing the right thing, is because our Governor refuses to listen to anyone but her financial backers, the Insurance Industry.

The public burden argument against helmet repeal in Michigan is largely contingent upon a perceived disproportionately higher dip into MCCA funds by motorcyclists that would increase with helmet repeal. The resulting costs then being recouped by raising the insurance premiums of all Insurance consumers.

Forget that motorcyclists all pay into the MCCA for each vehicle they own. I pay on two automobiles one truck and three motorcycles. Forget that unless there is an automobile involved in a motorcycle crash none of the funds are available to motorcyclists.

Focus on the fact that the insurance industry fights tooth and nail to keep helmets on our heads supposedly for the general fiscal benefit of anyone who would be financially burdened by increased MCCA payments. The insurance industry also goes to great lengths to stigmatize us in the public eye in this effort.

I wonder how many of the automobile crashes caused by a drunk driver resulted in someone needing to draw from the MCCA? I wonder how many cell phone caused crashes resulted in someone needing to draw from the MCCA? I wonder how many cases of inattenional blindness caused crashes that resulted in someone needing to draw from the MCCA? The public babble so often heard about if "they don't wear a helmet, that s fine as long as they don't get one cent out of my pocket", is a sentiment which is baited excessively by the Insurance Industry and perpetually echoed by the media. It is a distortion that needs cleared. If I choose to not wear a helmet, and while legally and properly riding my motorcycle am smucked by joe blow in his automobile ultimately requiring funds from the MCCA which I pay into 6 times annually, I am somehow less deserving than the drunk driver, the cell phone user, or the inattentionally blind idiot? Does the general public approve of part of their insurance premiums going to cover the costs of these payouts from the MCCA fund? Someone should sue the State of Michigan for this clear violation of equal and just treatment advocated by the State, its Insurance Industry Council maintained and governed MCCA, and adamant discriminatorily supporting governor.

Finally, regarding freedom; At a committee meeting on this issue that I attended the other day in the House of Representatives Office Building in Lansing, I was taken aback by the comment of one AAA representative advocating for opposition of our Bill. She rather snidely and laughingly referred to our efforts as being a "freedom issue". The implication being that perhaps the relevance or importance of these types of endeavors is outdated or quaint, but of no relevance when matters of finances and economy are in question.

Below is a recitation delivered By Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story some 150 years ago. What is YOUR sentiment on freedom issues?

By Joseph Story

I call upon you, fathers, by the shades of your ancestors-by the dear ashes which repose in this precious soil-by all you are, and all you hope to be- resist every encroachment upon your liberties, resist every attempt to fetter your consciences, or smother your public schools, or extinguish your system of public instruction.

I call upon you, mothers, by that which never fails in a woman, the love of your off-spring; teach them, as they climb your knees, or lean on your bosoms, the blessings of liberty. Swear them at the altar, as with their baptismal vows, to be true to their country, and never forget or forsake her.

I call upon you, young men, to remember whose sons you are; whose inheritance you possess. Life can never be to short, which brings nothing but disgrace and oppression. Death never comes to soon, if necessary in the defense of the liberties of your country.

I call upon you, old men, for your counsels, and your prayers, and your benedictions. May not your gray hairs go down in sorrow to the grave, with the recollection that you have lived in vain. May not your last sun sink in the west upon a nation of slaves.

No; I read in the destiny of my country far better hopes, far brighter visions. We, who are assembled here, must soon be gathered to the congregation of other days. The time of our departure is at hand, to make way for our children upon the theatre of life. May god speed them and theirs. May he who, at the distance of another century, shall stand here to celebrate this day, still look round upon a free, happy, and virtuous people. May he have reason to exult as we do. May he, with all the enthusiasm of truth as well as of poetry, exclaim, that here is still his country.

Rusty Bongard
Riverdale, MI

Received May 30, 2007 - Published May 31, 2007

About: "I am a 46 year old State Police Officer working in Lansing, Michigan. I have been a biker for over 30 years and an ABATE of Michigan member for over 20 years. I am presently the ABATE Regional Coordinator for a 5 county area of the state of Michigan."




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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska