MOTORCYCLE AWARENESS NEEDED, NOT HELMETS In one of the more positive, and factual, newspaper articles to come out of Daytona Bike Week, Greg Martin had this to say about helmets and motorcycle safety, excerpted from his article "Helmets, Drivers, Factors In Bike Wrecks," which appeared in the March 18, 2002 edition of the Charlotte Sun-Herald.Ever since the Florida Legislature repealed a state law that required motorcyclists to wear helmets, news reports of motorcycle crashes inevitably report on whether the rider was wearing a helmet. That's true also in the recent motorcycle wreck that claimed the life of Timothy G. Spieldenner, 41, of Port Charlotte, who was not wearing a helmet, according to reports. But statistics gathered since July 2000, when the helmet law was repealed, are unclear whether helmets are safer. That may be because motorcycle crashes are dangerous with or without helmets. to whit - - daaah !!!The statistics also show that in 80 percent of motorcycle crashes, the drivers of other vehicles, such as cars and trucks, were issued the citations. Some 86 percent of motorcycle wrecks result in rider injuries and 4 percent in death, according to state highway department statistics for 2000. To members of the American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, ABATE, that Spieldenner had recently joined, the statistics point to the need to educate other drivers to watch out for motorcycles. "Doc" Reichenbach, state legislative affairs director for ABATE of Florida, said he met with Governor Jeb Bush last week to discuss the need to improve motorist awareness. The meeting came after Reichenbach lost two friends to motorcycle wrecks. In one wreck in Fort Myers last year, the driver of a car that struck the motorcyclist was issued a $62citation, Reichenbach said. "The governor told us he would work with us on motorcycle safety."The number of motorcycles in the state climbed from 185,000 in 1993 to 250,000 in 2000, a 35% increase in bikes on the road. Most of the increase came in the past three years. The state's current helmet law allows riders who are at least 21 and possess $10,000 in health insurance to ride without helmets. The law became effective in July 2000. The department's statistics for 2000 show the number of motorcycle crashes declined 8 percent in the six months after the helmet law was repealed, but the number of fatalities rose by 4.5 percent, remember, 35% more bikers on the road, a good number of them newbies inexperienced in the ways of riding safely while under the Klingon Cloaking device rendering them near invisible to cage drivers despite their headlights still being visible in day light. Reichenbach is quick to point to other numbers. For example, fatal motorcycle wrecks at Bike Week peaked in 2000 at 15 -- before the helmet law was repealed. Seven were killed at the event in 2001, and nine in 2002. But for motorcyclists, it's not about the numbers -- it's about freedom of choice. "I still feel it's our God-given right under the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence to ride without a helmet," Reichenbach said.NOTE: In addition to his duties as President and Lobbyist for ABATE of Florida, Inc., "Doc" Reichenbach also serves as the Chairman of the Board for the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM).This lengthy article was condensed for the sake of space. For a copy of the complete article, including numerous statistics appearing therein, please e-mail Bill Bish at NCOM, at email@example.com, or call the NCOM office at (800) 525-5355. NEW MEXICO REPEALS HELMET LAW Okay, we all know New Mexico doesn't have a helmet law, right? Wrong. Or at least they had one up until the town of Sunland Park repealed their city helmet ordinance recently under heavy pressure from the motorcycling community.Sunland Park is a border town located at the corner of old Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico, and it's one of the most scenic roads in the state. The city boasts a casino and horse track, and until recently, a helmet law, despite the fact that New Mexico doesn't have a mandatory helmet law. It's a popular riding destination, particularly for Texas motorcyclists before their state repealed the helmet law.Sunland Park was the only remaining municipality in any state to enact and maintain a mandatory helmet requirement for all riders and passengers, despite state law that allows adult freedom of choice. The statewide helmet law only pertains to riders under age 18, but because of "Home Rule" provisions in New Mexico, cities can pass laws that contradict those of the state."Enticed by state grant money which provided police equipment and payroll to staff one police officer for three years, Sunland Park, during tough times, found the offer too good to resist," explained Eugene Heathman, Chairman of the New Mexico Confederation of Clubs and a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. "Since that time, the helmet ordinance ruffled some feathers as being selectively enforced and arbitrary."On March 19th, 2002; through the collective efforts of the New Mexico Confederation of Clubs, New Mexico Motorcyclists Rights Organization, ABATE of New Mexico, West Texas Confederation of Clubs, and the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA2), the Sunland Park City Council voted unanimously to repeal the current language of the ordinance.With support from Mayor Jesus Segura and several council members, new language to the ordinance was adopted mirroring current New Mexico State regulations, with the amendment that "all persons under the age of twenty-one, whether operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, shall at all times wear a helmet.""We had lobbied the city council since January of this year," says Revvv, of ABATE. "It was the last universal mandatory helmet law in the entire Southwest. The State of Texas, City of Edmonton (OK), and the Navajo Nation (approximately the size of West Virginia) all repealed or modified their?s in the past five years."A well-deserved celebration is planned to honor Sunland Park's decision to respect rider's freedom and in appreciation for the city's past support of charity motorcycle events.
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