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Without informed, dedicated, professional representation for motorcyclists rights, how do you as John Q Public, a motorcycle rider, expect to win against the powers of the insurance corporations (profit driven), law makers, (re-election driven) and the general public (fear-& ignorance driven) when it comes to laws and rights on the road & off? If you are not a member of a motorcycle rights group like AMA, ABATE, or the MRF – join one now or at least contribute to their legal affairs efforts.

Check out what is happening that should concern you as a rider in the USA right now. These are excerpts from AMA, MRF, and NHTSA press releases and the Motorcycle Consumer News.

MRF To Monitor UN Motor Vehicle Standards

The United Nations has granted "Non-Governmental Organization" status to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. This status (technically, "Roster Consultative Status") empowers the MRF to coordinate directly with "Working Party 29" - the negotiators in Geneva, Switzerland who are hammering out "Global Technical Regulations on Wheeled Vehicles."

It is the intent of WP.29 to develop emissions, safety, noise and other standards that govern the manufacture of all motor vehicles worldwide. Regulations proposed internationally gain added momentum domestically, because the United States and other contracting parties to the Geneva Agreement that vote to establish a particular global regulation are required to initiate proceedings to establish that regulation domestically (e.g., by publishing a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register). The US delegation to WP.29 is composed primarily of staffers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA is the lead federal agency in WP.29 negotiations.

NGO status enables the MRF to work at both the UN and US levels to more closely monitor proposed regulations to help ensure that they do not run contrary to the rights and safety concerns of American motorcyclists. "Obtaining NGO status for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation gives American motorcycle consumers a voice they've needed to fight for their rights and safety at the international level," said MRF President Tom Pauley. "We look forward to continuing our work at this level with the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations and the American Motorcyclist Association."

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation unveiled its agenda for the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21). "Motorcycles Rev the Future" is a comprehensive plan emphasizing motorcycle safety, including incentives for state motorcycle safety programs and motorcycle awareness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on Aug. 7, 2002, that motorcycle fatalities increased for the fourth year in a row. This is covered in another release copied below with AMA disputing the logic of conclusionis drawn from the statistics. The MRF anticipated this increase, in light of the fact that new motorcycle sales are steadily increasing in the United States, jumping from 303,000 in 1990 to 356,000 in 1997, and then to 710,000 in 2000.

According to Tom Wyld, the MRF's Vice-President for Government Relations, "The MRF has been aware of the potential that motorcycle injuries and fatalities could show another tragic increase. Riders know the causes. Riders know the cure. The causes? First, state-run rider safety training is in trouble. Through the late 1990s, waiting periods for rider training stretched upwards of one year in most states. Since September 11, 2001, state budgets for rider training have been reduced or eliminated. Second, NHTSA has focused on 'safer crashing,' as opposed to focusing its resources on 'safer riding' through state rider education programs.

I for one, would rather not crash period. It has been my experience that the biker looses everytime, or at least looses more. We can whine all we want about fair and ethical treatment of bikers on the road, increased punishments for cage driver caused accidents and cage driver awareness, but, you know what? I believe in a humans mind, busy with thoughts of the kids, dinner, the office or the golf game, distracted by the cell phone, and naturally in a self-defense mode, most people look into traffic for threatening items, semi-trucks, big SUV's etc. In their minds eye motoryclces, no matter how illuminated, no matter how flourescent and how loud, they get filtered out. Safe rider practices and behaviors taught is a riders best defense.

"The cure? The MRF urges NHTSA to focus federal resources on state motorcycle rider training programs, which have consistently saved lives for many years." Wyld is currently riding cross-country to address national motorcycle issues, including "Motorcycles Rev the Future" - the MRF's comprehensive agenda for the reauthorization of TEA-21 - at the annual convention of the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) in Boise, Idaho.

The MRF is aware of the continual growth in motorcycle sales and registrations, coupled with severe budget cuts for rider training, and emphasizes that the primary cure for the increase in motorcycle fatalities is increased federal funding for motorcycle rider training at the state level. For more than a year and a half, the MRF and State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (SMROs) nationwide have called on the 107th Congress to aim a resource injection to rescue state-run rider training. Today, motorcyclists nationwide repeat this urgent appeal.

"Motorcycles Rev the Future," the MRF's complete agenda for the reauthorization of TEA-21, can be viewed on the MRF website at

*NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that in 2001 motorcycle fatalities increased for the fourth year in a row following years of steady improvement. With 3,181 killed in 2001, it was the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1990. For the first time since 1997, younger motorcyclists, that is, riders under the age of 40, posted the highest percentage increases in fatalities.

The AMA has once again called for a comprehensive nationwide study of the causes of motorcycle crashes after the federal government released final motorcycling-related fatality statistics for 2001.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released final figures Aug. 7, 2002, that show 3,181 motorcyclists were killed on the nation's roads last year, up from 2,862 the previous year. The final figure represents an 11.1 percent increase over 2000.

The fatality figures for 2001 also indicate that the highest percentage increases came among riders under the age of 40, which marks the reversal of a four-year trend. The NHTSA had issued a report last summer that noted deaths among motorcyclists over the age of 40 were on the rise beginning in the late '90s.

The recent upward trend of motorcyclist fatalities followed 17 consecutive years of declines. From 1990 through 1999 alone, motorcycling-related fatalities dropped by 48 percent.

The AMA noted that one significant reason for the increase in motorcycling-related fatalities is that motorcycling has seen an enormous increase in popularity, with sales of new street bikes up more than 100 percent over the past five years, from about 243,000 in 1997 to more than 500,000 in 2001.

The AMA expressed concern over the increase in motorcycling fatalities, but noted the raw numbers offer no clear explanation for the increase.

"The death of any motorcyclist is a tragedy," said Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "But because there's no recent research, we don't know the reasons behind the increases in fatalities. There's a desperate need for detailed, comprehensive research."

Rae Tyson, spokesman for the NHTSA, said his agency also sees a need for research. "We agree with those in the community who believe a new causation study is called for," Tyson said. "We hope to be able to find the money for one."

The last comprehensive federal study of motorcycling accident data was published in 1980, and dealt with accidents only in Southern California. That report, "Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures," commonly called the Hurt Study after lead researcher Harry Hurt, is still the most comprehensive study to date on the causes of motorcycle crashes.

For the past several years, the AMA has asked the NHTSA to conduct a nationwide study of motorcycling accidents that would help identify elements that can improve rider safety. In 2000, the NHTSA and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation released a National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety to serve as a blueprint for improving motorcycling safety in the future. Representatives of the AMA and other industry groups were part of a team that helped shape the plan, which calls for more research into the causes of motorcycle accidents and potential ways to reduce them.

Moreland recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee asking Congress to fund comprehensive research to determine the causes of motorcycle crashes.

Insurance Institute Doesn't Get It, Says AMA
The AMA, responding to a July 30 press release issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has pointed out significant errors in the IIHS's arguments concerning crashes involving older motorcyclists.

In its release, the IIHS claimed that the annual Black Hills Rally & Races in Sturgis, South Dakota, serves as a case-in-point illustration of the increase in motorcycle-related fatalities in recent years, notably among riders over age 40. Specifically, the IIHS said that 36 of the 69 motorcycle-related fatalities in South Dakota between 1995 and 2000 occurred in the month of August, when the Sturgis event is held.

However, the IIHS neglected to take into account the enormous increase in the motorcycling population of South Dakota as a result of the rally, leading the group to erroneous conclusions, the AMA noted.

Having been in Sturgis the last three years in a row I know the numbers of riders to be on those roads each year range from a low in 2001 of 250,000 to as many as 400,000 over Bike Week each year. You can not tell me 36 deaths for a city the size of 300,000 average doesn't have 36 fatalities, cage or bike, in the summer over 6 years. What is so abnormal about that?

An AMA analysis of the data, however, shows that the IIHS's conclusion is unsupported by the facts. The AMA pointed out that figures from the Motorcycle Industry Council for 1998, the middle of the time period cited by the IIHS, show there were 19,600 motorcycles licensed for street use in South Dakota. But during August, when the Black Hills Rally and Races attract riders from across the country, the motorcycling population of the state surges to more than 400,000.

"That's a 2,000 percent increase in the number of motorcyclists riding South Dakota's roads," noted Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, "while the fatalities reported by the IIHS amount to a 360 percent increase over the monthly average during the riding season in the state.

"Failing to make the connection between that enormous increase in the state's motorcycling population and the much more modest increase in motorcycle accidents indicates that the IIHS either doesn't understand this situation or chose not to reveal the full story," Moreland said.

The AMA also disputed the IIHS's contention that recent increases in the median age of motorcyclists who were victims of fatal accidents "isn't because of the aging of the population." In fact, according to figures from the MIC quoted by the IIHS, the average age of a motorcycle owner in America has risen from 24 in 1980 to 38 today. As a result, a much-larger percentage of the motorcycles on the road are being ridden by riders over 40, and that trend is reflected in accident statistics.

In addition, the IIHS stated that changes in helmet laws in some states "are contributing to the increases in motorcycle deaths." But the group failed to note that motorcycle sales have increased by approximately 20 percent in each of the last four years, meaning that the number of motorcycles on the road has grown enormously. Meanwhile, fatalities have increased by about a third during the entire four-year period and were actually down by 11 percent in the period from 1990 through 2000 and down by nearly 50 percent since 1980, a better safety record than any other type of highway transportation.

"For the IIHS to issue its opinions in the guise of a 'news release' is embarrassing," said Moreland. "Not only is this release full of old news and misused statistics, it once again exposes that the IIHS is willing to say virtually anything to support its preconceived conclusions.

"We're concerned, of course, about even one motorcycle-related fatality," Moreland continued. "The AMA encourages anyone who's truly interested in reducing motorcycling fatalities, and not simply promoting a political agenda, to join us in calling for a comprehensive, independent, nationwide study of motorcycle accident data."

Moreland recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee asking Congress to fund comprehensive research to determine the causes of motorcycle crashes.

In 2000, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation released a National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety to serve as a blueprint for improving motorcycling safety in the future. Representatives of the AMA and other industry groups were part of a team that helped shape the plan, which calls for more research into the causes of motorcycle accidents and potential ways to reduce them.

The most recent comprehensive federal study of motorcycle accident data was published in 1980, and sampled accident data only in Southern California. NHTSA officials have said they hope to begin work on a new study in the near future.

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