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Bikers' Rights: Open Letter to NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker

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Open Letter to NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker
Release Number 0012

Motorcycling Endurance Riders
Bikers Rights, Motorcyclists Rights, Long Distance Motorcycle Riding

Extreme Long Distance Endurance Motorcycle Rider IronBoltBruce From: IronBoltBruce [mailto:Bruce@LdrLongDistanceRider.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 2:40 PM
To: Mark Rosenker (mark.rosenker@ntsb.gov)
Cc: 'debbie.hersman@ntsb.gov'; 'williat@ntsb.gov'; 'bridget.serchak@ntsb.gov'; 'lopatt@ntsb.gov'; 'hollowk@ntsb.gov'
Subject: Open Letter to NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker

Mark Rosenker (mark.rosenker@ntsb.gov)
Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
429 L'Enfant Plaza
Washington, D.C. 20024
202-314-6000

Mr. Rosenker:

I watched and listened to the webcast of the NTSB Board Meeting you chaired this morning from 9:30 to 11:00am, the agenda for which was ostensibly "Motorcycle Safety":

http://www.ntsb.gov/events/boardmeeting.htm

http://www.saferoads.org/press/press2007/
NTSB%20Helmet%20PressRelease091107.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2007/09/11/AR2007091101225.html

I was deeply disappointed to see that--despite having an entire year and millions of tax dollars at your disposal since the NTSB Motorcycle Safety Forum--you and your ivory tower team of detached Ph.D.'s still fail to recognize and/or blatantly disregard several key facts and issues, some of which are as follows:

FIRST, you hammered away at the fact that the number of highway motorcycle fatalities more than doubled from the historic low of 2,116 in 1997 to 4,810 in 2006. While that is an absolute increase, it does not necessarily represent an alarming trend. What really matters is NOT just the absolute number of fatalities, but more so the number of fatalities relative to (a) the number of motorcycles on the road, and/or (b) the number of miles they travel each year.

As to the first correlation, you quote NHTSA statistics claiming that in 2006 motorcycles represented only 2% of all registered vehicles but over 10% of all fatalities. That may very well be FALSE, Mr. Rosenker, because if you'd been listening to Dr. Sweeney's presentation instead of slurping Starbucks, you would have heard her acknowledgement that THE REGISTERED MOTORCYCLE STATISTICS UPON WHICH THAT COMPARISON IS BASED MAY BE SERIOUSLY UNDERSTATED. In other words, for all we know at this point, the number of motorcycle fatalities as a percentage of the number motorcycles on the road may have actually DECREASED over the past ten years, which would be a POSITIVE trend!

As to the second correlation, you again quote NHTSA statistics suggesting that in 2006 motorcycles accounted for over 10% of all fatalities but less than [0.4%|0.34%|0.034% ... you couldn't seem to decide] of total vehicle miles traveled (VMT). And again, Mr. Rosenker, if you'd been paying attention to your own Dr. Sweeney's warnings, you might have got a clue as to what most of us have known for some time, which is that our nation's VMT statistics are so seriously understated as to be meaningless. So regardless of what your actual calculation was supposed to be, ANY COMPUTATION BASED ON A MEANINGLESS STATISTIC LIKE VMT IS ITSELF A MEANINGLESS STATISTIC.

SECOND, you regurgitated last year's highly questionable computations of the "social costs" and "taxpayer burden" associated with motorcycle crash injuries, yet said nothing about the SOCIAL BENEFITS of a mode of transportation that costs less to buy and maintain, creates less of a foreign trade deficit, consumes less gasoline, and produces far less wear and tear on our roadway infrastructure than automobiles. Again, you employed flawed statistics to sell half-truths.

THIRD, you correctly assert that prevention is the solution, but you fail to see that IT IS NOT THE INJURIES WE NEED TO PREVENT, IT IS THE CRASHES THAT INFLICT THEM! In the 90 minutes I listened to your staged presentation--for which I was told by your office no written transcript will be published--not once did I hear any serious dialogue about CRASH AVOIDANCE as opposed to merely CRASH SURVIVAL. Why was there no discussion of ways to mitigate the RIGHT-OF-WAY VIOLATIONS by negligent, distracted, impaired and care-less motorists, which more often than gets reported are the REAL CAUSE OF MOTORCYCLE CRASHES and the injuries and deaths they produce?

FOURTH AND FINALLY, your Board unanimously endorsed a recommendation to the states that universal mandatory helmet laws be implemented for all motorcyclists regardless of age, yet you said nothing about the far greater number of lives that could be saved and accidents and injuries avoided by implementing universal restrictions on the use of cellphones while driving, regardless of age. Perhaps in your fervor to put a lid on every rider (why not every driver, too?), you have overlooked the fact that we have 236 million cellphone subscribers on our roadways (of all ages) ... that 73% of them (of all ages) are talking while they are driving ... that cellphone conversations impair their driving skills (regardless of their age) as much if they were intoxicated with alcohol ... and that consequently they are four times more likely to cause or be involved in an accident (regardless of their age) than motorists who responsibly shut up and steer. The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, for example, reports that ONE IN FOUR ACCIDENTS in Oklahoma last year occurred when a driver was talking on the phone. Can that ratio be much different nationwide?

Motorcycle casualties are a drop in the bucket compared to the increasing carnage caused by irresponsibly and unnecessarily impaired motorists who refuse to simply HANG UP AND DRIVE, Mr. Rosenker. So why don't you tone down this tempest in a teapot you're trying to create, and focus on a far more serious transportation safety hazard?

Speaking strictly for myself and no other individuals or organizations,

IronBoltBruce

Bruce@LdrLongDistanceRider.com
Author and Publisher, LdrLongDistanceRider.com
Co-Moderator, Bruce-n-Ray's Biker Forum
Premier Member, Iron Butt Association
Sustaining Member, Motorcycle Riders Foundation
Member and Elite Legislative Supporter, American Motorcyclist Association

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