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Posts Tagged ‘HB 2454’

UO Football Helmet

UO Football Helmet — Go Ducks!

Different helmets do different things. There are hard hats on construction and heavy-industry heads; football helmets on athletes’ heads, Kevlar® caps on military heads and DOT certified helmets on motorcyclist heads.

None are interchangeable.  However, the motorcyclist in this photo might disagree.

On the weekend I was driving on Highway 217 and came upon this motorcyclist flashing some new reflectivity protective head gear – a University of Oregon football helmet!

I’m not sure if this “learning moment” is one where we ridicule his fashion faux pas or criticize the multiple color combinations of motorcycle, helmet, shirt, pants, socks and shoes, and how they’ll never pass the Nike-design standard.  But, most concerning is the specific amount of retroreflective material on the helmet and how it may well exceed state standards!

Huh?

Yep, a number of states have exact information on the location and number of square inches of retroreflective material required on motorcycle helmets.  I’m currently researching this fun fact and will report an update when I learn if Oregon has such a requirement embedded in the helmet law.

Motorcycle helmets are very sophisticated and specialized for an activity. They’ve been developed carefully and scientifically over the years and wearing a DOT helmet properly strapped on your head is mandatory in the state of Oregon.  If you want to read more about Oregon helmet laws go HERE.  If you’re interested in helmet standards go HERE.  The NHTSA is proposing to amend several aspects of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets HERE.

But, this is all a moot point, because this “safety-minded motorcyclist” just planted another seed of doubt in the minds of non-riders – some who already question the rationale of motorcycle ownership in general – that wearing a football helmet means motorcyclists are not responsible people; we don’t take ourselves and motorcycling serious and no matter what the law says, it’s about projecting an attitude…

We’ve heard this tune before.  Many call it stupid and other’s will call it living.

Photo taken by author. 

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Stop "Nanny" Bills

We’ve been told a number of times that Oregon legislators know what’s best for us.  They seem to have a motto of just ‘trust us,’ now go out there and have some crazy fun.  But govern that fun because there are a lot of well intentioned legislative bills that treat citizens like children incapable of making a good decision — called “nanny” bills — which in my view try to mandate common sense and are simply telling people how to live their life.

For 2011, they don’t want you to smoke.  Anything anywhere.  Don’t even think about driving with a pet in your lap or riding a bike with headphones.  And when your windshield wipers are on (happens a lot in the northwest) they want it mandatory to use your headlights too.  Yeah, legislators want to lower the boom on all these so-called questionable habits and are as busy as ever protecting us from ourselves.  In fact, 2,837 measures have been introduced since January.  Some read like duplicates and some contradict other bills.  Yep, it’s “March Madness” from Salem!

One of the more prolific sponsors is Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D) who after reading a bike safety study by OHSU decided to authored a bill that would make it illegal to carry a child under the age of 6 years old in a bike trailer (HB 2228).  I’m curious if he collaborated with Eugene-based Burley Design, who have employees engaged in the making of trailers for more than 30 years and if they see this as a job killer?   Not even slightly distracted about jobs, Mr. Greenlick also wants to require a prescription to smoke cigars or cigarettes and wants to add a special tax on soda to discourage its consumption (HB 3223).

The Legislative Counsel’s office says it costs $980, on average to draft and circulate a bill.  That suggests there is a $2.7M cost for the drafting and routing of the 2,837 measures for 2011!  While we can debate the actual costs and if a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) is less cost, what isn’t debatable is the loss of productivity of the people put there to serve us and the wasting of the states time and money on non-sense bills versus working to grow the economy and create jobs.  Some examples of those all-important issues (and there are many, believe me) that legislators think face our state:

  1. HCR 14 – adopts Code of West as model of conduct in State of Oregon.
  2. SCR 3 – designates Border collie as official state dog.
  3. HB 2010 – requires public schools to offer students instruction in Mandarin Chinese if school offers student instruction in two or more second languages.
  4. SB 160 – creates offense of driver operation with obstructing animal (makes it illegal to drive with a pet on your lap).
  5. SB 805 creates offense of unlawfully confining egg-laying hen.

So, by now you’re asking how does this relate to motorcycles and/or transportation measures?  I didn’t read all 2,837 measures, but I quickly scanned them and below are the measures motorcyclists might be interested in keeping an eye on:

SB 948 Declares that data used to diagnose, maintain or repair motor vehicles that is created, collected or contained in motor vehicle is exclusively owned by motor vehicle owner.
SB 945 Prohibits manufacturers from selling or offering for sale, and other specified persons from knowingly selling or offering for sale, brake friction material or motor vehicles or trailers with brake friction material containing specific amounts of certain fibers or elements that are hazardous when released into state waterways.
HB 3579 Prohibits advertising that seller will value property being offered as payment toward purchase or lease of motor vehicle at certain amounts.
SJR 36 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to allow revenue from taxes on motor vehicle fuel and ownership, operation or use of motor vehicles to be used by state police for policing highways.
SB 873 Requires persons 75 years of age or older to renew driver licenses every two years and to take driving test prior to renewal.
SB 845 Requires Department of Transportation to issue driver license or driver permit to applicant who has complied with all requirements for license or permit but does not provide proof of legal presence in United States.
SB 846 Directs Department of Transportation to adopt standards for bicycle trailers designed for human passengers.
HB 3504 Authorizes civil forfeiture of motor vehicle if person is convicted of offense relating to driving while suspended or revoked.
HB 3377 Authorizes photo radar in City of Salem.
HB 3513 Creates Ignition Interlock Device Program Fund and continuously appropriates moneys in fund to Department of Transportation to pay for installation and maintenance of ignition interlock devices for use by persons who are indigent.
HB 3483 Requires use of headlights when windshield wipers are on.
SB 767 Creates offense of unlawfully idling motor vehicle engine.
HB 3259 Directs Department of Transportation to provide photograph on driver license, driver permit or identification card to licensed private investigator.
HB 3250 Directs Department of Transportation to issue Keep Kids Safe registration plates.
SB 647 Increases penalty for driving while suspended or revoked.
HB 3149 Establishes standards for personal vehicle sharing programs.
HB 3141 Requires only persons under 21 years of age to wear motorcycle helmet while riding on or operating motorcycle. I blogged on this previously HERE.
HB 3072 Requires use of headlights at all times.
HB 3039 Directs Department of Transportation to erect and maintain roadside memorial sign under certain circumstances for police officer killed in line of duty.
HB 2738 Directs Department of Transportation to consult with Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute when designing Gray Whale registration plate.
HB 2768 Adds driving while fatigued to offense of reckless driving.
HB 2749 Creates offense of driving while drowsy.
HB 2545 Establishes tax on motor vehicle rentals.
HB 2333 Prohibits use of studded tires.
HB 2507 Permits person to use mobile communication device while operating motor vehicle in frontier counties.
HB 2042 Permits person to provide Department of Transportation with odometer disclosure form for vehicle 10 years old or older.
SB 160 Creates offense of driver operation with obstructing animal.
SB 180 Prohibits Department of Transportation from administering examination for driver license in language other than English.

And sticking with that ‘cowboy’ code theme and applying it to the 2011 legislature… I’m thinking “big mouth, no cows” might be more appropriate.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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Rep. Andy Olson (R)

Republican Rep. Andy Olson, a 29-year OSP veteran turned Albany lawmaker has a fatal flaw.  He wants to be liked by motorcyclists.

It all started when he sponsored House Bill 3141 which allows Oregon motorcycle riders and passengers to ride without helmets if they’re 21 or older.  The bill would amend the state motorcycle helmet law to say that only persons under 21 years of age are required to wear one.  I’ve written previously HERE about helmet laws in Oregon.

But, what are the odds of newly re-elected Governor John Kitzhaber (D) approving a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians” … that’s like Dick Cheney caring what the public thinks or like Sarah Palin suddenly saying Obama’s great or like Paul Krugman saying trickle-down economics work.  A Leopard can’t change its spots and if anyone remotely believes that Doctor/Gov. Kitzhaber would allow it to become law, then they are ignoring history, evidence and logic!  Gov. Kitzhaber had an opportunity to approve a similar bill (HB 2454) back in August 1997, but he vetoed it on the very last day before it would have become law.

With all due respect to Mr. Olson, this anti-helmet campaign is dumb given the Governors clear stance on the topic and because there are a lot of other campaigns more important (government intrusion on attire, noise, superbike legislation etc.) to riders, but Mr. Olson is committed and said the change would allow riders to hear better and see more.  Huh?  That’s the logic to influence the Governor?!   Mr. Olson expects the measure to go to the House transportation panel and come up for a hearing in a week or so.  Hey, Mr. Olson I have an idea… how about stop wasting tax dollars and work on how to generate jobs.  You’d have a better chance of building a helmet factory in Oregon!

Looking for some balanced reporting on the helmet choice discussion?  Here is some information that might cause a moment of pause…

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that helmets reduce crash-related head injuries, the leading cause of death among riders wearing no helmets. And, a recent study published online in the Journal of American College of Surgeons shows that riders who wore helmets were 22% less likely than non-helmeted riders to sustain a cervical spine injury after a motorcycle collision.  I’m not a doctor, but basically they debunked a popular myth that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can be detrimental during a motorcycle crash.  They dispelled the hypothesis that helmet weight causes significant torque on the neck during motorcycle crashes which could contribute to spinal injuries.

Photo courtesy of Andy Olson’s Facebook page.

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The history of mandatory Helmet Laws in Oregon is a convoluted yet interesting journey back in time.

The year was 1966 and the Interstate Highway System was under construction with massive amounts of federal funds from gasoline taxes.  Each state had to pony up only 10% in matching funds to participate in this huge construction project and all the jobs it created.

Then in 1967, to increase motorcycle helmet use, the federal government required the states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and the above highway construction funds.  The federal incentives or rather the threat of a reduction in construction funds worked!  State after state fell to the federal “blackmail” threat.  In Oregon the legislature first instated helmet use laws on January 1, 1968 where they remained in place until 1977.

As an aside, in 1971 the Easyriders Magazine Editor, Lou Kimsey started A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE).  The acronym fit at the time as unelected federal bureaucrats were in fact using coercion on state legislators to have specific laws enacted within the states.

In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws and shortly thereafter began a pattern of repeal, reenactment, and amendment of motorcycle helmet laws.  Specifically in Oregon, on October 4, 1977 the helmet law was repealed for age 18 and over.

Then twelve years later on June 16, 1989 the mandatory helmet law in Oregon was reinstated for all motorcyclists by voter referendum.   By all accounts this was one of the lowest turnout elections in Oregon history and it had become a fairly common trend in the state,  where-in off-season election years — which typically had low voter turnout — legislators worked to jam through bond measures, tax increases and other unpopular measures on residents.

Then in 1997 the federal government (NHTSA) reported that although helmets were the principal countermeasure for reducing crash-related head injuries and the leading cause of death among unhelmeted riders, motorcyclist deaths were at a record all time low.  Along the way a funny thing happened — any federal funding tied to state motorcycle helmet laws seemed to evaporate.

In the same year along came Oregon House Bill 2454 and the first real opportunity to change helmet laws.  The intent of HB 2454 was to repeal mandatory motorcycle and moped helmet requirements for operators and passengers over 21 years of age.  The measure required the Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services to investigate whether the elimination of the helmet requirement for those 21 years and older increases the need for and feasibility of personal injury protection insurance for motorcyclists.  There was concern based on the cost of the Oregon Health Plan system that medical expenses would rise for un-helmeted motorcycle accidents and the state would foot the bill.  At the time failure to wear a motorcycle helmet was a Class D traffic infraction.  The violation was reduced from a Class C traffic infraction back in the 1995 legislature.

The House and Senate unanimously passed the HB 2454 bill, yet then Governor John Kitzhaber (D) on the last day (15 August 1997) before it would have automatically become law vetoed the adult pro-choice bill under the guise of it being a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians.”  Below is the Governor’s Veto Message:

I am returning herewith HB 2454, unsigned and disapproved.

The bill would repeal the motorcycle helmet law for riders 21 years of age and older. While I respect motorcycle riders’ desire to choose whether to wear helmets, maintaining the current law is clearly in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon. This is consistent with the public position I have held on this issue for almost 20 years. I am vetoing this bill, based not only on my experience as an emergency room physician, but also because the research clearly demonstrates that motorcycle helmet laws save lives, prevent injuries, and save public dollars.

Helmeted riders have 28-73% lower death rates than un-helmeted riders and helmet usage reduces the incidence of severe head injury by 46-85%. States with helmet laws have death rates 20-40% lower than states without such laws. Helmet usage is 90-98% in states with mandatory laws, and only about 50% in those without. Un-helmeted riders have higher medical care costs

than helmeted riders in crashes, and the majority of the costs are paid by the public rather than by the injured motorcyclist. If our helmet law were to be repealed, Oregon Medical Assistance Program estimates an increased expenditure of over $6 million of public funds per biennium to pay for additional health care costs.

In addition, Oregonians showed strong support for mandatory motorcycle helmets when they overwhelmingly approved the 1988 referendum by a 2 – 1 margin. The measure passed in every county. A recent poll conducted by an independent research firm has shown that the people of this state continue to support the helmet law by a wide margin.

I will continue to oppose repealing the motorcycle helmet law based on my concern for the health of Oregon motorcyclists and my commitment to the judicious use of public funds. As I have stated in the past, the only way I would consider signing such a measure into law would be if those who are advocating freedom of choice for adult riders would also ensure that those exercising such a freedom also accept the full economic responsibility for their actions.

Now after seven years of being out of politics John Kitzhaber (62) wants a do-over and says he’ll be a better governor…this time.  I’m betting not for motorcyclists.  Disregard that as an emergency room physician he just knows what’s best for the people of the state.  Never mind that he voted so many times for higher taxes that it earned him the nickname “Taxhaber” or that he vetoed so many Republican bills that they called him “Dr. No” or that in his last term he publically announced in frustration that the state was “ungovernable.”  He was right.  He couldn’t.

In fairness, the ex-Gov. Kitzhaber did sign on June 11, 2001, the HB 3885 bill where motorcyclists won the right to pump their own gasoline.  Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states that prohibit self-serve gas pumps and after going into law motorcycles were the only class of vehicle allowed to dispense fuel into their tanks.  Prior to this law going into effect on January 1, 2002 it was an arm wrestling match with the local high-school pump jockey about who was the fuel expert for your specific brand of motorcycle.

There you have it.  The helmet law history in Oregon.

Full Disclosure:  I support the choice to wear a motorcycle helmet and do. However, I also have opinions on government intrusion in my personal freedom and my right as an adult to choose and make bad choices.

Sources: The Motorcycle Riders Foundation; Insurance Institute For Highway Safety; Oregon State Legislature; Oregon Catalyst; NHTSA; Oregon Watchdog

Photo’s courtesy of Internet.

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