New York Freedom Riders: www.newyorkfreedomriders.com
William Gossard, National Program Safety Coordinator for the National Transportation Safety Board
Oral Testimony before the Nebraska Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
March 3, 2009
WILLIAM GOSSARD: (Exhibits 9 and 10) Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Senators, it's a pleasure to be here. My name is William Gossard, G-o-s-s-a-r-d, from the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C. I am the national program safety coordinator for motorcycles for the NTSB. It's a pleasure to be here in Nebraska, a wonderful trip, wonderful state, been here before and appreciate being here. But I'm sure you're probably familiar with what our organization is, but just briefly we are the national accident investigation agency for the federal government, primarily we do major airline crashes such as the Hudson River splash down recently, the Buffalo, New York, plane that fell out of the sky, and the Turkish airline 737 that crashed in Amsterdam just for some. But likewise, we address smaller issue areas such as motorcycle safety, recreational boating safety, what you would call the off areas where there are many lives lost. I'm going to try and be very short. This statement is very long, and in the interest of time, I'm going to really cut it down. Since 1997, the number of motorcycle fatalities in the nation have increased 141 percent. That's more than double all the number of deaths in each year from accidents in the other transportation modes of aviation, rail, marine, and pipeline combined. In 2007, we had 5,154 motorcyclists die in the nation. That was a 6.6 percent increase in fatalities from 2006 to 2007. Likewise, injuries increased 17 percent in one year. Motorcycle crashes and injuries are rising, and this is a very bad trend. Only recently the U.S. joint command of the military, the Navy, Marines, Army, and Air Force, became very concerned in the military services because they're losing so many well-trained combat troops because of motorcycle crashes. As a matter of fact, the Navy and Marines are reporting that we lost 100 motorcyclists in military service--that's more than all of Iran--from motorcycle crashes. They're so concerned that they've now called meetings with the motorcycle organizations to try and correct that problem. Part of it is they require helmets on military bases, but as soon as they leave a military base compound in a state without helmets, they go out and don't wear their helmets and they perish. So it's a very serious issue. The DOT-compliant helmets like you require in Nebraska are very important. Thirty-seven percent of all perhaps of fatalities in motorcycle would be negated by a helmet. Helmet laws do increase helmet use, and I have page 3, 4, and 5 of my statement if you're interested in states that have repealed helmet laws and then again put them back in place, you can read at your leisure what the results were in those states. The cost of motorcycle crashes are severe. There is research available if the committee would like to see that from Dr. Ted Miller, the director of Public Services Research Institute at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, that indicate that of 110,000 motorcyclist crashes cost about $17.5 billion in the nation--40,000 of those were unhelmeted, 36 percent, and they accounted for $12.2 billion of cost. The average cost crash for motorcyclists with a helmet is $71,000; without a helmet is roughly $310,000. Nebraska, like many states, has an excellent medical trauma centers that must be on duty 24/7 to receive head trauma accidents. Likewise, you have police and you have emergency medical helicopters and ambulances standing by 24/7 to respond to such crashes. These all do have costs. I don't know what they are in Nebraska, but it's a very serious cost that you have to look at. I can't address, of course, tourism increases, but I can tell you that motorcycle fatalities are a serious issue. If it continues this way, the National Transportation Safety Board will have to do more than just issue recommendations to the governors of the states that they implement universal helmet laws. We have done that. In Nebraska, fortunately, we did not have to write that letter. But the other states, there are 20 states and the District of Columbia and four territories that have helmet laws that are universal. Likewise, there are 27 states and one territory that do not, and there are 3 states that do not have helmet laws--Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire. You've heard about that. Believe it or not, if you look at their fatality rates over the past five years, those states have seen very high increases in the number of motorcyclists lost without helmet wear. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Thank you. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Thank you. I will answer any questions you may have. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Are there questions? Senator Gay. [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: Thank you, Senator Fischer. You had handed this out, it says, you know, motorcycle deaths are going up. But are injuries rising because of increasing numbers of motorcyclists starting to ride? I mean it has to be more with gas. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Well, yes, there is some increase in registration. Again, registrations in various states, as we have heard, is an art form, okay, but registrations are increasing in the number of motorcyclists, but not to the extent of the rise in fatalities and injuries. [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: So proportionately, though. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Proportionately, motorcyclists are higher than motor vehicles.
SENATOR GAY: It would make sense. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: As a matter of fact, motor vehicles are actually dropping down now. There used to be 42,000 roughly, now it's 40,000 fatalities in the highway area, but motorcyclists are going the other way. [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: Okay. And then can you, on this two-page handout you handed out--partial laws do not protect younger riders. Only universal helmet laws significantly reduce fatality rates for riders aged 15-20. Can you expand on that? I don't have time to read all this right now, but on that point. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Well, right. What we found is that youthful operators, that's under age 21, only 8 percent of the motorcycle fatalities in the last five years, the other 92 percent are 22 years and older. So youthful operators really are not the issue. It's older operators. [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: All right, thank you. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Senator Stuthman. [LB200]
SENATOR STUTHMAN: Thank you, Senator Fischer. Mr. Gossard, in the states of Iowa where you said there's no helmet law, when you said the deaths or accident rates were...the deaths were extremely high, is that in comparison with the number of motorcyclists in the state, number of riders, number of motorcycles registered? I mean if they got twice as many motorcycles registered, there surely could be the possibility of twice as many accidents. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Well, I'll give you an...I'll give you some comparisons which I ran for this, okay. I can provide the information if you want the actual worksheets. But Nebraska's average fatalities for motorcycles in the past five years, 2003 to 2007, we did not do 2008 which you well know is now 20, it went up, but it's about 17 riders per year die. Iowa the average is about 50, but they've increased over the past five years. Nebraska has stayed pretty much static. In other words, your deaths on motorcycle accidents are pretty much the same. As the number of registered motorcycles in Iowa, yes, it's 138,000 with endorsements, who knows? They have some numbers but you're never sure. They say 255,000. Nebraska does have endorsed reported about 89,000 so, yes, it's about 2 to 1 difference let's say or 2.5 to 1 so. Given that, probably Nebraska is doing much better than Iowa. Illinois has increased also, but they have many, many more riders. States that are more comparable with Nebraska that don't have helmet laws or very weak helmet laws are New Hampshire and Hawaii, and they lose about 25 fatals per year in both of those states as compared to 17 in Nebraska. Vermont, which has a mandatory helmet law, which is also a favorable population to Nebraska, has 9 dead as an average. Your helmet states primarily are doing very well. They're staying very static. Your other states that have no helmet laws or have what we call a partial law, which is under age 21 with some kind of education component, are increasing. [LB200]
SENATOR STUTHMAN: Mr. Gossard, do you have any information as far as, you know, we're talking about deaths, as far as, you know, brain injury that, you know, they weren't killed because they had a helmet on, as compared... [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yes. I think you're going to have somebody actually testify to that following me. And likewise, I could tell you I was in Missouri where I also had to testify on a repeal bill, and, in fact, brain trauma, the association was there. Those accidents, of course, for folks who have to have rehabilitation over many, many years is extremely extensive. And the person that testified at that hearing, I did not know him, had $9 million worth of medical costs, much of which was not covered by his insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, had to be covered by the state or federal system somehow, all right. And he did survive and he did become a productive lawyer. But it is quite expensive. The average cost is $301,000 without a helmet and $71,000 with a helmet, so you'd get some benefit there. But there is a person who was in an accident, and he can speak more clearly to some of the costs that he had. You can't put your finger on it because it varies, varying cost, but it is fairly substantive. The thing it does, it impacts your EMS system. You have to realize that EMS shock trauma facilities cost lots of money to maintain. I know that because Maryland has an extensive EMS helicopter shock trauma network. And when you have a crash of a motorcyclist without a helmet, it's akin to dropping an egg about 18 inches right to this table, and you know the result. All right? The motorcyclist has his helmet on at six feet, all right, and depending on the speed, the helmets are very effective--a 37 percent chance at any speed when you drop off a bike, okay, and the helmet hits the ground, it's at least going to give you a chance to survive. That's the best we can offer. It's the only protection we have for a motorcyclist, quite frankly. I mean cars, you know, we have the structure, we have air bags now, we have seat belts, and we're trying as best we can, you know, to provide protection there. A motorcyclist has no other protection. Whether you hit a bug in the head or you hit a deer or a car hits you or, you know, you run off the road, I mean the only protection you have is your helmet. That's the bottom line. [LB200]
SENATOR STUTHMAN: Okay, thank you. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Senator Hadley. [LB200]
SENATOR HADLEY: Thank you, Senator Fischer. Thank you for your testimony. Years ago, many years sooner than I want to remember, I took an insurance course and we talked about the type of, you know, young kids 22 years old and such as that, that the type of coverage we should be most worried about was not life insurance because if you die the cost to your family and such as that are done. But it was the long-term disability. And so I see here, I guess that's my concern is that when we, you know, should I be concerned about motorcycle deaths because they, you know, the person chooses to drive without a helmet. And if they happen to be in a fatal accident, they made the choice. But I'm worried about the person like you said that suddenly runs up $5 million in Medicaid bills that we as a state have to try and fund. So that is my primary concern. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: That is an issue, and I can certainly understand your question. Of course, I look at this a little differently. I'm not a me-too person, okay. I'm a motorcyclist. I wear my helmet all the time. I'm concerned about my family--the fact that if I pass on, all right quite frankly, that leaves a whole network of people who are seriously, seriously damaged, and they're damaged forever. All right? And so there are different ways to look at that. I mean and so, you know, I understand your point but, you know, we at the Safety Board have to react to a number of different things. We're trying, quite frankly, to cut fatalities in the nation. This is one area where we're not cutting it. And some other steps are going to have to be taken if we cannot...are not successful in getting helmet laws universally applied to all the states. So that's our position and we're sticking to it. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Senator Gay, did you have another question? [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: Yeah, thank you, Senator Fischer. On the peripheral vision, experienced riders that came before here, and it sounds like they're pretty experienced, say they couldn't see as much on the side. Have you done studies just is it true, false, or? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: I'll tell you, Senator, there are studies done on that. I didn't bring all that material with me. But you know what? When I get back to Washington, I'll be happy to provide you that information that deals with hearing and vision on motorcycles with or without. There is good information on that, and I will provide that to you as well as the study on costs nationally if you're interested, Dr. Ted Miller's information. All right? [LB200]
SENATOR GAY: All right, thank you. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: I'll provide that to the committee if that's all right with you, Madam Chair. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: That would be great. Other questions? Senator Campbell.
SENATOR CAMPBELL: Thank you, Senator Fischer. In the studies that you have done, sir, would it be a safe assumption that most motorcyclists have private insurance? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Well, it depends. A lot of motorcyclists have policies that cover, obviously, might cover their motorcycle. If they're, you know, expensive cycle, they probably have home owner's kind of coverage to cover their motorcycle. Personal injury insurance seems to be a very difficult issue. And I'm probably not the person to speak on insurance issues because insurance to us doesn't matter one way or the other. We're trying to reduce fatalities. But we do know that many states have tried to have motorcyclists carry $10,000 worth of insurance which is, obviously, nothing. All right? And in those states, they've had very little success in having motorcycles even carry $10,000 in insurance, even if it's required. They just don't do it. Now when it comes to, you know, personal injury insurance, there is some personal injury insurance, and this may be addressed by the gentleman who will follow me because he actually had to go through all this, and I think he might be the best one to answer that from a real live, you know, personal situation. Quite frankly, judging from the information we have nationally, it looks like you should carry at least $310,000 worth of personal injury insurance, whatever that may cost, even if there is any insurance available. I mean I understand some states have tried $1 million, all right, which they probably couldn't even find an insurer that would take it. They understand the risk is very high for motorcyclists. And I doubt if there would be an insurer that would even take on that kind of coverage. But I'm not an expert in that area, so I apologize. But if you want, I will make some queries back when I get back, and we may well have some information on that. I just don't have it with me, I'm sorry. [LB200]
SENATOR CAMPBELL: Thank you. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Other questions? Senator Janssen. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: Thank you, Senator Fischer. I'm sorry I missed your last name. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Bill Gossard. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: Mr. Gossard, thank you for testifying. You just made mention that insurance should be $310,000. Do you think people...and let me back up a little bit. I did ask an insurance agent in my district. He said he has never written a motorcycle policy without putting personal insurance on that. I don't know what level, but I did just speak to him. But why $310,000 for a motorcycle rider? Would we not expect a car or motorist perhaps traveling without a seat belt on to have that same, I mean if we were... [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yeah, well, I mean most car insurance, I don't know what folks carry. I mean I carry probably $300,000/$500,000,$1 million, all right, on mine, you know, my car. And I'm just not an expert in that. If he writes insurance for motorcyclists, he ought to just give you what the number is. If it's State Farm or Aetna or one of the good insurance companies, I'm sure they must have some numbers on that. I just am not an expert in insurance. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: Are you an expert in motorcycle insurance? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: No, no, I'm not. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: So how do you base the $310,000? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Well, it's just based on a national, you know, high average would be $300,000. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: Okay, all right, thank you. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: The other would be $71,000. That would be even less. [LB200]
SENATOR JANSSEN: Okay, thank you. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Other questions? I just had a couple for you, Mr. Gossard. First, welcome to Nebraska. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Thank you very much. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Glad you could be here today. You had a discussion on this earlier on your handout the first bullet point under the problem where it says that motorcycle crashes have more than doubled in the past decade. Do you know if there's any studies out there that show the increase in usage of motorcycles to...have you ever looked at registrations across the states... [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yes, we did. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: ...and shown, excuse me... [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yeah, I'm sorry. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: ...and shown a correlation with the registrations in regard to the increase in crashes? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yeah. The information we have is that the registrations have increased, but the fatality rates of motorcyclists have outpaced increases in registration, vehicle miles traveled, which are the common two measures we use. All right? If you want those specific rates, I will get those for you and provide it to you. But basically what we have said is that they've just outpaced, all right, the number of motorcyclists. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: You know, in Nebraska the motorcycle helmet law went into effect in 1989. I have a chart here from AAA. All of a sudden in 2001, we had an increase in accidents and really not a corresponding increase in registrations. And then we had registrations have almost doubled since then, but the accident rate hasn't doubled. I mean for me it's hard to look at numbers and just pick and choose, you know, what we want to get out of it because you would think in 2000 here in Nebraska we had three fatalities. In 2001, we had 12. You know, what happened between 2000 or what happened in 2001 that we had this increase? I'm leery of numbers when we do that. So anything that would help to explain those would be beneficial. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: It would probably be best to ask perhaps the highway director of Nebraska to see if he has anything to add. Obviously, Nebraska looks pretty baseline for the past five years, maybe even six now, maybe even before that it was fairly baseline. It looks to me like your helmet law and your education initiatives, which are very good, I'm familiar with the Harley program, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation programs. Those have had a tremendous, I think, beneficial effect in Nebraska, because most of the people taking those courses are older than 21. All right? And that's the age group that we need to impact that we're not finding many young motorcycle riders because, quite frankly, they can't afford motorcycles. They're very expensive, nice motorcycles. Now you can get a 125cc or maybe a 250, but who wants to ride a 125 or a 250? They're good for training, but not good for riding. So they have to wait and they have to, you know, be really of a financial age that they can afford the bigger bikes or the sport bikes as we call them. The military, of course, is finding a problem with the sports bikes right now. That's why they're really on this issue in terms of training. They're very, you know, concerned about this so we do see that. But I think overall, I mean when you look at the nation, looking at all these states, and that's what I have to do, it is hard to compare apples and oranges. I understand that and years versus different years, but we try to trim this stuff out. Nebraska looks really good, all right, in terms of... [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: I have another question on your sheet. And I'm sorry I don't have time to read all through it now. But under the headline, "Helmets save lives" and you talk about the Department of Transportation-compliant helmets. What are those exactly? If they're compliant, does that mean they've been tested? Do you have a little sticker on them then? Is that what people have to buy? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yes, that is absolutely correct. The DOT-compliant, which is the FMVSS 218 etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, DOT-compliant helmet has been tested. All right? We use a variety of drop tests, all right, and other kind of pressure tests. And they are fully protected in the interior so the thing does not crack when you fall this distance because the impact you're measuring is from the height of the rider to the ground. That's the initial strike, much like if an egg drops from this table, which I would have brought. It would have been very entertaining because... [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: No, you can't bring props. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: But we can't bring props so I knew that. We didn't want to have a bunch of egg on the table. But if you drop your head with no helmet, the distance, and you hit the ground, there's a good chance you're going to be laying injured or dead, you know, basically option A or B. If you're lucky enough to try and skid off, which many good motorcycle riders can do and I've done myself, one of the reasons why I haven't ridden lately, because you slide for great distance and your head does bounce around, if you have a helmet, that helmet cushions the bouncing impacts. Okay? And so these helmets are tested, all right, to try and give you some protection from that impact. And then as you bounce around and you might hit a, hopefully God forbid a car or something underneath, the carriage or bounce off a guardrail or hit a rock as you're bouncing through the weeds and side of the road, that it gives you some protection. And it does give you that protection. I know they're not comfortable. I know sometimes there's some, you know, vision arguments and the hearing arguments, but I will provide you information on that. They do, in fact, save your life. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Do you know if Nebraska law requires that our riders here wear a DOT-compliant helmet? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: I'll have to ask...there they are...yes, these are the motorcycle safety people. I was pretty sure you did because I don't see a check mark next to you that you do not so I'm sure you do. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Okay. Last question then has two parts I guess. The National Transportation Safety Board, are your members appointed by the President? How are you set up? Short answer. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yes, yeah, I'm sorry, I was going to go through that but... [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Just a short answer. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: ...because of shortness of time, real short, I know I like to talk, five presidential board members, currently three Republicans, two Democrats, soon to change. Okay? And besides that we have a staff underneath. Everything we do is open. We have no secrets. We try to tell no stories. We try to only present facts as best they can be presented. And obviously there are sometimes arguments over facts, but, you know, as best we can determine. We have a research and engineering staff that looks through every study that we cite, every piece of work that we look at. We don't try to, you know, put stuff in there that's not going to help us make a good, sound decision that's open to the public. And so that's how we operate. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Okay. And then a couple of comments you made disturbed me. And I'm curious on what the NTSB's power is because once you said that your board would have to do more than just issue recommendations. And in answer to a question, you said with regard to repealing of helmets, that then other steps would have to be taken. Are you saying your board has power over what the state of Nebraska decides to do in this? [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. No, we'd have to make further recommendations. No, we have no other power but recommendations. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Okay. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: No, we don't...we wouldn't...the board would then have to make a decision whether it needs to issue other recommendations to other bodies. Nebraska we never made a recommendation. We were very pleased not to have to do that. Okay? [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Okay. I just wanted to clarify that. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: That's, you're exactly right, Madam Chair. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: So thank you very much. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: We certainly wasn't going to tell Nebraska what to do nor this committee. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Oh, no, you don't want to do that. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Nor this committee, I can assure you. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Senator Hadley has one more short question. [LB200]
SENATOR HADLEY: Yeah, one more short follow-up question. Your analogy of
dropping the egg and such as that, it seems to me I was doing some reading on this, some research on it that basically the helmet basically helps the lower the speed, the lower the cyclist is going that the higher the speed that the use of a helmet does not have a great deal of... [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: No, no, it will. It does. Yeah. [LB200]
SENATOR HADLEY: Even 75 miles an hour and I get in an accident. [LB200]
WILLIAM GOSSARD: Yeah, yeah, it's that initial drop in your head and then you might roll like I did at high speed for a good number of yards...I...many motorcyclists can tell you the distance they traveled on the ground, all right. It can be quite spectacular. But it does, in fact, protect you at high speeds or lower speeds, which is a phenomena that, you know, is very interesting but that's how it works. [LB200]
SENATOR FISCHER: Thank you very much. Next opponent, please. Good afternoon. [LB200]
Transcript Prepared By the Clerk of the Legislature
Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
March 03, 2009
Notes by Dan Spotten, research assistance by Karen Leonard:
1. The NTSB has only been involved in motorcycle safety since 2006 and they have only investigated SIX (6) motorcycle accidents. NTSB has also based their recommendations on tired, antiquated, already existing research on motorcycle safety. MRF- 2007/07 NTSB- Newcomers to Motorcycle Safety. http://www.mrf.org/articles/2007/07NR12-NTSB-Newcomers_to_Motorcycle_Safety.htm
Deborah A.P. Hersman, NTSB member, spoke about some of these accidents at a conference in 2006. These motorcycle accidents, which included an investigation team sent to Linden, PA, a limited investigation done on an accident in Thornton, New Hampshire, an accident in Pittsburgh, PA where a team was not sent to investigate, were caused by other motor vehicles crossing the center-line and running down the motorcyclist or turning left in front of the motorcyclist. http://www.ntsb.gov/Speeches/hersman/daph060815.htm
2. ALL MILITARY PERSONEL are required to wear helmets on and off base. http://www.wsmr.army.mil/pdf/motorcyclesafetyhandbook.pdf
3. Summary of Relevant Directives and Regulations:
c. All soldiers, DA civilians in a duty status, and all persons on a DA installation, must properly wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) listed below while operating or riding a motorcycle, (DODI 6055.4, paragraph E188.8.131.52). Army requirements reflect the DOD requirements discussed below except where differences are noted, (AR 385-55, Appendix B, paragraph B-3).
(1) A motorcycle helmet that meets standards established by the U.S Department of
Transportation. The helmet must be fastened under the chin.
The Army Safety Program
d. Motorcycle personal protective equipment. The following PPE is mandatory for the following personnel while operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, moped, or ATV: all Army military personnel at any time, on or off a DOD installation; all Army civilian personnel in a duty status, on or off a DOD installation; all personnel in or on a DOD–owned motorcycle; and all persons at any time on an Army installation.
(1) Helmets, certified to meet DOT standards, must be properly fastened under the chin. Outside CONUS riders may wear HN helmets if the helmet meets or exceeds U.S. DOT standards.
3: Dr. Ted Miller, the director of Public Services Research Institute at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, presentation at the National Transportation Public Forum on Motorcycle Safety September 12-13, 2006, Washington, D.C.: http://www.ntsb.gov/Events/symp_motorcycle_safety/Trends%20and%20Safety%20Statistics%20Panel/Ted%20Miller%20-%20Pacific%20Institute%20for%20Research%20and%20Evaluation.pdf
Motorcycle Vehicle Miles of Travel was used in this review of studies. Motorcycle VMT was not state mandated to report until 2008 and some states estimated the number or submitted 0 motorcycle VMT. Taken from overview: “Overall, they accounted for 11.3 billion person-miles of travel in 1998, averaging 2,640 miles per motorcycle (Federal Highway Administration. 1998 Highway Statistics, Washington DC: FHWA, 1999”. “Motorcycle” included motorized bicycle [moped], scooter, and tricycle.
4. Emergency medical helicopters and ambulances stand by to respond to all types of crashes, and medical emergencies. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated motorcycles make up 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2006.
5. Title 49—Transportation, Chapter VIII—National Transportation Safety Board
(a) The primary function of the Board is to promote safety in transportation. The Board is responsible for the investigation, determination of facts, conditions, and circumstances and the cause or probable cause or causes of: all accidents involving civil aircraft, and certain public aircraft; highway accidents, including railroad grade-crossing accidents, the investigation of which is selected in cooperation with the States; railroad accidents in which there is a fatality, substantial property damage, or which involve a passenger train; pipeline accidents in which there is a fatality, significant injury to the environment, or substantial property damage; and major marine casualties and marine accidents involving a public and a non-public vessel or involving Coast Guard functions. The Board makes transportation safety recommendations to Federal, State, and local agencies and private organizations to reduce the likelihood of recurrences of transportation accidents. It initiates and conducts safety studies and special investigations on matters pertaining to safety in transportation, assesses techniques and methods of accident investigation, evaluates the effectiveness of transportation safety consciousness and efficacy in preventing accidents of other Government agencies, and evaluates the adequacy of safeguards and procedures concerning the transportation of hazardous materials.
6. States do not forbid motorcycle helmet use and not all motorcyclist fatalities are due to head trauma because a helmet wasn’t worn. It is impossible to compare state to state motorcycle fatalities. Each state has different a number of motorcycle riders, different age group numbers, motorcycle vehicle miles of travel, weather conditions/driving seasons, and different motorcycle tourist attractions year to year. These factors affect increase and decrease fatality rates each year.
7. This is clumping age groups. Youthful operators -16-21 years of age; older operators -22- years of age. Of course, they only represent 8 percent. There are more motorcyclists in the older age group so there would be more fatalities.
8. The number of motorcycle registrations is not “an art form”. Anyone can go on line and find how many are registered in the state.
9. Mr. Gossard is only looking at fatality numbers. You can not compare one state to another. Each state has different a number of motorcycle riders, different age group numbers, motorcycle vehicle miles of travel, weather conditions/driving seasons, and different motorcycle tourist attractions year to year. These factors affect increase and decrease fatality rates each year.
10. “…the helmets are very effective--a 37 percent chance at any speed when you drop off a bike, okay, and the helmet hits the ground, it's at least going to give you a chance to survive.” Helmets are tested at 13 mph, and are effective if your helmet hits something exactly the same way they are tested.
11. It is mandatory for military personnel to wear helmets when riding a motorcycle. Their fatality rate is very high so they require them to take a motorcycle rider course. Helmets did not lower the fatality rate.
12. DOT compliant helmets: “We use a variety of drop tests, all right, and other kind of pressure tests. And they are fully protected in the interior so the thing does not crack when you fall this distance because the impact you're measuring is from the height of the rider to the ground.” It’s not clear who Mr. Gossard is referring to as “we”, but this is a false statement. Manufactures test a certain number of helmets and put DOT stickers on them. Taken from the NHTSA website:
9. How does a helmet get added to NHTSA’s approved helmet list?
DOT or NHTSA does not "approve" motorcycle helmets, thus, there is no list of "approved" helmets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the statutory authority to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) applicable to motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment, including motorcycle helmets. The law establishes a self-certification process in which the motorcycle helmet manufacturers certify that their products are in compliance with FMVSS No. 218, which establishes minimum performance requirements that the products must meet. NHTSA enforces the standard by randomly selecting and purchasing motorcycle helmets from the marketplace and testing to the requirements of the standard at independent test labs.
13. In this accident scenario or any accident scenario, you can not state that a helmet would have saved your life. Every accident has different factors and a helmet will not stop internal bleeding or a broken neck, which a helmet has cause in some cases.
14. He threatened further action but when questioned, Mr. Gossard retracts his statement.
15. A helmet can not protect you at any speed. Motorcycle helmets are tested to 13 mph.
Test procedure (click
on FMVSS 218):