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08LR19 – MRF Leaders Report – October

October 3, 2008 by  

Washington Update

The US House passed the Health Insurance Restrictions and Limitations Act of 2008 (HR 6908) last week. This bill, as previously reported by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), would force insurance providers to disclose upfront, in writing, any activity they are unwilling to provide full payment for an injury sustained while participating in said activity. Currently the insurance providers need only refer to the federal loophole known as the “source of injury exclusion provision” to limit payment for any injury based on the source of the injury.

The bill passed with unanimous consent by the US House and is now being considered by the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). The Senate has passed legislation that was farther reaching than HR 6809 in a previous Congress so the outlook remains bright but time is running short. The MRF will keep you informed on this important issue.

NHTSA Proposes New Helmet Standards

In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set forth its proposal to modify the current safety standard for helmets, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218). The proposal focuses mostly on the least
important part of any helmet, the DOT label. The NPRM outlines what NHTSA would like to see on the back of your helmet. A new label to replace the current football shaped sticker with the letters DOT printed in a contrasting color to the background. NHTSA claims that due to entities printing and selling “Doing Our Thing” that closely resembles the DOT sticker the federal standard has been undermined and needs an upgrade to a bigger better sticker.

The changes the proposal outlines will require including the word “certified”, the manufacturer’s name, and the model of the helmet. The proposal also calls for the sticker to be larger and placed higher up from the bottom of the helmet. The new sticker has one other change, it’s not a sticker. The NPRM calls for the new label to be a “water decal” to be applied under the helmet’s final clear coat.

A few problems arise with this portion of the proposal. What about helmets that don’t have a clear coat such as leather clad or the popular matte finish? What about the cost to manufacturing, which will certainly be higher than the government estimates? Lastly, how does this affect the 30
helmet choice law states? The answer to that one is, it doesn’t – other than the fact that when you choose to wear a helmet it would have to be DOT certified.

NHTSA also called for some changes to the testing of helmets. None of the changes provide for a more real world condition, just adjusting some of the allowable ranges for helmet puncture and retention.

What is troubling about the proposal is the underlying theme of “safer crashing”. We at the MRF believe that it is best to focus on crash prevention instead of injury mitigation. Helmets do not prevent crashes, educated riders and motorists do.

It’s true that motorcycle fatalities are near historic levels, but so are new unit sales and registrations. With the soaring price of fuel, expect that to continue for the foreseeable future.

So what does NHTSA expect this proposal to do in the real world? Let us refer to some of NHTSA’s own numbers from the proposal. First since this only really affects the 20 mandatory universal helmet law states and the District of Columbia where according to NHTSA’s numbers 15 percent of the
riders in those jurisdictions use “novelty” helmets that don’t meet the current FMVSS 218. Reading further NHTSA says that this proposal, if enacted, would realistically reach 5 percent of the 15 percent of riders who now use “novelty” helmets in universal helmet law states. Using NHTSA’s method of guessing at helmet effectiveness, that amounts to about 17-32 lives a year. Now we can certainly all agree that any life saved is a huge success, but the original reason for this proposal was to bring down fatalities significantly. The low double digit decreases don’t really dip the numbers down enough to make this necessary.  Again, all life is precious but with government resources running on empty, The MRF believes this is time and money better spent on motorcycle safety programs that focus on avoidance of the crash.

The MRF encourages you to provide your own public comment to this NPRM. You can read the entire 66 page proposal that includes instructions on how to apply. The comment period is open for 60 days. Use the link to view the document:
http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/Rulemaking/Rules/Associated%20Files/Helmets_Upgrade_NPRM.pdf
or
http://tinyurl.com/4zcg7x

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Ride With The LeadersTM by joining the MRF at http://www.mrf.org/join.php or call 1-202-546-0983

Registration is easy and secure for MRF Regional and Meeting of the Minds conferences. Visit our website at http://www.mrf.org/events.php for further details and registration information.

Send in your nominations and donations for the MRF’s Young Activist Scholarship fund today. For complete details, visit http://www.mrf.org/yascholarship.php.

Sign up today for the MRF’s new roadside assistance program by visiting http://www.mrf.org/mrfroadside.php The program is available to MRF members and non-MRF members.

(c)All Information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is a membership-based, national motorcyclists’ rights organization headquartered in Washington, DC. The first motorcyclists’
rights organization to establish a full-time presence in Washington, DC, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted exclusively to the street rider. The MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause
of rider safety and rider freedom.

The MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists’ rights organizations and the very founders of the American riders’ rights movement among its leading members. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists’ rights organizations with direction and information, and sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists rights activists, as
well as publishing a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS.

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