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KILLERS AMONG US New motorcycle registrations have continuously increased since 1990, which means more riders on the road, but at the same time motorcycle crashes are down. This good news is compounded by a 47% drop in injury involvement from 1990 through 1998 when it began to rise, though even in 2001 the rate was still 30% lower than in 1990. However, now for the bad news; motorcycle fatalities are way up, and have doubled in the past five years to now equal the 1990 fatality rate.

The reason for this dramatic increase goes far beyond the simple formula: more motorcycles = more fatalities. In a recent Special Report written by Wendy Moon for Motorcycle Consumer News, the author looks deep into the numbers and explains that this epidemic is more than just a function of the numbers. In 1990 there was 1 fatality in 37 crashes, but now it's 1 fatality in 22 crashes – a rise in crash-to-fatality rate of 40.5%.

While safetycrats insist that this is a result of more states easing helmet requirements, NHTSA's "Recent Trends in Motorcycle Fatalities" states that helmet use in all motorcycle fatalities has increased from 43% to 53% from 1998-2001, even though more states did not require adult helmet usage.

Speed and engine size are also not to blame for the increased motorcyclist fatality rate. Speed-related motorcycle fatalities have dropped from 41% in 1998 to 38% in 2002, and states with higher posted limits have the lowest percentage of motorcycle fatalities.

Booze-blaming also doesn't hold water, because alcohol-involved rider fatalities have fallen from 40% in 1990 to 28% in 1999.

All in all, considering the decline in crashes despite the increase in ridership demonstrates that today's motorcyclists are more educated, better trained and safer than ever before!

So, what's the answer? What has changed since 1990 to account for such a dramatic increase in motorcyclist fatalities?

According to MCN, the one thing that explains why more die while less are injured is the radical change in the traffic mix. Specifically, since 1990, the light truck vehicle (LTV) market, which includes Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), has increased 200 times and now represents approximately 50% of new passenger vehicle sales!

In 2002, car vs. motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of 662 motorcyclists, but that same year LTV vs. motorcycle accidents killed 645 bikers. Now, to put this in perspective, passenger cars outnumber SUVs by a margin of 3-1! Therefore, LTVs are enormously over-represented in fatal motorcycle accidents.

These LTV-related accidents are referred to as "mismatch crashes" and explains why more of those collisions are fatal. This mismatch has been well documented in terms of the danger to passenger car occupants involved in collisions with LTVs, as size, bumper height, frontal geometry, frame stiffness and mass contribute to a lethal combination. So it's not just that there are more LTVs on the road today, but that it's their design that creates the ultimate mismatch with motorcycles.

So, the next time legislators call for a mandatory helmet law, ask 'em what they drive!

HELMET REPEAL PASSES MICHIGAN HOUSE A bill to amend Michigan's 38-year old mandatory helmet law was passed by the House, but the leader of the Senate has stated that the bill will not be taken up before the end of session.

HB-4325, sponsored by Representative Leon Drolet, was approved by the Michigan House of Representatives by a vote of 69-37 on November 10th, and the bill now goes over to the Senate where it has a companion bill, S-321, sponsored by Senator Alan Cropsey.

Bikers over 21 who've been licensed to ride a motorcycle for at least two years and finished a safety course wouldn't have to wear a helmet under the bill, which must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law.

CHICAGO DROPS HELMET PROPOSAL, BUT MAY CONFISCATE NOISY BIKES Motorcyclists packed the Chicago City Council transportation committee meeting as city officials were preparing to consider Alderman Burke's proposal for a city-wide helmet requirement, but were informed that the proposed ordinance had been pulled.

Alderman Allen, chairman of the committee, gave no explanation as to why the ordinance was pulled, but before the committee adjourned, he did commit to informing ABATE of Illinois in advance should the proposal be placed back on the agenda at a later date.

However, Alderman Natarus, who reportedly "will never like ABATE", has agreed to consider an equally bad ordinance that would allow the city to confiscate motorcycles for noise violations. ABATE is scheduled to meet with Alderman Natarus about this ordinance after the veto session.

ILLINOIS BIKERS SUE OVER DISCRIMINATION Two Chicago-area motorcyclists are suing a Cary marina and restaurant, alleging workers there curtailed their free speech rights by denying them service because of their biker attire.

The bikers wore jackets displaying motorcycle club insignia, and workers at the Broken Oar Marina in Cary, IL and its adjoining restaurant told them they would not serve them unless they removed their colors, co-plaintiff Peter James said.

"What if I found a Bulls jacket offensive?" plaintiff James said.

James, of suburban Brookfield, and Scott Patterson, also of suburban Chicago, are seeking $20,000 in damages from the business for violations of their First Amendment rights to free speech and expression.

The complaint, filed in McHenry County court, says James and Patterson went to the Broken Oar in September 2002 after a ride. James said other motorcyclists were on the ride, too, and they all stopped at the Broken Oar. Employees parked the group's bikes.

"We got inside and they said, 'We can't serve you. If you go back and take your vests off we would consider serving you,'" James said. "It's gotten to the point that we're not going to stand for this anymore."

James wore a jacket with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club emblem on it. Patterson belongs to Brothers Rising. Other bikers in the group, who are not a party to the lawsuit, wore insignia from their clubs, which include religious and clean & sober clubs.

The groups are members of the Northern Illinois Confederation of Clubs, which aims to end discrimination against motorcyclists. James is chairman of the confederation.

James said he believes motorcyclists are discriminated against because most people just don't understand their lifestyle. He said businesses and the general public should overcome stereotypes left over from decades ago about motorcycle clubs.

"We are the last truly free Americans," James said.

CRUISE CONTROL When Tom Cruise shaped up for his next action flick, he did it on one wheel. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Cruise checked into racing legend Keith Code's "On One Wheel" wheelie school at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California in June to hone his already terrific wheelie skills in preparation for the filming of Mission Impossible 3.

"Tom was a good rider already. He has a great combination of bravery and control, just like in his films," says Whitney Fair, director of the school. "He's already just about good enough to enter stunt contests. The idea was to get to the next action level on the motorcycle and, in his usual go-for-it style, he did!"

School founder and instructor, Keith Code, says, "Doing wheelies ranks high on the list of the most frivolous and decadent things in the history of Mankind but I look at it from the perspective of skill and control."

The highlight of the school is Code's invention, the Wheelie Training Bike. The school's Triumph Speed Triples are equipped with two anti flip-over devices. An adjustable microswitch kills one of the three cylinders while the other applies the rear brake. Both devices are adjustable and can produce the desired height of the wheelie. "Your eyes will pop out of your head when it goes up--but flipping it won't be easy," says Code.

WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN Oscar winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins will star in "The World's Fastest Indian," the true-life story of Burt Munro, a New Zealander who spent several decades constructing a 1920 Indian Motorcycle, then traveled to Utah and set a new land-speed record back in the 70's. Roger Donaldson, director of "The Recruit" is using his own writing and is directing the project.

WEIRD NEWS: HELMETS DOWN UNDER A recent court case may force Australian cowboys to wear helmets. Officials in New South Wales have charged a ranch owner over the death of a rider who fell off a horse, and safety advocates insist he should have had a helmet on.

The rancher's conviction is creating controversy in the Australian Outback, and cowboy hats for the jackaroos may be heading for the history books.

A ranch manager says the only time he's ever known the cowboys to wear helmets was when they were riding motorbikes, and the president of a farmer's group told the Associated Press (AP) that replacing the broad-brimmed hats with helmets could increase skin cancer and heat stroke. But others dismiss that argument, saying it's possible to come up with a hard hat that has a broad brim.

LEAKY MOTORCYCLE DESTROYS HOME The Pasadena Fire Marshal's Office has determined that a motorcycle with a possible gasoline leak is the cause of a fire which led to the destruction of a home and a garage and damaged a neighboring home.

Arson investigators discovered two motorcycles inside the garage, and the homeowner had been working on the carburetor of one of the motorcycles. A possible fuel leak may have caused the gasoline vapors to spread to the water heater that was inside the garage where the fire originated, according to The Citizen Reporter, a Texas newspaper.

So if you're working on your bike, do so in a well-ventilated area. If you're storing your bike over the winter, make sure your fuel petcock is turned off!

ride safe! :wink:
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