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CVCIE SOURCE February 'II 71

■ m mm Article By: Curt "Dudley" Miller


he National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal organization entrusted with determining accident causation and making recommendations to increase transportation safety, has recently called for all states to adopt mandatory helmet laws. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia already have mandatory helmet laws. Other states require helmets only for passengers and minors or don't require helmets at all, as is the case in Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire.

Like in any good witch-hunt, the evidence presented by the NTSB in support of its recommendation was selective at best, providing only data that would help its purposes and leaving out any that would hinder. While noting that motorcycle-related fatalities had doubled between 1997 and 2008, the organization failed to mention that the number of motorcycle riders had risen by roughly the same amount during that period. NTSB spokespersons also neglected to recognize the fact that in 2009, motorcycle fatalities decreased by 16 percent though, according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), overall miles ridden by motorcyclists that year had only decreased by 0.5 percent from the year prior.

Another area that the NTSB fails to address in its recommendation is the lack of a listing of DOT certified helmets. Although the DOT does have standards that must be met by helmet manufacturers before a company can put a DOT certified sticker on a helmet, it's the manufacturer that does the final certification, not the DOT. It's for this reason that riders can still be pulled over and fined for helmet violations in states like North Carolina because of that state's law enforcement's right to subjectively "fail" a helmet's DOT certification based on the helmet's manufacturer. If the NTSB wants helmets to be mandated across the nation, then riders must be freed from the fear of being fined while wearing so-called DOT certified helmets. It seems in this case the NTSB has put the cart before the horse by asking for mandatory helmet laws. Before any form of safety device can be made perfunctory, it must first be standardized in such a fashion that adherence to its use cannot be questioned.

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