Why ABATE of California - hasn't beat the Helmet Law
Taking a tip from Michigan, we can see that the local courts are a very effective way to test and fight the helmet law. Here, in California, we've had some great successes in getting moratoriums against tickets being written against specific types of helmets and specific groups (i.e. HD) via the courts (CHP, LA Sheriff), which illustrates the problems with enforcing the law. But getting the CHP or local authorities to stop writing beanie helmet tickets is certainly not the goal nor is it the end. On the contrary, this is just the beginning. In local court this is where you can ask the Judge things like:
- What exactly determines what is a helmet?
- Why isn't there a list of legal helmets that the state and DMV sanction so that the people can comply with the law with certainty?
- Which helmets are legal? (No list, No law)
- How can a roadside inspection by any officer or deputy conclude one way or the other whether a helmet is in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 when FMVSS 218 clearly specifies that in order to prove compliance with its specifications a helmet must be tested in a laboratory under 4 different climate condition tests (hot, moderate, cold, under water).
NHTSA calls standards like FMVSS 218 a "destructive standard" because at each test level the helmet is broken during testing process. Therefore, to prove compliance of any one (1) model helmet - (according to FMVSS 218 and any state law that depends upon FMVSS 218) - you must test 4 identical helmets for each model.
Therefore, the concept of any law officer inspecting your helmet on the side of the road to judge and determine whether your helmet is in compliance with your state's law is not only blatantly absurd, but also not in compliance with the testing specifications of FMVSS 218 or the law. Got that!
SO... WHAT'S WRONG WITH ABATE OF CALIFORNIA?
With such powerful arguments siting before us, you have to wonder why ABATE of California would point all/most of its efforts only at trying to influence the legislature with a new modification bill each year and why ABATE does not simultaneously include and encourage testing the law in the local courts as a major support strategy. Limited approach = Limited results. THAT's why we've had the helmet law for 8 years. Just imagine what ABATE could do if it had the vision and *leadership*. Having a local strategy versus just a state legislative effort yield a *continuous* effort where legislative bills are only annual creating tremendous gaps between activity. It is during these gaps that our momentum (and ABATE's membership) has decreased, which has hurt the over all fight for freedom for all motorcyclists.
Limited Approach = Limited Results
As have many, I've won every helmet ticket in court. Each experience taught about the law, the system and was amazingly positive and constructive. Sure these cases were only local "battles" and not the "war", but they add up and they can be won and prove our points... one at a time.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
In addition, every time you win a helmet ticket on merit, it generates internal conversations with law enforcement, the court, clerks and politicians. Each win uncovers that the helmet law is unenforceable.
THE MYTH ABOUT ACCIDENT NUMBERS
If you do your homework, you learn that there are no statistics that support that helmets have reduced the ratio of deaths to the number of accidents. You will hear the authorities say the law is effective because accidents have been reduced.
Helmets don't reduce accidents. We have been mandated to wear helmets based on the idea that they will reduce injury. Yes, there are fewer accidents today, but this cannot be attributed to a helmet. Think about it. A helmet cannot stop a car from hitting you.
WHY THERE ARE LESS ACCIDENTS SINCE THE HELMET LAW
There are almost half as many riders on the road today as before the helmet law. And of those riding, we ride less often. Also there are more Motorcycle Safety Course graduates on the road today. Therefore:
Less Riders Riding Less Often = Less Targets For Cars To Hit
DEATH TO ACCIDENT RATIO
Less riders riding less often = less accidents. Of those accidents, the number of resulting deaths is around 2 to 3%, which is exactly the same ratio as before the helmet law came into effect in 1992. The death to accident ratio is what we should be looking at. NOT the total number of total accidents that law enforcement and Insurance Industry only quote.
DON'T CONFUSE THE LAW WITH THE LID
If you look at total number of accidents you can conclude that the helmet law (versus "helmets") has been effective in reducing accidents by first reducing the number riders and miles ridden, which is exactly why the Insurance Industry supports helmet laws. Helmet laws get lots of us off the road, which means there are less accidents so that the insurance companies have less claims to pay out on behalf of their insured car drivers who hit us (70% in intersections). Since the Insurance Industry can't stop their customers from hitting us, they have gone to the strategy of reducing us, the targets. PUBLICITY IS POWER
they can create great PR if you call your local paper, the empower the people and not just the few "fat cats" that go up to Sacramento to play politics. Less is not more. MORE IS MORE...
ABATE of California believes it can amend or rescind the helmet law through political influence alone. Well, it's been 8 years and it hasn't worked. So now what? ABATE still has the same basic recycled leadership with the same recycled mono-strategy. They've chased away or tried to defame anyone who doesn't see it exactly their way.
As for ABATE, making friends in the Capitol is a good thing, but we can't stop there and expect or even hope to win. Lets get real. We cannot compete with the money interests of big business insurance companies. Offering a political candidate and instant workforce for their campaign is certainly a good thing and an excellent strategy. So if ABATE asks you to volunteer come election time. Do it. But this cannot be the only strategy because we cannot depend upon or conclude that helping out with a local campaign is going to prevail behind the closed doors of big money and politics before the votes are cast.
We can't hold up for public scrutiny what we don't know is going down behind those doors, but, we CAN hold police behavior and court decisions up for legal appeal and public view. We have far more power locally than we ABATE will ever profess or dream to have in Sacramento.
Should the legislative strategy be abandoned? No way! We need it and more of it. But we also need an unyielding ongoing local effort too, because the law is flawed and unconstitutional and we have many inconsistencies and couart decisions (Buhl, Bianco) that render the law unenforceable, which eventually, like in Michigan, the courts, law enforcement and the legislature will understand.
When a bill is presented in committee it is not about the law or rights per se. It's about politics. However, when you walk into court, you can address the matter at hand and ask the court:
- How you can comply with the helmet law with certainty
- Why doesn't the state supply a list of legal helmets
- Why your helmet is not legal
- How a roadside inspection complies with FMVSS 218
- How can the law possibly be constitutional
- Why your ticket isn't correctible, etc.
You can thank folks like Steve Bianco, Richard Quigley, Tony Sanfelipo, Mike Holt, Pat Holmes, Bill Magnie, Don Blancet, Geoff Smith, Kevin Dimmick, John Brennen, Mark Temple amoung others for some of the thinking above. But instead of embracing and aligning with such Freedom Fighting folks, ABATE has done everything imaginable to undermine, demoralize and estrange those with such vision. Just ask others like Red Baron, Paul or Kahn Lax. Imagine if ABATE used it's Locals to educate it's members about the law and their rights and how to defend themselves in court. This is the kind of local effort we need, which was abandoned by ABATE of California some time ago while other states are having success. Instead of empowering and activating its membership, ABATE is ruled by the few for the few instead of being member driven as its bylaws prescribe.
It gets down to vision and leadership and there hasn't been any of that in sight for some time. To our opposition: based on experience, the best way to fight the anti-helmet law movement in California is to join ABATE.
But hey, that's just my humble opinion... I could be wrong.