Traveling on American roads has become safer today than at any point in the past five decades, thanks to a combination of technology and laws such as mandatory seat belt use. But there's one group for whom danger continues to rise: motorcyclists, among whom about 4,500 die every year in crashes. Now several advocacy groups wants to not just push back laws requiring helmets for riders, but forbid federal safety agencies from talking about the problem.
A new report this morning by FairWarning.org highlights the struggle, noting that helmet laws have been repealed entirely in two states -- Illinois and Iowa -- and reduced to covering only young riders in many more; only 19 states require helmets for all riders. Meanwhile, deaths in motorcycle crashes have doubled since the mid-1990s.
After attempting to distribute pro-helmet videos in the '90s, Congress barred the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from lobbying state and local officials on helmet laws. New bills in Congress would reaffirm that ban and block NHTSA from giving money to states for motorcycle safety checkpoints, used to cite riders wearing novelty helmets that don't meet safety standards.
Groups such as American Bikers Aiming Toward Education argue that motorcycle helmets do not reduce deaths or lower insurance costs, and that personal freedom trumps public health. (They're wrong about whether helmets keep riders safe.) While Michigan's new law requires riders to carry a minimum of $20,000 in additional medical insurance, safety advocates contend the cost of freedom from deadly crashes runs much higher. The real answer will emerge in a experiment with living test subjects on American roads over the next few years.
Other news from around the industry this morning:
Research: Drivers don't want Facebook, Twitter apps in new vehicles: To borrow an old "Saturday Night Live" joke, this study comes from the new scientific journal "DUH." (Detroit Free Press)
Sweden's Autoliv fined $14.5M in price-fixing conspiracy: If you've ever seen the movie "The Informant!," this case is like that one, except with air bags and seat belts instead of corn. (Detroit News)
Snakeskin trim on heated seats driving U.S. pickup sales: And here I though tow ratings mattered. (Auto News/Bloomberg)
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