Honorable Mike Ball
Honorable Phil Williams
I write this open letter to you today to ask for your help with a very troubling statistic in our great state. Motorcycle deaths on Alabama highways is at an all time high. And I think it’s time the legislature of our state took a stand against it.
Since 2008, the nation has been blessed with a continuous decline in motor vehicle deaths in all categories but one; Motorcycles. According to the CDC, the best thing a state can do to reduce deaths is to pass a universal helmet law. Alabama has done this, and I hope the two of you will continue to fight against attempts to weaken the universal helmet law.
Have I ridden my motorcycle without a helmet? Yes, I am afraid I have. I can fully understand the desire by riders to do away with the helmet law. The joy and freedom of riding without a helmet is far better than riding with one. But I’m also glad to say I’ve never ridden my bike on a major or busy road without a helmet, and I’ve never allowed a passenger to ride without one. Helmets do save lives. Please keep Alabama’s helmet law universal.
But Alabama had the universal helmet law prior to 2008, and we are still seeing an increase in motorcycle deaths. It is time to do more. I strongly suggest a two prong approach to reducing deaths on two wheels in Alabama.
The first part I call “Look twice, Save a life” is to cover what is far too common cause of motorcycle accidents and deaths. According to the American Motorcycle Association 80% of motorcycle and vehicle accidents are the fault of the car and not the rider. A quick perusal of recent motorcycle deaths in North Alabama show a common thread. The driver of the car claims “I never saw the motorcycle.” I find this excuse unacceptable.
Motorcycles may be smaller and less common than cars, but the excuse of not seeing one is not valid. It is a drivers responsibility to be aware of the traffic around him, and allowing drivers to edit out motorcycles as not important is risking lives on our roadways. I propose a bill that will significantly increase the punishment of motorists who hit motorcycles. Clearly part of this needs to be an investigation showing the driver is at fault, but ultimately any time a motorcycle is hit at the very least a ticket should be issued and a fine levied. Not seeing a motorcycle is not an excuse, and law enforcement in this state need to stop treating it like it is not a crime. If drivers will face fines and possible jail time, drivers will look twice.
And as a motorcycle rider, I can assure you that far to many Alabama drivers aren’t looking twice. We have an amazingly unobstructed view into the vehicles around us, and I can tell you drivers in Alabama are doing a lot of things in their cars besides looking twice. I’d easily estimate that a good 50% of the time I have to avoid a car that pulls out in front of me the driver is talking on their cell phone. Another 25% of the time, the driver is texting… which is already illegal. The other 25% is drivers pulling into traffic or drifting out of their lane while messing with something else in the car; things like radios, newspapers, makeup or something similar.
The other prong I’d suggest in reducing motorcycle deaths is a statewide crackdown on riders who ride unsafe. I’m now talking about my brothers and sisters who ride like maniacs and pass improperly and speed excessively. It’s no fair to ask drivers to treat riders with respect if our fellow riders won’t treat drivers with the same respect. The rules of the road are the same for everyone, motorcycles included. I’d love to see fewer bikes weaving through traffic like idiots, although if I’m honest there are times when this would snag me as well. Sometimes you just can’t resist twisting the throttle a bit.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Rider and motorcycle enthusiast