If it’s good enough for Kansas, it’s good enough for Georgia. The Kansas House was the latest to pass a law allowing motorcyclists to safely pass through red lights that only change by use of a weight detection or metal detection sensor. These sensors usually can’t detect motorcycles because they aren’t heavy enough or contain enough metal to trip the sensors. A biker may come to a complete stop and, if the light doesn’t change to green in a reasonable amount of time or if it is definitely known that the light is controlled by a weight or metal detection sensor, the biker can proceed through that intersection without being cited. The bill next goes to the Kansas Senate. Now Georgia is looking at the same kind of law.
In Kansas, motorcycle riders testified that their bikes were often not big or heavy enough to trigger the sensors that cause red lights to switch. For fear that riders would have to choose between being stuck on the Kansas tundra or running a light and risking a ticket, they urged the legislature to approve the so-called Dead Red bill giving them a free pass. The riders testifying in support of the bill belonged to a group known as ABATE, or A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments. Police organizations, however, were against the bill, and one Republican lawmaker stated, “I see no skeletal remains of motorcyclists sitting at red lights that never change.”
Will Georgia face the same opposition? South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Tennessee and Minnesota have all passed similar “Dead Red” bills with Minnesota apparently being the first to do so in 2002. Missouri and Oklahoma are considering versions as well. However, Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration said, “We don't necessarily think that empowering motorists to make up their own rules of the road is the safest or best approach” and suggests that a more technical approach to the problem should be found.
Representative Ann Purcell of Savannah is a rider. Her legislation, HB 161, would allow motorcycle riders to treat inoperable signals and the red lights at the intersections as a stop sign. Representative Purcell stated of her bill: “We will be able to continue forward as long as we've stopped for 60 seconds, placing our feet on the ground to give us stability with our bikes, giving the driver of that bike the time to look around and say. “hey, I can proceed with caution.” Rep. Purcell said many lawmakers and bike groups support her bill.
Helmets Found to Reduce, not Cause Neck Injuries
There are so many myths about helmets that persist, but hopefully Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine will put one of them to rest.
New research at Johns Hopkins suggests that, in addition to dramatically reducing the incidence of traumatic brain injury and death from motorcycle crashes, helmets also appear to reduce the risk of cervical spine injury. Study leader Adil H Haider, MD., MPH, an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “We are debunking a popular myth that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can be detrimental during a motorcycle crash. Using this new evidence, legislators should revisit the need for mandatory helmet laws. There is no doubt that helmets save lives and reduce head injury. And now we know they are also associated with a decreased risk of cervical spine injury.'
For over two decades, activists lobbying against universal helmet laws were citing a small study suggesting that the weight of helmets could cause significant torque of the neck in a crash. This torque was said to cause devastating spinal injury. But results of the Johns Hopkins study, conducted over a four-year span of 2002 through 2006, debunks this notion.
This new study showed that helmeted riders were 22 percent less likely to suffer cervical spine injury than those without helmets. The study mined and reviewed more than 40,000 accidents over the four-year span.
Anti-helmet lobbyists had been using a 25-year-old report that had found more spinal injuries to helmet wearers. It’s been this type of lobbying that led states, including Kansas, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania, to repeal their mandatory helmet laws. That study, however, has been criticized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of flawed reasoning. Dr. Haider states that “Additionally, helmet technology has significantly improved since that time — now helmets are much lighter but even sturdier and more protective.'
Since 1997, motorcycle injuries in the U.S. have increased by roughly 5,000 per year, and motorcycle fatalities have nearly doubled, according to the new journal article. Haider's study, like many others before, found a reduction in risk of traumatic brain injury in helmet wearers (65 percent) and decreased odds of death (37 percent). But according to Dr. Haider, the new study is the strongest evidence to date that helmets significantly reduce cervical spine injury, which can result in paralysis.
By Louise Reeves