I found the Beattie cartoon in the NewsJournal of May 18, 2000, quite simplistic and a bit offensive. The letters that the NewsJournal has already received about the helmet topic should give a reasonably intelligent human being something to think about.
Note that all anecdotal evidence cited in the letters bears witness to accidents caused by automobile drivers, not by motorcyclists. My own experiences as a motorcyclist corroborate these observations. I have experienced “near-collisions” when an SUV driver attempted unsuccessfully a single-handed left turn whilst one hand was holding the damnable cell-phone, when drivers frequently have appeared to interpret “STOP” on the big red hexagon as “one quick look and step on it,” when drivers have taken their turns by crossing all driving lanes instead of turning into the one nearest them, when I was blinded by improperly adjusted and overly bright headlights, when “right turn on red after stop” excluded me as motorcyclist from the turner’s consideration, when cars attempted to pass far too closely in the same lane in which I was attempting to balance my machine for a turn, when I was passed on the left by an automobile while my left signal was blinking for a left turn, when automobile drivers have taken turns without using turn signals, and when drivers clearly don’t know the difference between quick acceleration--which a motorcycle can do since it has a much better weight-to-power ratio than an automobile--and speed--which an automobile driver will do when he assumes that the motorcycle is “getting away” and then--perversely--slowing down. I suspect that the admirable ability to queue up in an orderly fashion on the part of the American public gets in the way of sensible driving here. Since the automobile driver feels it unjust to lose his/her place in the queue, s/he feels justified to exceed all speed limits to catch up and perhaps even pass the motorcyclist. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that, in fact, the motorcyclist simply has reached the speed limit faster than the automobile driver has. I experienced evidence of this type of ignorance in a case of road rage, where the automobile driver shouted obscenities for what he had interpreted as inconsistent driving on my part.
Such situations are dangerous. But what to do about them? If, in fact, examinations for driving licenses add wisdom to a driver’s traffic-intelligence, then motorcyclists must be doubly wise, for they take two examinations: one for their automobile and a second one to qualify for the motorcycle. Rather than encasing motorcyclists in excessive armor that debilitates the senses, perhaps we should take a closer look at the educability of the general driving public. Perhaps we can insist that police give tickets also for reckless endangerment while driving, not merely for speeding. If what I have said about examinations is true, then I would suggest that we enhance the automobile drivers’ intelligence by offering more extensive driving courses and licensing tests. I might even propose modestly that we ask all people to pass a driving test first for motorcycles as a qualifier for getting a license to drive a car. I am sure such rigorous schooling in driving know-how would bring the accident rate under control far more quickly than helmets or any other armor.
Meanwhile I am delighted that the legislature has finally decided to leave safety decisions to the motorcyclists themselves, who, I am sure, understand their road situation sufficiently to drive as defensively as possible in a setting peopled with near-moronic traffic participants.