ANATOMY OF A LIAR|
On April 10, 2003, Paul Snodgrass, the Regional Manager for NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) testilied (for the purpose of this review, as if we need to explain, "lie" means the theft of a valuable truth) to the Nevada Senate Transportation Committee as follows (Snodgrass testimony in red, the review in normal color, and questions from the respective Senators in yellow):
"Our agency was created in 1968 and I'll be also testifying on the seat belt bill.
Since 1968 it is very, very clear that the use of seatbelts and wearing motorcycle helmets and bicycle helmets is the simplest and most effective things you can do to reduce the chance of injury on the highway. There is no question about that."
Excuse us, Mr. Snodgrass, but their are many, many simpler and more effective things that can be done to reduce the chance of injury on the highway besides mandatory helmet and seatbelt use laws - relative to helmets, a myriad of things. For openers, NHTSA could be spending some of their time restricting the television ads from the auto companies which inspire fast and wreckless driving, and perhaps reason with the industry to at least mention the importance of driving safety. With the currently climbing trend of more and more deaths on the highways, it seems to us that they might consider looking at that before they turn up their pressure on the various states to push even harder on DUI/seatbelt/helmet legislation.
". . . The first thing our agency did was require seat belts in cars in 1968 and establish minimum standards for motorcycle helmets. Standards, Federal Motor Vehicle safety standard 218, it's 208 that requires the seat belts and your air bags in your car, occupant protection. The two most effective standards that we have, uhhhm . . ."
Really? Perhaps that would explain why so many are dying at the hands of SUV drivers. Perhaps Snodgrass didn't know (we certainly haven't discounted stupid as one of the motivating factors of his testimony), but in addition to the problem with the rollovers, and bad tires from the SUVs, there's the additional problem that when an SUV crashes into a regular passenger vehicle, they are 16 times more likely to kill the occupants than if both vehicles were passenger vehicles, seatbelts and air bags notwithstanding -- never mind what they do to a bikers, helmets notwithstanding.
". . . These battles have been going on for years, ah every year they try to repeal the California helmet law. People are getting a little worn down about it."
Yeah. No shit. Most of the wearing down coming from having to constantly climb over the lies, half-truths and other propaganda put out by NHTSA.
". . . Ummm...when California enacted their motorcycle helmet law this is the most populous state in the country with more motorcycles than almost any other jurisdiction in the world, deaths went down 32% in 1992."
THIS IS THE FIRST FLAT-FOOTED LIE! Oh, it's true that deaths dropped just over 30% the first year the helmet law was enacted in California, but it's also true that the number of miles traveled by motorcycle (because of the helmet law) dropped somewhere near 40%. Even the Highway Patrol has conceded that the number of deaths per 100 motorcycle wrecks, remained virtually the same -- about 2.8%. (What nobody can tell us is how many die from the helmet?)
Since helmet use has never been credited with reducing the incidence of motorcycle collisions, how could he have explained that the number of crashes dropped by the same percentage as deaths, and still make it look like helmets make riding safer? If, oh say, the deaths per 100 reported crashes had dropped from 2.8% to even 2.2%, or 2.3%, then maybe. But other than that, the only evidence Snograss is providing is proof positive that liars and figure and figures can lie.
". . . Texas repealed their helmet law, the second most populous state in the country, 20 million people, year round motorcycling, an awful lot of motorcycles in the state of Texas, they repealed it, deaths went up 32% the next year."
SAME LIE, DIFFERENT ANGLE: The increase in deaths in Texas after the modification of their helmet law to require mandatory insurance on people over the age of 21, had to do with a combination of the increase in miles traveled by motorcycle, and other factors having to do with the overall increase in motorcycle crashes with in creased miles traveled -- much of which is the result of the lack of training of other vehicle drivers as to their impact on motorcyclists through driver neglect. Once again, the number of deaths per 100 reported crashess remained the same.
". . . So, we could cite lots and lots of studies, but those are the two biggest studies in the world, the largest groups of motorcycles to ever go through having being required to wear a helmet in California and no longer being required to wear a helmet as in Texas. So, I think those two studies sort of speak for themselves."
The two "biggest studies in the world"? Really? So recording the number of deaths in a given State during a given year constitutes a "study"? And we thought anecdotal evidence was bad science.
". . . We think motorcycle helmets are 30% effective in reducing death and injury in crashes."
Well, we think what's in a rider's head, and not what's on it, that's effective in reducing death and injury by reducing the number of crashes. But then we're the ones actually betting our own lives on what we think, not somebody else's.
". . . As you've heard, you'll hear later seat belts are 50% effective, why are motorcycle helmets only 30% effective? They don't protect the rest of the body. As you heard in a high speed crash, chest injuries, the fibril artery. leg injuries, will be so severe to the motorcyclist, who is always like someone not wearing a seatbelt, always ejected from the vehicle, always comes into contact with the highway, always. There is no protection around him, (ummmmm) except the helmet, gloves, boots."
THAT's exactly why motorcyclists need all their senses when riding. Many do quite well in spite of the detrimental effects to hearing and vision that are inherent with wearing most helmets, but some don't. Most of them are already dead. Most of the rest either still ride without the restriction on their defensive driving abilities (no helmet), and some wear the smaller, lightweight helmets that minimize the impairments -- the helmets NHTSA likes to call "novelty helmets."
". . . I'm on my fourth motorcycle myself, like I rode one at 15 1/2 before I even drove a car in California. I've been down twice. I've been saved by a helmet twice. I got the bashed up helmet and saved it. So, that's my personal angle to it. I've always worn one. When I got one at 15 1/2, they said it would go right back to the Honda shop, my parents, if they ever saw me on that thing without a helmet, so I've always had my own personal helmet law, I guess you could say, and I'll just, I'll just leave it at that and see if there are any questions."
I can see it now . . . mommy says little Pauly has to wear a helmet, so it just stands to reason that every one else should. Not only is this a prime example of why anecdotal evidence makes for bad science, but it clearly reflects what happens when a child is conditioned to rely on others to make decisions for them . . . they become dependant on tight regulation, and end up believing in and working for some stupid government agency (instead of getting a real job, or living a real life) so they can act out mommy's wishes to the end.
Senator Nolan (who dearly LOVES Nevada's helmet law) attempted to find some way around the problems with enforcement and compliance, but as you will see, he asked the wrong guy: "Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Snodgrass are you familiar enough with umm the ahhh different, or the various types of helmets to be able to answer some expert type questions on those?"
"Yeah, I'm not an engineer and I'm not the people that enforce the Motor Vehicle Safety Standard on the manufacturers, but yeah, I can tell you about the beanie helmets, the fake helmets."
Thus began the Soupy shuffle:
Senator Nolan rephrased his question: "Are there ummm enough physical characteristics in those helmets which have been tested and approved versus those which have not been tested and approved that a lay person, or even a police officer if trained could make a visual inspection and say absolutely these types of helmets would fit it and just by visually looking at certain helmets."
Were it not inconsistent with his agenda, Snodgrass would have stopped right there and explained that the concept of "approved helmets" is misleading. He would have explained, clearly, that neither NHTSA nor the D-O-T "approve" anything, nor is there any Federal "approval" system at all, much less one that could be applied to consumers. Instead, get this:
"I think there is usually foam about an inch thick, generally yes, but to an absolute legal certainty, um, what the people have been arguing in California, Nevada and other states, which is pretty much why the highway patrol isn't stopping them anymore for beanie helmets, because some of their tickets were getting thrown out."
LIAR!! LIAR!! The reason the California Highway Patrol stopped writing citations for "unapproved helmets" in California was because the Federal Court stepped in and explained that, absent a clear objective standard that could be applied to the consumer, the statute was unconstitutionally vague as enforced, and issued an Injunction -- the first and only enforcement policy injunction issued against the CHP in their 75-year history!
". . . They are pretty much arguing that look I can't go perform these five laboratory tests, there's a five test penetration, impact and so on. Without getting in to all the technicalities. I can't go do that myself, so how do I know that this is a federally approved helmet?"
LIE! To indicate that anyone would bee seeking to know if a helmet was "federally approved," knowing there is no such thing, is a lie. But, like any good liar, Snodgrass knew if he just continued to say the words "federally approved" it would sink in -- he does it again later.
Moreover, we are sure that Snodgrass is fully aware that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 (FMVSS-218) is a destructive test, so there is NO WAY to actually test a helmet without destroying it. And where in the law is the government allowed to destroy evidence to find if it really is evidence?
". . . The manufacturers self-certify. There is a label inside. First of all you can look at the label inside the helmet, which certifies that it does meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards, address of manufacturer, date of manufacture and then there is required to be a visible marking on the outside which just says D-O-T and that's where you hear that the stay legal generally be beanie helmets . . . um which are usually lined with sears best carpet padding, I'm told for $5.95 a yard."
Ah yes, the old mattress tag statute -- requiring the consumer to maintain the stickers on a helmet, holding them to the "do not remove under penalty of law" tag on mattresses. Does that mean that the window stickers on new autos also have to be maintained? To legislators who have little time to deal with the issue in depth, this kind of misleading statement is little different from an outright lie.
". . . They sell the D-O-T stickers apparently separately, generally and then you can apply it yourself. Some of them say inside 'this is a novelty helmet' like a toy army helmet, this is a toy, this is not meant to be a real motorcycle helmet, some of them say that."
What was the question?
". . . Four of them have been recalled by our agency after failing tests so far. But, the one I heard the most about was the E&R fiberglass in Tacoma, Washington and they served them a civil fine of $10,000 and ordered a recall of the helmets and they went out and found an empty warehouse, they disappeared, so apparently this kind of plastic molding equipment is very easy and common now and there is a market for these beanie helmets, I guess you'd call them. Not usually sold in regular, real motorcycle shops, but flea markets, swap meets or gatherings, mail order, on-line."
Click here to find out the real story on E&R Helmets, and Ed and Reva Wren -- as fine and good Christian folk as you'd ever want to meet, screwed over by the threats and fraud of an assault by NHTSA, yet ultimately the people probably most responsible for bringing the vagueness of the helmet law into focus for the first time some 12 years ago. We most certainly acknowledge their contributions.
". . . Our agency has pursued them. There is civil penalties, um, it's tough to keep up with them, they're out there. It's estimated maybe 10 to 20% percent of the helmets that are out there. They offer (no) virtually no protection in a crash. So it is a problem, but we don't think it is nearly the problem as repealing your helmet law, in which case helmet use would go down from virtually 100% with a helmet law, probably down to 50 or 60%, depending largely on the weather and temperature. The helmet use in Las Vegas would end up being lower than northern Nevada."
Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da, and a partridge in a pear tree -- anything to muddy the waters, and still make himself sound like he either knows what he's talking about, or might be inclined to impart the truth. At this point, I thought Nolan had figured out the shuck and jive.
Expressing his ongoing confusion, Nolan asked: "I think you answered one of the questions. Does um, do any of the other states.....you spoke for, pretty much for California and Nevada, in a way of the number of citations being reduced because of the unenforceability of this. Do know of any states, who attempted to address this in State Statute?"
Once again, this was a perfect opportunity for Snodgrass to fess up, but instead he decided to ridicule us, presumably in the hopes that we would be dismissed on his observations.
Snodgrass responded, "Um, yes, you could, yes, but not successfully. Mr. Quigley and the Helmet Law Defense League have been...ummm. You see the federal standard applies to manufacturers, not to owners. It requires, to use a simple example, it requires those seat belts and air bags to be in your car when its sold new. Then the State of Nevada law applies to owners and drivers as to what you do with those seat belts when you buy your car and register it in Nevada, whether you have to wear one. Um, so the Feds regulate the manufactures, the States regulate the drivers. So they manage to find a gray area in between these two sets of laws that they are having quite a bit of fun with. (laughed at his own joke)"
Fun? FUN?!? I don't think so. It probably wouldn't occur to someone who is paid to make our lives more difficult, that we are neither paid, much less entertained, by spending our lives climbing over the effect of NHTSA's lies and liars.
Still Nolan tried to get at the root of the problem: "Mr. Chairman if I may, this is an important issue and I recognize the legitimacy of the people who are proponents for this bill. I am curious why, if this has been an identified issue, we haven't run it up the ranks to the Department of Transportation. Right now we saying, you can stick a sticker on the back of a helmet and its a D-O-T sticker and the Colonel indicated that it could be easily replicated or at least something be put on that from a distance you couldn't tell the difference. Why haven't they addressed something, in the way of ah some type of, and there are so many type of hologram type, I mean just ah, type of stickers and indicators that can't be replicated or easily replicated. Has there been any thought on the federal level about dealing with this issue if it has been identified?"
Once again, Snodgrass dodged the question: "I've heard they are doing testing on molding of the ends, so its three dimensional, but there's a concern that it will weaken the shell of the helmet in the rear at a critical point. Umm, they are looking at holograms and things that, ummm, yeah, they are looking at it. I think the problem is that someone is determined to get a hold of one of these helmets and then go to your local traffic court judge and argue that they could not personally prove, whether or not this was a federally approved helmet or not. Ummm, they are gonna get a lot of tickets (sounds like expressed to them). They've um, they've got a lot of.....they've got a good traffic record on this. It is not an easy problem to solve. You could try banning the sale of helmets in the State of Nevada, that don't meet federal motor vehicle safety standards to a degree.
Nolan took one final stab at getting anything even bordering on the truth from Snodgrass, asking: "Mr. Chairman, I'll ask one final question and if you don't know it, just go ahead and say it, because I know we have a lot of stuff to move through here, but uhm, do you.......has there been any study as to, in those states, well, it would be great if you had any numbers for Nevada. With the number of motorcycle riders, the percentage of them that wear certified helmets versus those who don't.
Here, I actually thought, in spite of the Snodgrass references to "federal approval" that Nolan had seen through him --the use of "certified helmets" being the best indicator he was figuring it all out.
Again, with the precision that only an expert liar could provide, Snodgrass said: "Yeah, it is being measured in California, last I heard, it was running around 15%."
We understand it's "being measured" (although one must wonder how?) and that it's "running around 15%", but how does that translate into their contention that compliance with California's helmet law is almost 100%? It seems to me that it would be running closer to 85% compliance, but then what do I know, I'm no mathematician.
Nolan, in a final, almost desperate attempt to clarify: "(15%) (d)o not wear certified helmets?
Get this: "Yeah, that's based on observations, um the accounts of observed use of helmets. The same kind of accounting for the observed use of seat belt at intersections, and that's there best estimate. Again, it's kind of hard to, I don't think it is hard to tell a beanie helmet. I think it is pretty easy, but uhm, there are some that are in between. There is a brand called monarch, a black half shell helmet that does meet the federal standards, that tries to look a little bit like a German helmet, it has the flange on it. There are some black half shell helmets, that they call partial coverage helmets, that look somewhat similar to those. I mean, there is a couple of brands that could possibly be hard for an officer to tell, especially when they are moving. Unless they take it off and he looks for the manufacturers label inside. I mean that's the proof. But then you get into the issue of, "Why did you stop me in the first place?" "What was the probable cause?" "How could you be sure that it wasn't a federally approved helmet when you made the stop?" And . . .
Nolan gave up. Apparently there were just too may "federally approved helmet" references, without addressing that there's no such thing, for him to continue to try to get the problem solved, at least from Snodgrass.
Then Senator Care (who also voted against the repeal) gave it a shot: "Mr. Snodgrass, let me ask you this, are you aware of any states that have found some sort of middle ground, that is to say statute doesn't say yes or no on helmet laws. For example, when I say this in the context of beyond a certain speed it makes no difference, a state for example that might say that they are not required on Interstate Highways. Is there any such thing as that? Or is it just yes or no?"
The tap dance continued: "No, un, the partial approach has been age limited. Some States have said only minors under 21, or under 18 wear helmets. But in those states, the use of helmets has dropped way down, because the police officers really have a hard time guessing the exact age of the rider. So those don't work very well. The other approach, Florida, when they basically repealed there law. You don't have to wear a helmet if you have a, I think its $100,000 personal injury coverage and um, we've heard that the Florida Highway Patrol no longer stops people not wearing helmets because trying to prove there ah, whether there company health plan covers them, whether the veterans administration covers them, without going into all the complexities of how your injuries are taken care of when your injured. Most don't have it on there motorcycle insurance. The public liability you are required to have on a motorcycle is pretty cheap. Personal medical coverage on a motorcycle costs are very expensive, so most people aren't covered that way for head injury, um, you know, some other way, their company owned plan, or Medicare, or the VA, or whatever, or just government picks it up. So, so, you know, that's very hard to prove, that's very hard to enforce. The proof of insurance approach has been tried, um, that's tough too."
Well, since NHTSA is one of the most powerful lobbying arms of the insurance industry, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Snodgrass would get that in before he was done -- in essence saying that if you're going to get rid of the law, at least require the purchase of additional insurance, so the interests of the insurance industry will to some extent be preserved. If he had an honest bone in his body . . .
The part I personally like is that any astute reader can ascertain from the Snodgrass testimony, the part that comes shining through, is that the whole problem stems from trying to legislate people to be "safe." As much as mommy and the mommy's boys may want to impose safety restrictions on Free citizens, you can no more legislate safety than morality -- there is no way to legally demand that someone act safe, with regard to themselves, against their will and over their objection.
So there you go.
We will be discussing this testimony with NHTSA to the point of finding out if there is anything that can be done to prevent them from loading the various legislatures with such bullshit, and perhaps to even get rid of Snodgrass (although there are many high-paid liars just waiting in the wings to pick up where he left off). It's their early opinion that whether or not Snodgrass is a liar depends on what the definition of "is" is (stop me if you've heard it).
This case pretty much points to the failure of ISTEA, and the horse it rode in on. It looks like if NHTSA can't clean up their own act, and the Congress cannot find a way to limit their ability to access the legislatures with their propaganda, some other agency or branch of the government is going to have to step in. That should make Snodgrass very happy, since he seems to have a genuine, life-long attachment to regulation.
These folks have been real good to us!
If you can send any business their way, please do.
Last updated: April 2003
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