Car companies are heralding the day when the industry produces a “zero fatality” automobile. That’s right, aside from a meteor falling on you while driving down the expressway, the automobile industry believes that in the next 10 to 20 years, computer simulations and virtual engineering will enable manufacturers to construct cars with a near zero fatality rating.
New technology will provide magnesium and carbon-fiber parts in strategic locations and active safety systems that slow the car as it follows curves in the road, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication that warns you about approaching vehicular, motorcycle, even pedestrian traffic.
Volvo has gone so far to announce that “By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.”
This is great news for motorcyclists, many of who are killed or injured when auto drivers cross into their lane or turn left in their path.
To reach zero fatalaty rating, auto companies are relying on making vehicles that can avoid other vehicles, and in the event of an unforeseeable and unavoidable impact, a vehicle that can crash safer.
Focusing on safer motorcycle crashes is something motorcycle rights activists have lobbied against for years believing that better auto driver awareness is the key to saving motorcyclists lives.
However, some motorcycle manufacturers have, in the past few years, made improvements in protecting motorcyclists during a crash.
American Honda Motor Co. (which includes Honda and Acura cars, as well as Honda motorcycles, motors and power equipment) has dedicated a lot of money and time to crash analyses with high powered computer model simulations in many different scenarios.
Honda was the first and currently the only motorcycle manufacturer to install air bags on a motorcycle. The Goldwing air bag is designed to be deployed in the event of a frontal impact which will slow the operators rate of ejection and th erotically lessen the force of the impact to the operator.
Safety vests, which use compressed gas to instantly inflate upon a rider being ejected from the motorcycle seat have also been marketed and have been successful in several real world accidents.
Automobiles that sense motorcycles and prevent the operator from crossing into the path of the oncoming bike will undoubtedly save many lives, but will have little impact on reducing single vehicle accidents where rider error is the cause, that where safety advocates say additional training is needed.
Trena Mitchell, who is legally blind, is accused of causing the death of Richard Craig ” Hat Trick” Schroeder, in December when she pulled out in his path. Mitchell who has been cited before for driving without a license, had worked out a plea bargain with prosecutors where she would plead guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter and be placed on deferred probation, which essentially meant no jail time.
Once this deal became public, outraged motorcyclists across Texas and Louisiana began a letter writing campaign flooding State District Judge Ralph Strother’s office with more than 1,200 letters condemning the plea bargain.
Schroeder, a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse was out that day collecting toys for children whose parent(s) are in jail. According to police reports, Mitchell pulled her Honda Accord into Schroeder’s path, causing his Harley-Davidson to collide with her Honda Accord, sending him almost 100 feet from the point of impact.
Motorcyclists from across Texas and surrounding states began circulating an email call to action and the letters began flooding the courthouse. Most say they feel prosecutors and judges do not place the same value for a motorcyclists life as they do for the general public.
Brian “Spock” Peterson, a 51-year-old member of the Confederation of Clubs & Independents told the Waco Tribune, “It is conspicuous when a biker is killed or injured that he gets different treatment because there is prejudice and discrimination against us riders,” he said. “Another thing is that we are more vulnerable, so we are involved in a lot more accidents that are not our fault, and we would like to see punishment be equal, and we are not seeing that.
Mitchell’s attorney told the Tribune that the biker’s letter writing campaign is inappropriate and the judge should not influenced by public opinion.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of motorcyclists are saying they will attend a rally to show support for the victim either before or during the August 17th trial date.
Last March Anthony Graber was riding his Ducati in Maryland on I-95 in an illegal and unsafe manner. That is not disputed. In fact, Graber was recording himself with a video camera on his helmet.
Because of that video, Graber might be going to jail. Not for reckless riding, but for illegally taping the police officers who stopped him.
The bruhaha began when Graber posted the video on YouTube. In it, Graber pulls off an exit where he’s stopped by traffic and a plain unmarked car pulls up beside him and a white male jumps out with a handgun and quickly approaches him yelling to turn off the motorcycle. It is approximately 5 seconds before the plainclothes police officer identifies himself, and a few seconds after that a marked unit pulls up behind Graber.
When Graber is allowed to take his gear off, he turns off the video recorder, but when asked by the officer if he was being recorded, he denies it was on. I can only conjecture that he believed the recording would have been confiscated had he admitted the officer was taped.
Once posted online, Maryland State Police sought to prosecute Graber for “illegally wiretapping police activity” and sent a request to the State’s Attorney in Harford County.
Graber was arrested again and charged with a wiretap felony and could spend years in prison if convicted.
Within days of the story breaking online, civil libertarians and bloggers lit up the internet like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
A spokesman for the State Police deny the wiretap charge is retaliation for Graber having exposed the department’s heavy handed Gestapo type actions.
“This is not some capricious retribution,” said Shipley, calling Graber the type of reckless driver troopers “are peeling … off the backs of tractor-trailers and off the curbs.” He said the audio recording of the traffic stop “is a violation of the law. Period. That’s what our job is. We’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”
And there’s where I have a problem with it.
The attitude of “It’s the law and we’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”
What prosecutors in Maryland are using is a law written to prevent “voice” recordings. Had Graber deleted the audio portion, or garbled it before he posted it, then he wouldn’t be in trouble.
As a former plan clothes police officer I can appreciate the situation the Maryland State Police find themselves in, but the public should have the right to record traffic stops, the same as law enforcement. The plain-clothes officer gave up his rights to anonymity when he took himself out of the role of detective/investigator and participated in the traffic pursuit.
There are thousands of hard working, honest and dedicated law enforcement officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect and serve the citizens in their jurisdictions. This is by no means a slur on their character and integrity.
However, when men in authority seek to hide behind immoral laws to protect their ambitions, or to justify bad behavior, then it becomes the duty of free men to demand the law be changed.
My problem is with a law that disregards the civil rights of individuals, while providing those in authority with the legal means to prevent oversight by the public. Laws, such as these, foster and even encourage abuse of power, all in the name of “we’re just doing our job.”
This law, written with the intent to protect law enforcement, judges and officers of the court from illegal wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping without their consent was never meant to prevent private citizens from recording the activities of police in a public venue.
To misuse this statute in this manner is ethically and morally wrong. To stand by without protesting its use is also morally wrong.
But, let’s be clear on one thing, Graber was breaking the law. I watched his YouTube video and I think his actions on his motorcycle were irresponsible and criminal. He placed himself and others at great risk. High speed pursuits are dangerous to the public and the police officers who are involved in them.
Charge him with every traffic violation he committed. If combined they reach the level of felony endangerment and he loses his license and his freedom, then so be it. But to jail him for posting a video online he recorded in plain view on a public highway is not only wrong, it is a violation of his civil rights, and one that should outrage every American.
As for the plain-clothes officer who approached Graber with his gun drawn before identifying himself, he should be reprimanded. Nothing more or less. He was overzealous, but that’s it. Maybe next time he’ll let the uniform officers do their job and he’ll stick to his.
The greatest threat to our democracy does not come from without, but from within. We must jealously safeguard our liberties and protest vigorously when they are threatened.
Until next month, Ride Safe, and always take the road less traveled.