Motorcyclist safety is top concern for locally-based organization.

March 19, 2018

Dan Petterson out for a fall cruise.

Motorcyclist safety is top concern for locally-based organization.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — As the snow has cleared most local roads, many motorcyclists are eager to get on the road. Dr, Dan Petterson of Hamlin Township is no exception to being eager to getting his bike on the road. Dan has been riding since he was a teenager in 1963. He is passionate about riding and equally as passionate about safety. In 2007, he formed Skilled Motorcyclist Association – Responsible, Trained and Educated Riders Inc. (SMARTER), a national organization based in Scottville.

The organization’s website, www.smarter-usa.org, is filled with research about motorcycle safety.

“Our positions on motorcyclist safety issues are based on the available research as opposed to ‘biker myth’ and unsubstantiated claims,” Petterson said. “Our website is a one stop spot for accessing motorcycle safety research. Whether you are a rider, a motorcycle safety advocate, or a policy decision maker, our position is that it’s important to make your decision based on factual information based on what the research says.”

He said the organization was formed when a major push started to repeal Michigan’s helmet law.

Petterson, who holds a doctorate degree in education, said a lot of information was given to legislators that was not based on facts.

“There were organizations that were winning the support of senators and representatives by misrepresenting the facts,” Petterson said. “The research available didn’t support what they were telling the legislators. For example, legislators were being told that wearing a helmet in a crash would contribute to breaking the rider’s neck, or that the helmet impairs vision and hearing.

“Unfortunately, the legislators believed it,” Petterson said, adding that the information available on the SMARTER website support the claim that helmets save lives more than not.

“If you look at all the professional research in total, helmet use and helmet laws are scientifically proven positive counter-measures for injury and death in a motorcycle crash. Helmets are the only counter measure that is scientifically proven.”

The National Highway Traffic Administration estimates that the effectiveness of helmets in preventing fatalities is 37% for riders and 41% for passengers. NHTSA also estimates that helmets are 8% effective in preventing minor injuries and 13% effective in preventing serious injuries, with no difference between rider and passenger.

Petterson and other safety-minded riders decided to educate the public and lawmakers. The organization’s website includes dozens of motorcycle safety research studies conducted around the world. Petterson said the approach of the site is to present the information objectively.

Petterson also consults law enforcement and attorneys following fatal and serious traffic crashes involving motorcycles. He said half of motorcycle crashes are rider only with no other vehicles involved.

“There is a lot of money spent on campaigns to encourage other motorists to watch out for motorcycles,” he said. “While it certainly never hurts for vehicle drivers to watch out for each other, the data just doesn’t prove that this is effective.”

He said that motorcycle rider training has not been proven to be effective, according to the data. “While training is physically a good thing, the research just doesn’t support that it helps.

This story is copyrighted © 2018, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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