Friday, March 26, 2010

Michigan's Motorcycle Helmet Law, Yes or No?

With Michigan lawmakers moving to make motorcycle helmet use by riders older than 21 voluntary the old debate over government restrictions on personal freedoms in starting to boil once again.

I lost a friend to a motorcycle accident and have had two friends seriously injured. They were all wearing helmets and had they not been I am sure that I would have lost at least one of those that was injured if not both. I have been on the scene of a motorcycle accident where the rider’s helmet left a large dent in the doorframe and roof of a car instead of his head and I have had my own life saved by a helmet in a motorcycle crash so, personally, I am a firm believer in their use. I also take the matters of personal choice and freedom very seriously.

As a practical matter wearing a helmet while riding, just like wearing a seatbelt in a car, is a smart personal safety choice. Regardless of which side of the motorcycle helmet issue you’re on there are two facts that are unarguable? You are more likely to be seriously injured in an accident if you are on a motorcycle than if you are in a car and the use of helmets does reduce serious injuries and fatalities in motorcycle accidents.

Before being allowed to operate a motorcycle on the Naval base I was assigned to back in the 1980’s I had to complete a safety course. Helmet use was obviously one of the key topics and the one statistic that sticks with me was that most motorcycle traffic fatalities occurred at speeds of less than 35 mph and the vast majority of those riders were not wearing helmets. Since most states now have helmet laws that statistic may have changed but at the time it was enough to convince me to always wear one.

Clearly, a rider’s choice to not wear a motorcycle helmet isn’t a major issue until there’s an accident. Like your mother probably told you “It’s always fun until someone gets hurt.” If a rider chooses not to wear a helmet and is seriously injured, or worse killed, in an accident where the use of a helmet could have prevented or lessened the injury and there was no one else affected beyond the rider there probably wouldn’t be any laws requiring helmet use but that’s not the way the world works.

Above and beyond the devastating effect the tragedy will have on the riders loved ones and friends there are potential social and yes financial ramifications. After a serious injury in or on any kind of vehicle there is almost always some sort of litigation. Whenever there is litigation it’s expensive and emotionally draining for those involved. It raises auto insurance premiums, eats up costly court time and public resources not to mention the health care expenses involved. Tack on the potential devastating financial effects on the rider’s family and the psychological effects on other drivers and witnesses involved in the accidents and it becomes clear that in a large percentage of cases more than just the individual rider is adversely affected by the choice not to wear a helmet.

The larger question in this issue, as it has always been, seems to be where do the rights of others begin to trump the right to personal choice? The failure of a rider to wear a helmet doesn’t seem to threaten anyone else’s personal safety or offer any additional protection to another’s personal property. The risks of injury in an accident for people other than the motorcycle rider appear to be the same regardless of what the rider is wearing so what is the point of the legislation? Is it based strictly on the financial benefit to society that is realized by lowering the number of serious injuries and fatalities or are they in place to limit the pain and suffering of others?

Do you feel that Michigan’s motorcycle helmet laws should be changed? Let us know what you think! Please share your comments below.

Monday, February 8, 2010

2010 Super Bowl Commercials, Not So Super

Super Bowl commercials, the “show within the show”. Advertisers spend millions just for the air time then throw in millions more to produce what they hope will be the magical ad that boosts their sales enough to justify the expense.  The whole process has turned into an advertising extravaganza that is part of what makes the Super Bowl one of the worlds most widely viewed spectacles.

Unfortunately this years offering of what was supposed to be the best of the best was, with a few exceptions, were less than stellar.

Either predictable or only marginally humorous Coke and Budweiser’s selection of ads where certainly not up to par with their past offerings. Doritos had the best overall selection of any of the major sponsors with ads that included a new use for a dogs electric shock collar, a tough guy kid and a chip covered Samurai.

Some of the smaller sponsors that produced good ads included Hyundai’s “Brett Favre in the Future”, Snickers flag football spot featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda, KGB’s “How do you say surrender to a sumo”, Career’s “Casual Friday” and Tru TV’s “Ground Hog Day” piece.

On the down side of the coin were some real dud’s including Go Daddy’s usual selection of pointless “lets wait for the girl to rip open her shirt” ads (shame on you Danica for even participating), Boost Mobiles attempt to revive the Chicago Bears hey day (give it up guys, just enjoy your retirement), Dockers “No Pants” nature walk and it’s a toss up for worst of the night between Dove’s “now that you’re a man, get in touch with your feminine side” something or other and Dodge’s “here are all the things you put up with from your woman so deserve to drive one of our cars”. Critics of Sports Illustrated latest cover should have a ball with that one.

But hey, this is just our opinion. Join the discussion and leave a comment with yours!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Do You Think Of Governor Granholm's Leadership In Lansing?

Now that she has delivered her final State of the State address it’s just a matter of time until Jennifer Granholm’s governorship becomes a memory. While only time will tell how her performance as the states top executive will rank in the annuls of Michigan history we want to know what you think of her administration now before your thoughts get lost in the blur of interviews, polls, television commercials and articles that are sure to start flying as the race to find her successor begins.

No matter where you live in the state, whether you’re democrat, republican or independent there are very few people who can honestly say that they are better off today than when Governor Granholm took office in 2003. While she was fast to blame the policies of Washington for the fall of the states auto industry and our economic woes and now almost as fast to credit any recovery to President Obama’s administration at some point her actions are surely responsible for Michigan’s current situation.

The question is, to what level do the people of the State of Michigan hold her accountable for the events that transpired during her time as governor?  Please share with us what you think of the governor’s performance over the last seven years and how you think Michigan history will remember her.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are U.S. Automakers Missing Out on a Great Market?






Checking the final results of this past weekends Sno-Drift road rally in Atlanta, Michigan one is sure to notice the glaring absence of an American made vehicle in the top twenty some finishers of the national event. Road rallies like the Sno-Drift are distance races that use street legal automobiles, mainly four or all wheel drive models, on little used backcountry roads and trials.

The highest finishing American vehicle (24th) was a 2002 Ford. Ford also put forth an effort to field a competitive car with top rank driver Ken Block at the helm, but it broke down and had to withdraw from competition. Of the more than 50 participants in the two regional events and one national rally less than 15% were U.S. manufacturer models.

The lack of a wider selection of late model American entries in this and similar events or on dealer lots seems to indicate that U.S. car manufacturers still don’t see the small four-wheel drive market as one that is worth going after. Given that a large part of the global economy is in areas where snow and back road driving are normal conditions it would seem that developing a basic, economical, reliable four-wheel drive vehicle would be a wise thing to do. This lesson seems particularly lost on Chrysler who could use a good sales boost and whose “outside the box” mini van was such a great success when it was introduced.

Given the loss of auto industry jobs and idle infrastructure here in Michigan do you think it would be a good time for one of the big three, or someone new, to be developing such a vehicle? Not just a scaled down version of their larger models but something new that features function and performance over form.

If it were comparable to the similar offerings by Subaru, Toyota, or Volkswagen would you consider buying it based on the fact that its American made?