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  • DC Insider: Enhanced enforcement and motorcycling

    It seems every day I read a news article detailing how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state-level departments of transportation, or local law enforcement agencies are conducting enhanced enforcement operations targeting motorcyclists.

    Often, the article will contain this phrase: “Extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas frequented by motorcyclists and where motorcycle crashes occur.”

    Whether on the racetrack, trail or highway, motorcycle safety is the top priority for the AMA.

    I applaud any and all efforts to reduce motorcycle crashes in an efficient and legal manner. However, I fear the drive behind many of these efforts is misguided.

    Yes, motorcycle crashes have gone up. But, it is too easy to look at the raw numbers and assume that motorcycling is getting more dangerous.

    For one thing, there are many more motorcycles on the road today. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of registered motorcycles has more than doubled.

    Perhaps most importantly, you can’t assume that motorcyclists themselves are the cause of all of the increase in crashes.

    According to the landmark 1981 Hurt report, “The most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision by violating the right-of-way of the motorcycle at an intersection, usually by turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle because the car driver did not see the motorcycle.”

    To use more recent data, in 2007, according to the NHTSA[1], 50 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved another type of motor vehicle. In 40 percent (939) of these fatal accidents, the other vehicle turned left across the motorcycle’s path while the rider was going straight or passing or overtaking the vehicle.

    I hope law enforcement agencies recognize this and tailor their enforcement strategies accordingly – enforcement should not target areas simply because they are “frequented” by motorcyclists.

    Instead, enforcement should target areas where motorcyclists are at greatest risk and motorcycle crashes occur. But even then, not all of the focus should be on the rider. It also should focus on the myriad factors that cause crashes, including distracted drivers, speeding (by both passenger motor vehicles and motorcycles) and driving under the influence.  

    We riders can do our part by ensuring that we can be seen. This will reduce the chance that another motorist will invade our right of way.

    Drivers paying attention to, and respecting, motorcyclists will not occur until enhanced enforcement aligns to counter the causes of crashes. That is why we must ensure enforcement and education campaigns are reaching their target audiences in an effective and legal manner.

    [1] http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810990.pdf

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  • DC Insider: Recreational Trails Program a potential casualty of highway negotiations

    On June 26, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) plan to generate $9 billion to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.

    The plan included changes to retirement plans and an increase in the annual fees levied against large trucks. As a result of these changes, the trust fund would have remained solvent until 2015.

    As I have detailed in a previous blog, finding a solution is important to on- and off-highway motorcycling.  

    Senate Republicans opposed Wyden’s proposal because – in their estimation – it did not provide a fair balance of spending cuts to tax increases.

    Late last week, the committee announced several changes to the original plan that has garnered some bipartisan support.

    However, amendments are still likely to be offered during the plan’s markup this week.

    One amendment that may potentially be offered would move spending authority for the Transportation Alternatives Program from the trust fund to the general fund. If this happens, funds for the Recreational Trails Program would have to be appropriated annually instead of having contract spending authority.

    The result would be a loss for motorized and non-motorized trail users. Relying on the appropriations process would introduce more uncertainty in year-to-year funding, with multi-stage trail projects facing additional hurdles. It would also put trail funding in direct competition with all other discretionary programs.

    There are only two ways to prevent the RTP’s user-pay/user-benefit status from being severed – keep the TAP within the highway trust fund, or move RTP out of TAP and create a separate program housed within the highway trust fund.

    The main argument for moving the TAP into the general fund is that the programs within TAP do not pay for themselves. However, this analysis does not take into account that the Recreational Trails Program – a program that IS funded through the gas tax – is included as part of the TAP account.

    When gassing up off-highway-vehicles, users are contributing an estimated $234 million annually to the trust fund and are apportioned only $85 million from the RTP.

    The American Motorcyclist Association urges members of Congress to consider the RTP when looking at programs to reshuffle during budget negotiations.

    The next markup in the Finance Committee is scheduled for this week. In the meantime, the AMA is working to spread the word on Capitol Hill about the RTP. At first glance it may not seem like a program ideally suited to the highway trust fund. However, because of its unique user-pay/user-benefit status, it deserves to have the contract spending authority of the fund.

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  • DC Insider: Privacy – the next frontier in motorcycle rights

    Technology has progressed rapidly in the past 25 years. It is now possible for governments and private entities to capture more data on what once were private activities.

    While the federal government has attempted to address some of the resulting issues regarding intrusions into people’s personal space, public policy has had a difficult time keeping up with technology and safeguarding privacy.

    On June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H. AMDT. 815 to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. This amendment would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from using any federal funds to “acquire a camera for the purpose of collecting or storing vehicle license plate numbers.”

    According to Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) it “gives states and local governments a one-year pause on purchasing these cameras until Congress can deal with the issue more fully.”

    If implemented without the change, the THUD appropriations bill could have impacted motorcyclists by allowing public agencies – and the private contractors who actually collect the data – to continue to install cameras which, as Rep. Fleming said on the House floor, can “reconstruct intimate details of our lives, who we visit, where we worship, from whom we seek counseling, and how we might legally and legitimately protest the actions of our own government.”

    This information could be used by insurance companies to justify not paying a claim or charging higher premiums – or for denying coverage to veteran riders. Capturing license plate information and comparing time stamps could lead to speeding tickets being issued via mail.

    Historical riding information describing individual riding trends – potentially irrelevant to the case – could be used to portray a motorcyclist in a negative light in civil or criminal proceedings.

    Thankfully, the House version would, hopefully, give Congress time to find a solution.

    Traditionally, data privacy concerns have not been an issue for motorcyclists. Going forward, the riding community will have to be aware of privacy issues and actively work to ensure our privacy rights are protected.

    You may recall, earlier this year a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that did not grant motorcyclists the same ownership afforded to other motorists of data collected by event data recorders. Anyone could have accessed information on your bike.

    While the bill was amended to include motorcyclists in a markup of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the original wording demonstrates that riders are not often considered when drafting legislation that affects motorcyclists.

    This was not the case for H.R. 4745. Not only did motorcyclists win by securing passage of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) amendment to continue the ban on federal agencies lobbying state governments, all motorcyclists also gain additional privacy protections from Fleming’s amendment.

    Rest assured, the AMA will remain on the lookout for important legislation and regulations that may affect your right to ride.

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  • DC Insider: Running on empty – the Highway Trust Fund and motorcycling

    Passing a new highway bill is quickly becoming one of the last issues Congress must grapple with before the midterm elections in November.

    Yet, the bill is vitally important to all highway users, especially motorcyclists.

    Absent congressional action, by the end of July the Highway Trust Fund will have to slow reimbursements to states for highway projects.

    As a result, new surface transportation projects and maintenance may slow during the summer construction months, leaving motorists of all types with a system of poorly maintained roads.

    The drain on the trust fund already affects planners at the state and local levels, as they struggle to prioritize short-term maintenance and new long-term road projects amid budget uncertainties.

    Failure to pass a new long-term bill will mean more potholes and congestion.

    But, just as important, without legislation to reauthorize highway programs, many of the motorcycling community’s other concerns will go unaddressed.

    For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would continue to have authority to issue grants for controversial motorcycle-only checkpoints. As a result, these discriminatory and ineffective checkpoints could, make cross-country travel to events such as Americade a hassle for millions of riders over the summer.

    Then there’s the Recreational Trails Program. Without reauthorization, the RTP would lose its authority to issue grants to fund off-highway-vehicle projects and trails at the height of the riding season.

    Perhaps most importantly, motorcycle safety programs under 23 U.S.C. § 402 and § 405 no longer would be authorized.

    As a result, the government would no longer provide grants to states for motorcycle safety training or anti-distracted-driving campaigns. Both programs have proven extremely effective in making the roads safer for motorcyclists.

    The overall economy would be hit hard as well. It is estimated that failure to top off the trust fund would result in 700,000 lost jobs.

    The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a portion of the bill on May 15. However, the U.S. House of Representatives must still act. The House version of the bill is expected sometime in July.

    For updates on congressional actions please sign up to receive AMA alerts.

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  • DC Insider: Is vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology secure?

    Vehicle-to-Vehicle technology, known as V2V, is coming. It uses dedicated short-range communications similar to Wi-Fi that is combined with the Global Positioning System. This system provides a 360-degree view of similarly equipped vehicles within communication range. Nine indicators are used by the system to help prevent crashes: GPS location, speed, acceleration, heading, transmission state, brake status, steering wheel angle, path history and path prediction.

    But have you heard of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure, known as V2I?

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, V2I “communications for safety is the wireless exchange of critical safety and operational data between vehicles and highway infrastructure, intended primarily to avoid or mitigate motor vehicle crashes but also to enable a wide range of other safety, mobility, and environmental benefits.”1

    Will V2V and V2I be part of the same network?

    The vision of V2I Communications is that a minimum level of infrastructure will be deployed to provide the maximum level of safety and mobility benefits for highway safety and operational efficiency nationwide. Importantly, V2I communications have the potential to resolve an additional 12 percent of crash types not addressed under V2V communications. V2I Communications for Safety is a key technology in the USDOT's Connected Vehicles Program, and is complemented by the V2V communications research. While the primary goal is safety, V2I communications are also significant in improving mobility and environment by reducing delays and congestion caused by crashes, enabling wireless roadside inspections, or helping commercial vehicle drivers identify safe areas for parking.2 

    Will it be secure?

    If you listen to the U.S. DOT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, the system will be secure.

    The FCC chairman has made a commitment to ensure that the 5.9 GHz bandwidth -- which supports V2V -- remains free from interference that could result from expanded use of Wi-Fi in the band.

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency has allocated the 5.9GHz bandwidth "for the development of connected vehicle technology" in response to the Intelligent Transportation Society of America's request for a V2V spectrum.

    Wheeler offered his commitment in conjunction with the U.S. DOT’s NHTSA announcement that it intends to enable V2V communication technology for light vehicles.

    However, an article in Wired magazine titled, “Hackers Can Mess With Traffic Lights to Jam Roads and Reroute Cars,” raises concerns about the security of the V2I network. In particular, the article points out the lack of security in sensors controlling traffic lights.3

    According to Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentinian security researcher with IoActive who examined the systems, “By sniffing 802.15.4 wireless traffic on channels used by Sensys Networks devices, it was found that all communication is performed in clear text without any encryption nor security mechanism. Sensor identification information (sensorid), commands, etc. could be observed being transmitted in clear text. Because of this, wireless communications to and from devices can be monitored and initiated by attackers, allowing them to send arbitrary commands, data and manipulating the devices.”4

    What does this mean in simpler terms?

    “While Cerrudo acknowledges that the systems may have manual overrides and secondary controls that could be used to mitigate problems, an attacker could nevertheless create traffic jams and other problems — causing lights to remain red longer than they should or allowing cars at metering lights to enter freeways and bridges faster or slower than optimal — before anyone would notice and respond to the problem”(emphasis added).5

    In other words, the sensors can be accessed by a hacker to cause deadly crashes. This is especially disconcerting for motorcyclists.

    How do motorcycles fit into this emerging technology?

    With privacy and safety our utmost priorities, the American Motorcyclist Association still has some areas of concern with this new technology.

    The U.S. DOT has stated that privacy and system security are secure. We aren’t convinced.

    The AMA has provided comments to the FCC to bring awareness that the V2V and V2I technologies may be compromised with unlicensed devices, such as other Wi-Fi networks or hackers. Therefore, we asked the FCC for further testing to ensure vehicles using advanced crash-avoidance and vehicle-to-vehicle- technologies are not compromised.

    V2V and V2I technologies present another potential problem. With vehicular intersections already a well-documented problem for motorcyclists, can you imagine the false sense of security that drivers may have who are relying on advanced safety technologies?

    They may listen and look for the bells and whistles on their cars rather than look out the windows to actually see motorcycles. Drivers may believe these technologies will protect them and other road users and may not be aware that these technologies could possibly malfunction at a critical moment.

    As these new technologies emerge, we must remain vigilant to ensure that motorcyclists and motorcyclists’ rights are protected. The AMA is at the forefront in this effort, and we will continue to inform our members and all motorcyclists about our concerns and possible solutions.

    Footnotes:

    1. http://www.its.dot.gov/research/v2i.htm, accessed May 30, 2014
    2. Ibid.
    3. http://www.wired.com/2014/04/traffic-lights-hacking, accessed May 30, 2014
    4. Ibid.
    5. Ibid.

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  • Conservation: not always about denying access

    There is a host of bills pending in Congress that together would lock up millions of acres of public lands in the name of conservation. Supporters of these bills argue that preventing mechanized use is the only way to ensure the land is kept unspoiled for future generations.

    However well intentioned, these bills miss the important point that conservation is a paradox. The goal of conservation serves as a reason to keep lands open and accessible to all, as opposed to locking them up.

    Instead of thinking of conservation as only protecting land, it should be thought of as preventing the loss of a resource.

    Since the passage of the Multiple-Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the federal government has mandates recreation be viewed as a resource. As a result, decisions that affect it must be factored into the National Environmental Policy Act’s decision-making process.

    My hope is that environmentalists and those who use public lands for recreation will begin to view recreation in the same manner.

    Since recreation is a resource, limiting access to millions of acres of public lands is a failure to conserve the resource of recreation. Denying access does not conserve the rights of millions of Americans to continue to visit public lands in diverse ways, such as on a bike, in a wheelchair, in a car or by off-highway vehicle.

    Some Wilderness bills – such as America’s Red Rocks Wilderness Act – would not conserve our nation’s public lands. These bills would make those lands accessible only to those with the equipment, knowledge and prior experience necessary to enter the Wilderness – remember no cars, bikes, OHVs or any mechanized mode of transport allowed. The additional land put aside would be on top of the 110 million acres already part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

    This is not conservation to many users who donate their time to area conservation efforts.

    However, there are well-crafted bills in Congress that balance the opposing sides of conservation. H.R. 1893 and its Senate companion, S. 841, would create a federally protected OHV area alongside new Wilderness – conserving both OHV access and the pristine nature of Colorado’s Hermosa Creek Watershed. Similarly, the Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act, H.R. 1776, would re-open the Clear Creek Management Area to OHVs and simultaneously create the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness.

    These bills have strong local support, and each has had favorable hearings in Congress.

    As this Congress quickly burns through its remaining legislative days, my hope is that elected officials from each side of the aisle will come together and begin to view conservation for what it really is – protection of limited resources.

    When this happens, bills that protect access and bills that create new Wilderness areas will be written in such a manner that they can pass both chambers of Congress and true conservation can occur. Then, and only then, would the National Wilderness Preservation System continue to grow – as it has in nearly every year since 1964 – while still conserving recreational opportunities for the millions of Americans that visit non-Wilderness areas.

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  • DC Insider: What happens when ethanol blended fuel mixes with water?

    A study involving several state environmental agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wanted to find the answer to that question after a compliance inspector with the Petroleum Program in the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality noticed “odd corrosion reactions in some of the sumps” for the underground fuel tanks (Wilson, et al., 2011).

    Virginia’s DEQ “speculated that acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter) were producing acetic acid in the sumps. The EPA “speculated that ethanol vapor that originated from the motor fuel was finding its way into water in the sumps, which would provide a source of food for the acetic acid bacteria.” (Wilson, et al., 2011).

    The study found that sump pumps containing water allowed the acetic acid bacteria to degrade the ethanol to acetic acid. The acetic acid would then cause corrosion of the copper tubing and valves of the pumps (See Figure 1) (Wilson, et al., 2011). Conversely, “If moisture was not available, there would be no opportunity for bacteria to degrade the ethanol to acetic acid” (Wilson, et al., 2011).

    Figure 1 Corroded pump

    Figure 1 Corroded pump

    This troubling study raises even more concern about ethanol in fuel now that the EPA has publicly acknowledged that ethanol blends can damage internal combustion engines not designed for its use by increasing exhaust temperatures and indirectly causing component failures.

    According to the EPA, "[e]thanol impacts motor vehicles in two primary ways. First ... ethanol enleans the [air/fuel] ratio (increases the proportion of oxygen relative to hydrocarbons) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure. Second, ethanol can cause materials compatibility issues, which may lead to other component failures.

    "In motorcycles and nonroad products [using E15 and higher ethanol blends], EPA raised engine-failure concerns from overheating."

    This study and EPA’s acknowledgement demonstrate that fuels containing high levels of ethanol can damage not only engines, but also fueling station infrastructure.

    The American Motorcyclist Association opposes E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol by volume) because inadvertent misfueling can cause engine and fuel system failure to the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in use and can void manufacturers' warranties.

    The EPA needs to stick to its proposal rule to roll back the requirement for wider distribution and use of E15 under its Renewable Fuel Standard. However, even the EPA rollback is only a short-term fix. For a longer-term solution, we need Congress to address the RFS legislatively.

    The AMA supports H.R. 1462. This bill would reduce the total RFS by 79 percent in 2014 and reduce the RFS by other significant percentages each year until 2022, when the total RFS is reduced by 42 percent. That is, the bill adjusts the mandate to 21 billion gallons in 2022, rather than 36 billion gallons.

    Moreover, H.R. 1462 rescinds the EPA’s E15 waivers and caps the amount of ethanol content in gasoline at E10.

    The AMA supports this common sense solution to make sure that motorcyclists have access to safe fuels.

    Reference

    Wilson, J. T., Adair, C., Paul, C., Wilkin, R., Skender, J., Keeley, A., . . . Hickey, J. (2011). Association between Ethanol in Fuel and Corrosion in STP Sumps.

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  • DC Insider: Senate releases highway bill

    On May 12, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released S. 2322, the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act.

    This bill would replace MAP-21, our nation’s current surface transportation bill, which is scheduled to expire in September.

    However, it is important to note that S. 2322 – as currently written – is only a portion of the bill.

    The Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation must still write and release the portion of the bill that would handle highway safety issues – including motorcycle-only checkpoints, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the ban on federal agencies lobbying state governments and distracted driving.

    Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will write the sections of the final bill that relate to mass transit.

    Both committees are expected to produce draft language soon.

    S. 2322 would reauthorize the Recreational Trails Program – a program that is funded by excise taxes paid by off-highway-vehicle users when they buy gasoline. The RTP provides $85 million annually to fund recreational trails across the nation.

    Just as important for all motorists – whether on two or four wheels – is that this proposal would continue highway funding for the next six years at current levels, plus inflation. This would provide planners with enough certainty to plan long-term projects.

    However, the committee’s bill would not solve the immediate problem of the Highway Trust Fund drying up before the new bill is passed. This would cause the U.S. Department of Transportation to slow payments to the states and could shut down many projects planned for the summer months.

    Secretary Anthony Foxx warned state DOTs of this possibility in a letter earlier this month.

    While Congress is expected to act to prevent the trust fund from dipping below $4 billion – the point at which the federal DOT would slow payments to states – the possibility looms that a compromise may not be reached. In this case, repairs to highways would slow or stop.

    The result would be a system of roads and highways that is less safe for motorcyclists.

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  • DC Insider: Newest Transportation Proposal Has Positives and Negatives for Motorcycling

    On April 30, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the GROW America Act, the administration’s proposed highway plan.

    The act has little chance of being passed by Congress, because the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are each working on separate bills. The Senate bill is expected as early as this week.

    However, the proposal is important because it lays out President Barack Obama’s transportation priorities.

    Regarding the act, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said: “While Secretary Foxx’s proposal is not perfect, it launches a necessary discussion between the Obama Administration and Congress on the need to find a long-term, bipartisan solution to address the growing infrastructure crisis in our country.”

    How did motorcyclists fare in the first formal salvo of the surface transportation reauthorization?

    Like most proposals, there are sections to like and dislike.

    On the upside, the proposal would re-authorize the Recreational Trails Program, an $85 million program that funds motorized recreational trails. This program is funded by the excise tax that off-highway-vehicle users pay when fueling an OHV.

    Additionally, it would boost funding by 22 percent for the highway trust fund by using tax revenue generated from a one-time repatriation of corporate profits. While additional funds would be diverted for public transportation and other programs, highway maintenance/construction would increase leading to safer, better maintained roads.

    Finally, the proposal would increase the funding for intelligent transportation systems, often referred to as V2V communications. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that motorcycles will be included in future research related to ITS/V2V.

    However, the motorcycling community would face new challenges if the administration’s proposal, as currently written, were passed into law.

    Under this plan, states would be given much more flexibility to create tolls on interstate highways.

    The AMA opposes tolling because it pushes commercial vehicles off interstate highways and onto roads (often favored by motorcyclists) that were not designed to handle large volumes of traffic. As a result, these roads are less safe for motorcyclists.

    Perhaps most importantly, the DOT’s plan would unleash NHTSA to "engage in activities with States and State legislators to consider proposals related to motorcycle helmet use laws."

    In previous highway bills the AMA has worked hard to ensure that NHTSA – and other federal agencies – are not using taxpayer dollars to lobby state governments in favor of mandatory helmet laws or other provisions that would limit motorcycling freedoms.

    The current bill – MAP-21 – that authorizes many safety and maintenance programs will expire Sept. 31.

    The GROW America Act is the first step toward passing a comprehensive surface transportation bill. The AMA will continue working in Washington, D.C., to eliminate the extended tolling authority, continue the NHTSA lobby ban and insert language preventing federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints – from H.R. 1861 and S. 2078 – into the final law.

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  • DC Insider: Federal agency expands authority from fighting diseases to studying how Americans use our highways

    Alongside the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is a relatively new player looking at motorcycle safety on our roads and highways.

    It is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Why the CDC? How is riding a motorcycle even in the CDC’s crosshairs? Is the CDC attempting to say that riding is a disease?

    How is this possible? What is the CDC’s agenda?

    The American Motorcyclist Association is asking these questions and may have found some answers.

    The CDC came onto the AMA radar back in June 2012 with its release claiming that annual cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without universal helmet laws. It is no secret that the CDC wants more states to adopt mandatory helmet laws.

    Then, it was the CDC’s February 2013 Federal Register notice on its proposed project titled “Costs and Cost Savings of Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention: Evidence-Based Policy and Behavioral Interventions.”

    The AMA wanted the CDC to address our concerns with the proposed project’s goal to “collect information relating to the costs of implementing motor vehicle injury prevention interventions” to get— in their own words -- the “biggest bang for the buck.”

    We learned that the CDC study would focus on 13 “interventions.” One is “motorcycle helmet use laws.”

    Then the CDC struck again.

    At its meeting in October 2013, the Community Preventive Services Task Force viewed a CDC staff-prepared presentation about the benefits of universal helmet laws. One of the slides links the adoption of universal helmet-use laws to a potential reduction in motorcycle riding, which would help meet the CDC’s goal to reduce injuries and fatalities.

    Let me say that again: One of the CDC’s desired outcomes is the potential for reduced motorcycle use. (The task force had previously approved a recommendation for universal motorcycle helmet laws at its meeting in June 2013.)

    The AMA questions the expertise and authority of the CDC and its task force in the traffic safety arena. Motorcycling is not a disease to be cured; it is a legal and legitimate means of transportation and recreation enjoyed by an estimated 11 million Americans.

    U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) shared the AMA’s concern and sent a letter to the CDC on Nov. 21, 2013. In particular, Walberg wanted to know how the CDC has the authority to study highway safety.

    The CDC responded by saying its authority is congressionally mandated.

    Congressionally mandated?

    This stimulated  investigative juices at the AMA. After months of research, the AMA discovered that the CDC’s authority comes from Section 399U of the Public Health Service Act. This is odd, because the PHS Act has been around for years.

    Is Section 399U new and how did it amend the PHS Act?

    Yes, the section is new. It was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. It increased the CDC’s authority and gave it a congressional mandate to study highway safety, among other things. Specifically, Section 4003(b)(1) of the ACA amended the PHS Act to include Section 399U.

    How does Section 399U expand the authority of the CDC’s Task Force?

    It expands the role of the Community Preventive Services Task Force by “… providing yearly reports to Congress and related agencies identifying gaps in research and recommending priority areas that deserve further examination, including areas related to populations and age groups not adequately addressed by current recommendations” (ACA, § 4003(b)(1); PHS Act § 399U(b)(6)) (ACA pages 425-426).

    It also provides authority to the task force to study any area or topic it chooses. Under Section 399U, “Community preventive services include any policies, programs, processes or activities designed to affect or otherwise affecting health at the population level” (Emphasis added) (ACA, § 4003(b)(1); PHS Act § 399U(a) (ACA pages 425-426).

    Although we can’t all agree on the validity of mandated helmet laws, I am sure we all can agree that this is blatant government overreach that can affect all our lives by administrative fiat.

    This is how a federal agency once tasked to curing the world’s diseases is now studying our nation’s highways – and, for that matter, anything else it chooses.

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