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DC Insider: Is another federal agency trying to influence state laws?

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a notice in the Federal Register on a proposed project entitled “Costs and Cost Savings of Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention: Evidence-Based Policy and Behavioral Interventions.”

With the notice coming from the CDC, this caught our attention.

So, the American Motorcyclist Association reached out to the A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education of Iowa, Inc., known as A.B.A.T.E. of Iowa, to send a joint letter to the CDC.

We 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” in order to get— in their own words -- the “biggest bang for the buck.”

We learned that the CDC study will focus on thirteen “interventions.” Specifically, one of them is “motorcycle helmet use laws.”

According to the notice, “information is needed to complete a research study of the costs and costs savings to society of implementing evidence-based interventions.”

What is the CDC’s definition of “evidence-based interventions”?

An official with the Department of Health & Human Services responded on behalf of the CDC to our letter. According to the HHS, “We used a wide body of research from various organizations to identify/define evidence-based interventions. We include studies conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the World Health Organization [Part of the United Nations], and other organizations.”

The CDC further “evaluated the list of effective interventions against a set of pre-determined criteria for the project.” And added, “These criteria included the potential for broad implementation, the potential for high impact in injuries prevented and lives saved, and the likelihood that the intervention would be implemented at the state level.”

What is the intent of the CDC in using this data once complete? Is one of the purposes of the study to influence state laws?

“CDC will use the data collected to complete the cost estimates for each of the selected thirteen interventions. The cost estimates will be used in the main product of this project, an online tool.” Moreover, “The online tool can be used to identify the intervention or sets of interventions that can be implemented in individual states that will provide the largest benefit in injuries prevented and lives saved. This project will provide scientific information to help states choose to focus their safety efforts in areas that make the most sense for their situation.”

With regard to funding, how much is this study costing taxpayers? Moreover, will sequestration make it more difficult for this project to be completed?

“The contract for the entire project was awarded at $927,554. The cost for the key informant interviews for all thirteen interventions, including motorcycle helmet laws, is estimated to be $30,000. This project will not be affected by sequestration.”

Let’s recap.

Our federal government will spend nearly $1 million to run a project that will use data from federal agencies and federally funded programs, as well as a UN agency, to support 13 interventions that the CDC believes “would be implemented at the state level.”

Curious about the CDC’s agenda? So are we.

Ever since the CDC released a study in June 2012 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’s no secret that the CDC wants more states to adopt mandatory helmet laws.

The CDC is not the first federal agency to make a case for universal motorcycle helmet laws. For years, the NHTSA sought to influence state legislatures in the same manner. Then, in 1998, the NHTSA was prohibited from using federal funds to lobby state or local legislators. In 2011, Congress introduced a resolution supporting efforts to retain the ban on the NHTSA's ability to lobby state legislators, and urged NHTSA to focus on motorcycle crash prevention and rider education and training.

That’s the bottom line for the AMA: Rider education and training, as well as motorist awareness programs, are effective strategies to reduce motorcycle crashes from ever occurring. Whereas, universal motorcycle helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes.

Just to be clear, the AMA -- as part of a comprehensive motorcycle safety program to help reduce injuries and fatalities in the event of a motorcycle crash -- strongly encourages the use of personal protective equipment, including gloves, sturdy footwear and a properly fitted motorcycle helmet certified by its manufacturer to meet the DOT standard. But the AMA believes that adults should have the right to voluntarily decide when to wear a helmet. (The AMA does not oppose laws requiring helmets for minor motorcycle operators and passengers.)

We spent years sending that message to federal legislators and NHTSA regulators. Now it’s time to do the same with the CDC.

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