Dec 212010

We all know someone who has a H-D equipped with the stock laced wheels. This is the first I have heard of this issue. If you go the the web site, UnSafe Motorcycles, you will see there is and has been a problem with thte safety of the Dunlop 402 (tire used primarily for H-D applications prior to 2009). Please share this info with everyone you know who rides a Harley.

Texas law firm investigating rim failures

Publish date: Dec 12, 2010

A Texas law firm says it is investigating motorcycle rim failures in two accidents that may lead to more claims.

The Edwards Law Firm says rim failures may have led to catastrophic deflations of tires on Harley Davidson Ultra Classics. Both were steel chrome-plated 40-spoke factory rims manufactured in Italy.

The firm operates the web site Unsafemotorycles, where it says consumers contacted the firm about incidents in Michigan and Ohio.

“Failures of two rims manufactured at the same plant could mean defective metals or processing. If this is the case, other riders could be at risk,” says Billy Edwards, attorney and motorcycle rider. “We will be sending the rims to experts to see if they can determine what caused the failures.”

A Michigan man riding a 2001 Ultra Classic reported he was traveling in October 2009 along a two-lane state highway at about 40 mph when his rear tire suddenly deflated.

“There was no warning, no sound, and all of a sudden the rear of the bike became extremely loose, squirrelly, uncontrollable,“ he said. He credited experience as a lifelong rider and Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes for his ability to stop without going down. “I knew, don’t panic, don’t slam on the brakes, bring it down easy. I was fortunate,” he said.

The tire had less than 1,200 miles on it and had been installed at a Harley-Davidson dealership, which also reported they had inspected the rim, he told the law firm. He said there was no hole in the tire, a D402, just a shredded tube and a long, lengthwise crack in the rim.

The Michigan rider, an engineer, says he contacted the firm after a fellow rider from Ohio experienced a similar rim failure in September, 2010. In the second instance, the Ohio rider reported he was traveling 78 mph on I-75 when the tire gave way.

“He crossed three lanes of traffic before he reached the berm where he could start applying brake to the front wheel. He almost didn’t make it,” according to the Michigan rider’s account. He said the Ohio rider, an auto mechanic, was on a 2003 Ultra Classic with Messler tires, again with no sign of puncture, but the rim shows a long, vertical crack.

Posted by Holly Wagner

Dec 162010



2.  When approaching any intersection, assume cars traveling in the opposite direction are going to turn left and run over you. Be prepared to take evasive action.

3.  ALWAYS-ALWAYS have an escape route out of a situation to avoid the consequences of other peoples’ mistakes. Keep looking for the gap that you can use when someone else screws up.

4.  Adjust your speed to your reaction time. At the end of a tiring day it will be much longer than it was on the way to work at 8:00AM, so ride with bigger safety margins.

5.  Check BOTH directions when the light turns green. Someone will run the red light, sooner or later.

6.  Drivers that are using their car phones are not using their brains. Watch out for them.

7.  Mirrors are important. If they don’t show anything but your elbows, buy some that do. Always use your mirrors.

8.  Use other people’s mirrors, too. Look into the mirror of the car in front of you. That way you can see where they are looking, and how attentive they are. If you can see them, chances are better that they can see you.

9.  Trucks and vans often have a hard time checking their right side blind spot.

10.  Slippery oil, antifreeze, and ATF look like water, particularly in low light. Try to avoid all wet spots, but if you can’t, ride over them smoothly.

11.  Check under (behind) parked cars. Those legs you see belong to a child who may run out in front of you.

12.  Anticipate the moves of other vehicles. Drivers don’t always use their turn signals in traffic, but you MAY be able to tell where they are going by watching their heads turn just before they change lanes.

13. Treat all metal surfaces – train rails, bridge gratings, manhole covers – with the utmost respect. They offer very little traction when dry, and almost none when wet. Ride over them as smoothly as possible.

14.  Ride in a gear that will allow you to accelerate quickly if you need to get out of a tight spot.

15.  Never lose your temper when riding….If you do, STOP, take a breather, then resume your ride.

16.  Always be on the lookout for, and expect, the unexpected.

17.  Avoid racing with other motorists.


Courtesy of BMWMOA, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, Motorcycle Club

Nov 132010

Put the bike in gear so it doesn’t rock forward or backwards onto you   If it is on its right side, then put the kickstand down to prevent the bike from  going too far when you raise it up.  Grab the bike as low as possible at sturdy, non-hot, areas forward and aft.  Walk the bike back using leverage and NOT your back! If it’s on the left side then put your hands on the handlebars and place your hip up against the seat. Push up and use your hips at the same time to balance the leverage push. Using available soft ties can also provide better hand holds and grip for hot or slick grabbing points.

Nov 022010

By Dan Marcou, PoliceOne Columnist

The Four Horsemen of career apocalypse — anger, lust, greed, and peer pressure — can end a cop’s livelihood as surely as a bullet can end their life.

Many officers affix a favorite photo to the visor of the patrol car at the beginning of each shift to remind themselves that they will do everything in their power to insure that they will survive the shift and return home to that family. There are many potential dangers officers have to be mentally and physically be prepared to resist. These dangers include criminals, ambushers, domestic abusers and the Four Horsemen. “What do you mean, the Four Horsemen?” you ask.

The Four Horsemen
According to Dr. Neal Trautman, there are four compelling forces that bring police careers to an abrupt end as surely as high velocity ammunition. They are anger, lust, greed and peer pressure. Officers need to be prepared to protect themselves against these looming dangers and the havoc they can create on a career and a family. Although not as devastating as the biblical horsemen, Pestilence, War, famine and death, officers succumbing to anger, lust, greed and peer pressure have discovered that they may lead them to a career apocalypse.

A career in law enforcement affords every officer countless opportunities to become legitimately angry over the things that are done and said to them. Most civilians could never tolerate the onslaught of verbal and physical abuse police officers are subjected to on a daily basis, but they expect a stoic professional response from their police officers.

You can look at this two ways. You can say it is unfair, or you can appreciate the confidence the public has in you. Regardless, there is truth in the words of the late Eldon Mueller, “The man who angers you conquers you.”

The police professional can expect to be verbally and physically assaulted in every manner imaginable. Officers need to prepare themselves to act out of necessity rather than anger. This can be done through physical skill training and mental conditioning. To overreact would not only jeopardize a police professional’s career, but there is a fine line between criminal battery and justifiable use of force. Officers can’t allow suspects to goad them into crossing that line.

In March 2010, Sgt. Scott Krause was convicted of punching a handcuffed prisoner repeatedly for kicking the window of the squad car and demanding to be taken to the bathroom. Krause lost his job and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. This man angered Sergeant Krause and sadly, conquered him.

Police officers are not tempted as often as rock stars, but when and if poor decisions are made, officers can ruin their marriages, careers, and lives for a few moments of pleasure. To paraphrase a wise officer has poster, referring in so many words to lust, “The badge will get ‘it,’ but then ‘it’ will get your badge.”

There are some extreme examples where officers in the past have entered law enforcement already possessing dark criminal desires. Former Officer Marcus Huffman in August of 2010 was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a female in a police department substation. He had picked her up after he stopped to assist her because she was extremely intoxicated and on foot.

Throughout a career an officer will be entrusted with countless millions worth of merchandise, cash and every material temptation imaginable, during investigations, vehicle contacts and open doors. To their credit most officers never violate the trust placed on them by their communities. There are those that have violated that trust.

For example, in April 2010 Officer Ronald Jackson was sentenced to 18 months in prison for Theft. He stopped a female carrying a large quantity of brand new high tech equipment stolen from Best Buy. The female was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Jackson and his back-up, Officer Christian Brezil split the stolen merchandize and there was no mention of it in their report.

Jackson’s career is over and the former police officer is facing a prison term.

Peer Pressure
The good news is most officers are honorable and courageous police officers, who share their sense of righteousness. However, what if you had witnessed the actions of Krause, Jackson, Brezil, and Huffman? What if these officers were your friends? What if they reminded you of the bond you share and asked you to remain silent?

Would you be prepared to take action which would lead to their firing and criminal prosecution, or succumb to peer pressure? No matter how heinous the crime, it is not an easy arrest to make when the suspect wears the same uniform as you do.

The Path of Honor
Retired Detective Frank Serpico of the New York Police Department once said, “Police work is an honorable career, if you do it honor.”

The path of honor is not always the easy path to follow — there will be many opportunities in a career to take a detour from this path. If you ever find yourself tempted to leave this path, remember the smiling faces of your family in the worn picture on the visor of your squad. Act as if they are watching you and strive to make them proud.

A police officer seeking to hold true to their principals and high values must remember, when tempted to succumb to anger, lust, greed, or peer pressure that they can sell their honor for a penny. Once it is lost, however, it can’t be bought back for a billion dollars.

Looking back after the completion of an honorable career in law enforcement is a source of unspeakable satisfaction. Guard your honor with your life and your life with your honor.

About the author

Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody’s Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

Nov 012010

The following release is from the AMA…

Federal action to allow more ethanol in gasoline could damage motorcycles

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to allow the ethanol portion of blended gasoline to be increased from the current 10 percent to 15 percent for certain vehicles, which could pose a danger for motorcycles, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

On Oct. 13, the EPA announced approval of a waiver for E15. Under the decision, E15 is now approved for use in model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. It isn’t approved for use in any other gasoline-fueled engines. To see the EPA news release, go to

“The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned that gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol could result in premature engine damage or failure while a motorcycle is being ridden,” said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. “We’re also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol.”

The EPA, in allowing more ethanol in gas, specifically said that its decision covers model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks, and no other vehicles at this time, including motorcycles.

“Motorcycle manufacturers only certify their machines to run on gasoline or a blend with up to 10 percent ethanol, which is known as E10,” Szauter said. “So using the 15 percent blend in a motorcycle could void the bike’s warranty.”

Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, asked the EPA in March 2009 to allow gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol. It’s part of an effort to meet a congressional mandate to increase to 36 billion gallons the amount of renewable fuel available in the United States by 2022. Ethanol, made from corn and other crops, is considered a renewable fuel.

For more than three years the AMA has been on the record opposing increases in the ethanol level allowed in gasoline until studies show that an increase won’t damage motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) engines, and won’t make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA.

“The message we want to deliver today is that once E15 gas is offered for sale, there are a variety of reasons not to put it in your motorcycle or ATV gas tank,” Szauter said. “In fact, the EPA even says you aren’t allowed to put E15 in your bike.”

The EPA said a decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after new test results are received. The EPA is also proposing E15 pump labeling requirements so that consumers don’t mistakenly put E15 in the wrong vehicles.

Bob Greco, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The Wall Street Journal that by approving E15 without full testing, the EPA is putting “politics before science.”

“You’re going to have fuels in the marketplace that could damage engines and void warranties,” Greco told the newspaper.

The AMA is a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment, a group formed to ensure that fuels containing ethanol are promoted in a thoughtful manner. AllSAFE is made up of associations that represent consumer and commercial users of ethanol blends, manufacturers of boats, vehicles, engines and equipment, and retailers who sell gasoline and ethanol-fuel blends.


Oct 312010


The quality of a Police Department’s written policies, procedures, rules, and regulations can define the success of a cop’s career — both for the good and the bad.

Officer’s lives are on the line every day. Officer’s careers are on the line every day too. In the city where I live there are currently at least two legal cases going on involving police. At least one of these will eventually lead to an interpretation of the rules and regulations of that department come into play. It’s because of these incidents that I decided to write this article about rules and regulations.

First, let me say that I believe most departments out there to have rules and regulations that are first rate, so it should not be implied that I think that there is a crisis within police departments when it comes to rules and regulations. However, it doesn’t hurt to get a friendly reminder about some of the finer do’s and don’ts of writing rules and regulations that can keep your cops’ careers (nd of course, their lives, but for the purposes of this article I’m focusing in on the legal aspect of things) safe from the adverse effects that almost always stem from poorly written policies and procedures.

The first consideration for any rule or regulation is that it must be current. It does no good to have the best regulation on the face of the Earth if it does not address policing in its current state. To that effect, it would be best to have a review of all rules and regulations at least once a year to make sure that they are all current. This tends to be particularly important with those regulations that carry the highest ability to get the officer and the department sued. The most common in this area are use of force policy, arrest policy, and use of firearm policy.

If you look at one attachment, you’ll see part of the regulations for Jamestown PD. It states at the bottom that the Chief of Police shall review all policies annually. This is good but I’m not particularly wild about the Chief doing this. I’m a believer in the notion that 3 heads are better than one. So I prefer a committee composed of a senior ranking officer, a first line supervisor and a patrol officer. The biggest reason I like this is simply there are three different mindsets looking at a regulation and interpreting it from their viewpoint. I think you’d get a better, more comprehensive regulation this way.

The second point about any regulation is that it has to be as inclusive as possible. By that I mean that the regulation has to have all the component parts in it. I’ve also attached a copy of the use-of-force policy for Denver PD. You’ll see that it includes all forms of weapons used by the department. It also lists medical treatment that should be given, qualifications officers need before they can use the weapon, and most importantly, when officers cannot use the weapon. The when you can’t use the weapon is sometimes seen as the most important by courts because it implies that you have given due consideration to the consequences of the officer’s actions. This is always a good point for the police in any civil proceeding.

Finally, any regulation has to be reasonable. A regulation that either requires an officer to perform some extraordinary action, or a regulation that blatantly ignores a dangerous consequence that may arise from its implementation will always be viewed by courts as a sign that the department either doesn’t care about it’s officers and citizens or, worse, was just plain lazy in writing up its regulations. Either view could spell trouble for a department in a civil proceeding.

In connection with the actual writing of the rules and regulations is the administrative actions that should be taken to make sure your manual will withstand scrutiny. First and foremost, officers should be required to show that they understand the policy manual. This can be done simply by giving a ten question test after having the officer take a period of time, say two weeks, to learn the manual. The questions don’t have to be difficult. They should merely be representative of the manual as a whole. This sounds rather strange, but one of the primary tactics of any good civil lawyer is to try to show that an officer did not have an understanding of his or her policy manual and this led to his client’s injury, whatever it might be. An officer could be shown to have a good understanding of the manual by producing the test they took and showing a respectable grade, let’s say in the 90th percentile. This usually defeats such an attack tactic attempted by the civil lawyer.

The other important administrative detail is that the policy manual should be approved by the elected officials that run the government that the department is attached to. This sounds sort of ridiculous, especially if you’ve known some of the elected officials I’ve known, but unfortunately you do need the approval of the governmental entity that you serve to truly make the entire policy manual as legitimate as possible.

Departments should be conscientious enough to send at least one officer to a policy writing class, if you can find one.

Lastly, designate at least one officer to keep track of all legal changes from the United States Supreme Court and your state Supreme Court. Keep any changes in a folder. This will make it easier to amend that which has to be changed when the time comes.

So there you have it. Not exactly a thesis on the subject but I tried to hit the most important highlights. Rules and regulations can be a blessing if you get them right. Get them wrong and you pay. The trick is finding the right balance.

Stay safe.

About the author

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Jim Guffey began his Law Enforcement career in 1977 with the Pennsylvania Capitol Police. In 1980 was hired by the Ross Township Police Department. He remained there until January 1, 2002. During that time he worked as a plain-clothes detective, on the traffic division, and was promoted on 1996 to Lieutenant. He remained the Administrative Lieutenant until his retirement. Not satisfied with retirement, he became the Chief of Police in Blairsville Borough in August 2003 and remained there until July 2004.

Oct 252010

In the last entry we saw that ordinary people in ordinary circumstances misjudge the actual ability of protective gear to reduce or prevent injury and take on more risk that uses up that safety margin. Motorcyclists are just as likely to fall prey to risk compensation as others. But how do motorcyclists—and non-riders—come to have an exaggerated belief that helmets, specifically, are more effective than they are?


Let’s first take a look at what experts say about helmets. For the sake of conciseness, I’m going to sum up and put longer quotes and links in footnotes:

NHTSA claims that “Motorcycle helmets provide the best protection from head injury for motorcyclists involved in traffic crashes.”[i]

The Michigan State Police claim that “Helmets decrease the severity of injury, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care…. Just like safety belts in cars, helmets can’t provide total protection against head injury or death, but they do reduce the incidence of both.[ii]

The American College of Emergency Physicians says  “Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, and helmets provide the best protection from head injuries…”[iii]

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety—long seen as opposing motorcycling in general—says, “Motorcycle helmets have been shown to save the lives of motorcyclists and prevent serious brain injuries.”[iv]

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) states the exact same thing in the exact same words as the Michigan State Police website so we’ll use a different part of the quote:  In the event of a crash, unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries…”[v]

MSF has a .pdf flyer on helmets that states that “Helmet use is not a “cure-all” for motorcycle safety, but in a crash, a helmet can help protect your brain, your face, and your life.

“Combined with other protective gear, rider-education courses, proper licensing and public awareness, the use of helmets and protective gear is one way to reduce injury.”[vi]

MSF’s Basic RiderCourse handbook states, “Helmets work well in accomplishing their intended function to protect the head and brain from injury…helmet effectiveness has been confirmed by research, not just in the laboratory, but by decades of actual crash analysis as well. So, be safe and always wear a helmet while riding…Since head injuries account for the majority of motorcycle injuries, head protection is vital. The best helmet is no guarantee against injury, but statistics indicate that helmet use reduces the risk of brain injury by 67 percent (and gives the NHTSA 2004 “Traffic Safety Facts” report as the source of the statistic).[vii] However, the NHTSA 2004 Traffic Safety Report

does not contain that statistic.

Media articles on motorcycle safety also repeat the same claims.

Media articles typically include whether a rider was wearing a helmet or not—and do so far more often than whether drivers were wearing seatbelts as in this short news item on the death of a rider from The Geneva County Reaper,

“Motorcyclist killed in wreck” A 60-year-old motorcycle rider died on Easter Sunday in a single vehicle wreck on Walton County Road 181.

Ronnie Denza Hughes was headed west when the bike traveled across the eastbound lane and onto the shoulder, striking a tree, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The bike rotated and came to rest facing south.

The accident took place around 7 p.m. Hughes was not wearing a helmet.”

WEAU 13 NEWS in Eau Claire, WI published an article on April 13 of this year,  “Motorcycle riders and law enforcement warn about motorcycle safety.” It said, in part, “…“We highly recommend people wear helmets they’re not required by law, unless your under 18 or have an instructional permit, but a helmet’s gonna definitely save you from serious injury in case you are involved in a crash,” Sgt. Jerry Voight with the Wisconsin State Patrol says.”[viii]

The Columbus Dispatch, published an article on April 3, “Caution urged in motorcycle season: Deaths a grim reminder for riders, motorists”.

The latter part of the article focuses on the human interest element. After first detailing how one unhelmeted rider died in a crash it goes on to tell about another fatality: “Computer developer Joseph Matello, 40, of Riverstone Drive in Columbus, died after a crash about 11a.m. Thursday on the Far West Side. Police said he crossed the center line on Feder Road and struck a car head-on.

“His wife, Stephani, said Matello was a strong believer in safety, and a helmet saved his life a few years ago when a car driver didn’t see him and struck him.”[ix]

Iow, even though the crash was—for whatever reason—his fault and though a helmet was worn and did not save his life, the article still stresses how important wearing a helmet is—and that it had saved his life years before.

Reasonable to believe helmets are effective

The above is just a fraction of all the repeated direct and implied claims by those who present themselves as experts. The story told by different groups circle around on themselves by citing each other—and most often NHTSA.

The very official status of the sources gives credibility to their claims. That story then is willingly propagated through the media that repeats those claims and adds testimonials from both dealers and riders—or in the last case, the dead rider’s spouse.

It’s highly likely that a reasonable person, after reading even a portion of the above would believe that helmets were highly effective in preventing death and reducing injuries. In fact, it would be unreasonable to disbelieve such repeated accounts.

As we’ve seen, ordinary people—which fulfills the legal definition of a reasonable person—take more risks in ordinary ways simply because they believe they are safer because they are wearing some kind of protective gear.

Iow, it’s reasonable that a reasonable person would act upon such repeated safety claims and to take on risks he or she wouldn’t if they weren’t wearing a helmet. For example—the risk of riding a motorcycle at all. We

Iow, we believe that helmets are effective because we’ve been told over and over by credible sources that they are. And we don’t just act upon that belief, we stake our lives on it.

But the thing is—we don’t have to take on anything more than the most ordinary risks of riding to outride the protection a helmet can give in the most ordinary circumstances.

Given the strong chorus of approval and recommendations from safety and transportation interests and experts, it’s exceedingly interesting and illuminating and especially surprising—what helmet manufacturers say about their products. Or rather, what they don’t say.

[i] Helmet Use Laws. NHTSA.

[ii] “They’re designed to cushion and protect riders’ heads from the impact of a crash…. Motorcycle crash statistics show that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing crash fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates an unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to incur a nonfatal head injury than a helmeted motorcyclist.”,1607,7-123-1593_3504_22760-13677–,00.html

[iii] “Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders. (NHTSA)… Everyone is only one step away from a medical emergency….Helmet use is the single most important factor in people surviving in motorcycle crashes. They reduce the risk of head, brain and facial injury among motorcyclists of all ages and crash severities. Unhelmeted motorists are 40 percent more likely to die from a head injury, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).”


[v] “Helmets decrease the severity of head injuries, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care. They are designed to cushion and protect riders’ heads from the impact of a crash. Just like safety belts in cars, helmets cannot provide total protection against head injury or death, but they do reduce the incidence of both. NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of crash fatality by 37 percent….Helmets are highly effective in preventing brain injuries, which often require extensive treatment and may result in lifelong disability.” This quote appears verbatim on several other websites.

[vi] “Second, a good helmet makes riding a motorcycle more fun, due to the comfort factor: another truth.

“Third, wearing a helmet shows that motorcyclists are responsible people; we take ourselves and motorcycling seriously. Wearing a helmet, no matter what the law says, is a projection of your attitude toward riding. And that attitude is plain to see by other riders and non-riders alike.”


[viii] “State troopers say just wearing a helmet and the proper gear could help save your life People who drive motorcycles say the feel of the wind on your face is a thrilling experience, Wisconsin doesn’t require helmets, but those who sell motorcycles and those who enforce the law, say safety needs to be of utmost importance.

[ix] “She said she has a message for other motorcyclists: “For riders, wear as much protective gear as possible.

Oct 242010

There’s two groups that don’t tell the Helmet Story, and I don’t mean the rabid anti-helmet folks.

No, one group is the helmet manufacturers themselves. And my next guess is that many of you are strenuously objecting right now—so let’s take a look at the most popular helmets in the USA (in no particular order).

First of all, all helmets sold in the USA have to meet, at minimum, DOT standards—and that information is available on the sites. But, we’ll take a look at standards in another entry.

Arai “You could go through a bunch of cheaper helmets in the lifespan of just a single 5-year-warranty Arai – and wind up spending more in the long run. Worse, you’d miss out on Arai’s legendary comfort, fit, features, and feeling of confidence along the way. A helmet is something you’re going to spend too much time and too many miles in to not ensure that every bit of it is a pleasure. So compromise somewhere else.”[i]

Iow Arai takes the same approach L’Oreal hair color took with women: yes it’s more expensive, but you’re “worth it.” But nothing in the manufacturer’s site says safety is what the rider is buying.

Shoei doesn’t say it’s reduces injuries or prevents death either: In the section “Inside A Shoei Helmet” there’s a subsection, “SHOEI ACTIVE SAFETY”: “As opposed to “passive safety” that is ensured by compliance with Snell and DOT safety standards, “active safety” defines the further improvements made by SHOEI to ensure that maximum comfort is achieved, allowing the rider to devote all of his or her focus to riding. Advanced helmet features such as our anatomically-shaped comfort liner for optimum helmet fitment, lowest possible weight to reduce stress on the neck muscles, and effective ventilation system for temperature regulation and reduction in wind noises all serve to further improve the safety of the rider. Further development and continued improvement in the areas of safety and comfort technology are SHOEI’s primary goals.”

Shoei implies that safety is synonymous with comfort and that’s “active” safety. Safety is defined as the rider paying more attention, having a cooler head (which is only hot because they’re wearing a helmet) and is quieter (though the helmet itself is causing much of the noise which Shoei then dampens). All that is a limited truth because comfort can just as easily led to inattention. But that’s not why we buy helmets.[ii]

HJC doesn’t claim its helmets do anything either:  “With the addition of the helmet models mentioned above, it is clear that HJC continues to be a brand that is friendly to motorcyclists around the world providing safe, comfortable, stylish and affordable helmets.”

In the section “Helmet Usage” HJC comes the closet to claiming that its helmet will reduce injury or death:  “To reduce the risk of serious injury or death…” “and to help prevent damage to your helmet” …“always use your helmet correctly.” However, this doesn’t say the helmet reduces the risk. Rather, its what the rider does that will reduce the risk.

But that’s a half-truth. A rider can vastly reduce the risk of a crash by what he or she does (and that includes using the helmet correctly) but once the crash occurs, the rider can’t reduce the risk of injury or death—that’s exactly what a helmet is supposed to do. But that’s not what HJC claims.

Nolan Helmets has a truly ridiculous claim: “…since the early 1970′s, Nolan began using sophisticated materials to bring optimum performance to motorcycle riders at a competitive price.” Iow, it’s not skill or judgment that makes a rider perform as best  (but not necessarily safely) as they can. Iow, helmets are like tires or a trellis frame or a few hundred extra cc’s. Safety—or even comfort—aren’t appeals that Nolan uses in its advertising.

KBC comes the closest to referencing safety in terms of helmets with its slogan: “Ride Long. Ride Hard. Ride Safe.” It’s also the only manufacturer that states a direct though somewhat ambiguous warning on its website: “PLEASE NOTE: A.  No helmet can protect the user against all foreseeable impacts.”

Scorpion has a section on safety but it doesn’t say its helmets will protect you. Instead it references MSF training (without saying that will keep you safe), has a link to the MSF’s .pdf on helmets and directs readers to the Snell Foundation.

Safety seems to be the last thing on Icon’s mind—as does grammar and coherent thought. Rather, Icon courts and encourages both risk and violence: For example, it describes its new “Airframe Sacrifice” helmet as: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Some will thrive whilst others wither. The Airframe Sacrifice is the former. A warrior’s helm. A leader destined for glory amongst the disposable ranks. Legions of weaker willed troops will break upon it’s chromed brow. There will be no legends passed down to glorify their sacrifice. Only this single heroic helmet and magnificent crest will remain.”

The Airframe Predator is described as: “When this bird shows up, trust us, it’s no party. This foul predator eats your dog’s food, craps over the driveway and one day will probably carry off the cat. We’ve seen it a thousand times.” And the Airframe Death or Glory as: “Some live their life in moderation – a careful balancing act devoid of excess. And that’s fine, the world needs those people. Then there are those who are destined to leave their mark on history’s pages. Those courageous (or stupid) souls who know no such balance. For those few it’s all or nothing. A pure digital lifestyle – Zero or One, Black or White, Death or Glory.”

Icon, though, does have a section called “Survivors” where Icon purchasers relate their various crashes and attribute their well-being to Icon.

Only one manufacturer claims that its helmet saved a life—while Bell also advertises its helmets in terms of ventilation, weight and price it’s the only manufacturer that directly claims that once a helmet saved someone’s life: “In 1955 a guy named Cal Niday plowed into the retaining wall during the Indianapolis 500 and the first Bell comeback was officially underway. The impact fractured his skull, but one of our helmets saved his life.”

But from that point on it uses euphemisms to imply it saves lives without directly claiming they do: “Cal returned to racing a few months later. We’ve been engineering spectacular comebacks ever since….Bell was there when the world’s best riders went down. And with innovations like energy-absorbing liners, the first full-face motorcycle helmet, and more design patents than any helmet company in history, we’ve always been there to help them get back up again. Over the years we earned enough trust to make our name synonymous with motorcycle helmets.”

Iow, if one didn’t know the Helmet Story one would never ever guess from what those who make them that the primary purpose of helmets is to reduce injuries and prevent deaths. But then we do know the Helmet Story thanks to NHTSA and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which is one of two organizational sister corporations to the Motorcycle Industry Council—to which all the helmet manufacturers belong.

The easy answer is that helmet manufacturers don’t say a helmet can save your life because of fear of liability suits—if they say it, and someone is hurt or dies, then they’ll get sued.

So let’s look at life jacket/vest manufacturers as a comparison. Certainly their products also are supposed to save lives and if they failed, they, too could be sued.

Like helmet manufacturers every one states their products meet standards—but, unlike helmet manufacturers they don’t stop there:

The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association is a trade group like MIC and states on its homepage, “Most drowning victims had access to a Personal Flotation Device, but did not wear it. A wearable PFD can save your life – if you wear it!”

Float-Tech “Safety in the water is something we should all take seriously. One of the easiest things we can do is wear our life preserver, a habit that would have a significant impact on annual drowning.”

Jim BuoyModel #SO-1 – Features Jim Buoy’s remarkable new LIFE-SAVING design that enables an unconscious person to roll over, face-up, with their mouth more than 4 3/4″ above the water in LESS THAN 5 SECONDS!”

Or this from manufacturer Extrasports, “Wherever safety is needed most, rescue experts turn to Extrasport® Swiftwater® rescue PFDs. The right equipment can mean the difference between success and failure, life and death. Our accomplished Swiftwater® rescue line is often called to unexpected places and dangerous water conditions.”

Or Mustang Survival Company that states, “For more than 40 years, Mustang Survival has been committed to providing lifesaving solutions for people exposed to the most hazardous environments. Through constant innovation and application of new technologies we have established ourselves as a leading supplier of survival solutions to the most demanding military, professional, and recreational users.”

The difference between helmet manufacturers and personal flotation device manufacturers could not be more pronounced. And the latter aren’t afraid to mention the elephant in the room—that their products are meant to be used in terrible times. They aren’t afraid to say that their products can mean the difference between living and dying. In fact, they flaunt it.

Nor do they try to justify the purchase by waxing on about comfort or how side effects will make the boater safer. They know why their consumers buy their products and that’s what they sell: we save lives for a living.

The helmet manufacturers sell comfort, ventilation, comparative weight, graphics and swappable faceshields. Notice the difference?

To put this into perspective, then, if helmet manufacturers advertised condoms, it would be all about comfort and pleasure they give without the slightest hint that they’re supposed to prevent pregnancy or disease. Iow, rather like Arai and Shoei advertise helmets.  Personally, I doubt comfort or pleasure are why people buy condoms.

Yet we’ve certainly heard of situations where condoms break or were defective and pregnancy or disease resulted yet that doesn’t stop these manufacturers from stating what their products are meant to do.

Iow, while fear of consumer liability lawsuits is a reasonable explanation for the startling omission of any reference to what helmets are supposed to do, it’s not a very good answer.

Or maybe it’s just a different type lawsuit they fear. Stay tuned…

[i] Arai really does spend a great deal of time justifying its cost: “In the end, what are your comfort and confidence are worth to you? Can you really put a “price” on them? An Arai helmet isn’t inexpensive. It isn’t made to be.” “And when you wear one, it isn’t made to feel good for just an hour or two. It’s made to feel good all day, every day – and to keep feeling good for years, long after cheap helmets have become loose and shabby (and probably had to be replaced more than once).” Notice that the only benefits Arai claims have to do with comfort and not safety:” “You can’t always see the reasons why an Arai feels better, but they’re there: lower weight from aerospace fiberglass-based construction; a lower center of gravity for better balance and less strain; softer single-piece multiple-density liners (whose technology still hasn’t been able to be copied in almost 20 years). Ventilation systems that work in the real world, not just in drawings. A helmet with no “minor” parts. And the result is major: you just feel good. You want to keep riding.”

“That’s why we build our helmets the way we do. Because it’s not about what you pay, it’s about what you get.” “Few of us can afford to own the very best of most things. But with an Arai helmet, you truly can own the very best of something.”

[ii] However, Shoei disagrees with the true experts in helmet’s effectiveness like the late Harry Hurt: “Very thick, soft padding provided good wearing comfort, but it did not hold well at high speeds, leading to helmet buffeting and instability.” Hurt, the foremost advocate of helmets and truly effective standards, was very clear:  very thick soft padding absorbs more kinetic energy and is thus safer for the reason we wear helmets: reducing injuries and preventing deaths.

Oct 042010

By Sgt. Steve “Pappy” Papenfuhs, PoliceOne Contributor

A county deputy was shot in the face and killed by an auto theft suspect. A city police officer was shot in the face and killed by a subject trying to cash bad checks. A state trooper was shot in the upper body during a car stop. The trooper survived despite numerous bullet wounds. In all three events the officers were standing behind the suspects attempting to handcuff them when the offender pulled a hidden weapon and shot over their shoulders striking the officers.

Let’s list the “mistakes” some say these officers made. First, the officers did not correctly apply a control-hold while performing the handcuffing. Next, the officers did not put the suspect in a position of disadvantage. Third, the officers should have waited for a backup officer before attempting the arrest, and operating alone was the ultimate error. Fourth, the officers were all attempting to place the handcuff on the controlled wrist when they should have cuffed the uncontrolled hand first. Finally, the officers were shot because they were handcuffing before searching; and, had they searched first they would have discovered the weapon before the subject had an opportunity to access it.

To all these arguments I respond, “Maybe…maybe not.”

It’s human nature to go into denial when hearing of these tragedies. Cops are very susceptible to this trait due to our drive and controlling nature. When an officer is killed in the line of duty, we have an inherent emotional need to explain it by delineating the mistakes made, confident that we would not have made those errors. But, if we are intellectually honest, we will acknowledge that we all make errors every day; and we would admit that we have often operated in a similar fashion. There but for the grace of God go anyone of us.

How can we improve our odds in similar circumstances? First, after acknowledging that we are only human, prone to errors, and not invincible, we admit that:

  1. There is no “control-hold” that can absolutely control everyone.
  2. There is no such thing as a “position of advantage” or a “position of disadvantage.” The suspect almost always has the advantage. He has no rules of engagement. He has no need to follow any constitutional provisions or force policies. He usually gets the first move, forcing us to respond to his actions. We can only operate in a way that provides “less-disadvantage” to us and “less-advantage” for the suspect.
  3. Backup officers are not always available, or the immediacy of the action makes it imprudent to wait for backup.
  4. Grasping one of the suspect’s hands and cuffing the other hand does not necessarily control either.
  5. The belief that searching before handcuffing is the magic bullet is erroneous. In the case of the deputy, he did search first but missed a firearm concealed in the suspect’s rear pants pocket. Additionally, if you are conducting a full body search in close quarters with an unsecured subject, then you are exposed in both place and time. In other words, you have a divided-attention issue wherein you are trying to both control and search a subject simultaneously — and you’re doing this for a relatively extended time period. If the suspect is dedicating all his mental effort on developing a plan of attack while you are busy controlling, searching, scanning for other threats, listening to your radio, considering what you are physically detecting, determining whether you have the legal authority to continue your actions, etcetera, then you are seriously behind the reactionary curve — especially since you have virtually no reaction time due to the intimacy of the distance.

Once we recognize the disadvantages we face, we can then begin to formulate survival strategies. But, first we need to recognize one last idiosyncrasy shared by the three described events. In each case the officers had contact with only one of the subject’s hands during the cuffing process. All subjects had one hand free, and in each case it was the right hand. The vast majority of the population is right handed. Should we cuff that hand or control that hand? If you’re following the human factors under discussion, you know there is no good answer to this question.

Most officers when conducting a pat-frisk have the subject’s hands interlaced either behind his head or at the small of his back. Where you frisk will depend upon where you reasonably believe a weapon might be secreted. The law allows you to search the outer clothing from head to toe, including reaching under shirts and jackets when reasonably necessary.

Offenders generally carry their firearms in the waistband and pockets. They do so for ease of access. Therefore, most defense-tactics search patterns start with these areas before moving to less probable and less accessible areas. If you really believe that a subject is armed wouldn’t you be safer if he was handcuffed before you frisked him? Of course you would. But, in the process of handcuffing him you have the divided-attention issue discussed earlier. You are trying to control his hands while you are accessing your handcuffs, getting the proper grip on the cuffs, and then applying them to the subject’s wrists. Meanwhile, the subject might have a weapon of which you are unaware but is immediately accessible to him.

Tactics are a tradeoff — a balancing act. Every time you create a tactic to solve a problem, you create a new problem. Both the “search first” and the “handcuff first” theories have inherent dangers. I submit that we must find the reasonable “somewhere in between” strategy. That strategy is the Grip-Protective Sweep (GPS). Simply put, grip the subject’s hands either behind his head or behind his back. Know that there are pros and cons to each of these positions (in fact, that is a topic of discussion we will have at another time in the future).

Conduct a limited frisk of the areas that subjects are known to carry weapons and that are easily accessible to them. We call this a “protective sweep” to discriminate between this action and a full search. Once you have determined to the best of your ability that the subject is not armed with an immediately accessible weapon (and if he does have one, use your trained tactics to deal with that) handcuff him. After he is handcuffed, conduct your Terry frisk or your search incident to arrest.

We have used this strategy at the San Jose Police academy with good success. Is this the silver bullet? Probably not. After 29 years of law enforcement experience, the only thing I know is that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. But, at this point the strategy seems to fulfill the needs of the “balancing act” between the search first / handcuff first extremes. You satisfy the “search first” proponents by establishing whether or not there is a weapon present in the “high-risk” areas before handcuffing. You satisfy the “handcuff first” proponents by handcuffing a subject prior to conducting a full-body search. You limit your “time in the hole” (that area in close proximity to a subject) with an unsecured suspect. And, you satisfy the human factors experts who correctly insist that it is extremely difficult to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

I am open to suggestions from others, and always willing to learn something new. If you have a tactic that works for you I certainly would like to know about it. Please contact me and tell me about your experiences. Like most trainers, I steal from others without remorse.