As in any society, the general public’s views on those in power ranges from bad to good, or idiots to trustworthy people, I use the latter description with a grain of salt. I don’t think many would argue the fact that thoughtful governance is beneficial to society. On the flip side, laws without statistical merit help no one.
Sometimes good choices are made by our politicians and lawmakers, and other times these bleeding hearts are completely out to lunch. Ken Rush comments in his article, Kombustion Chamber in the issue, about a recent law under consideration in Ontario. The new law will ban the use of hand-held devices while driving. The use of cell phones, texting and hand-held GPS units being the main target. We’ve all had experiences with other drivers that have caused, or almost caused a crash. Or maybe you have a bad experience yourself using a cell phone while driving.
An exemption to the hand-held scenario is that Bluetooth devices will still be OK to use providing it is voice controlled and you don’t have to use your hands to operate the device. The idea is that both your hands will still be on the steering wheel. I, like many others, rarely ever drive with both hands on the wheel.
Is it really any different than holding a coffee or eating, or talking to a passenger, or talking on a hands-free device? Your attention is still distracted from the task at hand and that task is driving. Tell that to the soccer mom with a gaggle of screaming kids in the back of her mini van as they fight over which movie to watch.
Personally, I agree with Ken and I do hope the law passes as I have a daughter starting to drive that always has a cell phone in her hand. I can’t help thinking that the law itself may be hard to enforce though. It’s too easy to hide the phone when you see a cop.
The Bad and The Ugly
The newest law on the block to attack Ontario motorcyclists is Private Members Bill 117 introduced by Liberal MPP Helena Jaczek from Oak Ridges-Markham. She would like to push through, “An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to prohibit the driving and operation of motorcycles with child passengers.” Or in other words, “Prohibition of passengers under 14-years-old on motorcycles”. I’m sure she has good intentions but as I understand it, she has not consulted any industry body such as the MCC (Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada, a not-for-profit national advocacy organization that champions motorcycling interests throughout Canada. www.motorcycling.ca) to seek advice or confer any kind of statistics.
Bill 117 has passed its First Reading on October 27, 2008 and the Second Reading was scheduled for December 4. As you are reading this, Bill 117 might be in the trash if it didn’t pass the Second Reading, but it’s a blatant reminder that we have to be diligent and stick up for our rights.
I have spent countless hours with my daughter on the back of my motorcycle whether for long trips or short rides. She has seen a good part of Canada from the back of a motorcycle and she paid attention to the landscape and its people far more than if she were in the back of a car. I considered that time with her on the bike an important bonding time. She liked going for a ride and I enjoyed having her on the back.
Think about the motorcyclists who are travelling on holidays with a child on the back. Maybe you are from out of province and are considering going on holidays this year with your son or daughter on the back of your bike and your travel plans included riding into, or through, Ontario. If this law gets passed, you better think again, or rather, be thinking how you can go around Ontario. Think about it, if you get stopped you will receive a fine plus your son or daughter will be stranded at the side of the road since they will no longer be able to get back on the bike, your only mode of transport. If it’s a law to safeguard children, then you are putting that child at risk. Would that not fall under child abuse and if so, would the officer then be obligated to call social services to have the child taken away from you?
This doesn’t just apply to those with kids of their own. What about any family member or friend’s kids who would like to go for a ride? And don’t think that if you live outside of Ontario it won’t affect you, as mentioned above, you will not be allowed to enter Ontario with passenger under
14-years-old. Also, if Bill 117 passes into law in Ontario, it may well make its way into your province and be one more freedom taken away from you.
In a message sent by Raynald Marchand, General Manager of the Canada Safety Council to Helena Jaczek, MPP Oak Ridges-Markham, the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Transportation. “It is the CSC’s position that there is no statistical evidence to support this legislation.” He continues, “I reviewed all seven Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports from 1999 to 2005. I did not find any fatalities for motorcycle passengers less than 14 years of age. I also looked at injuries for motorcycle passengers less than 16 years of age and compared them to bicycle passengers less than 16 years of age and car passengers less than 16 years of age over the same period (1999 to 2005). Ontarian children were four times (4x) more likely to have been injured as passengers on bicycles and 262 times more likely to have been injured as passengers in passenger vehicles than to have been injured as passengers on motorcycles.”
I did my part by sending emails to eight different MPP and Ministers as well as members of the opposition. I also signed petitions. Motorcyclists are a small crowd and our voice needs to be heard. I hope that all of you voice your opinions to your local MPPs or MPs when a law is proposed that doesn’t sit well with you. If nobody speaks up, then it will pass and it will be too late.
As of this issue going to press, I have only received one response to my letters from an MPP and it was from Helena Jaczek’s office, it was a form letter from someone in her office, not even from Ms. Jaczek.
Her form letter gave some statistics and one place she claimed the statistics came from is something called Smart Risk. I couldn’t find anything on the Smart Risk website (www.smartrisk.ca) relating to motor-cycles but it’s apparent from stories on the Smart Risk home page that, ‘On average, every week 30 Ontarians are hospitalized for an injury due to falling from a bed. Injuries to the hip and thigh in females over 70 years of age are the most common.’ I doubt that outlawing beds or strapping the elderly down will ever be passed in parliament. Another high-risk activity is hockey, ‘On average, each hour three people visit an emergency department for an injury due to a sport-related collision with another person.’ Again, I have my doubts if some bleeding heart politician would have the balls to try to ban hockey, or any physical sports for that matter. Motorcyclists are a relatively small group and it just seems that motorcycling is an easy target.
It so happened that I wrote my letters to the various politicians on November 11, Remembrance Day and couldn’t help thinking that those men and women gave their lives for our freedom against tyranny. Now we fight for our freedoms and rights from our own government who continue to chip away at our ability to make sensible decisions as responsible parents, or even responsible members of society.
The Second Reading has now passed as you read this. I hope that enough of us have voiced our opinions to our local MPP that Bill 117 has been laid to rest and does not proceed to the Third Reading. If it continues, the rest of you have a chance to voice your opinions, and please do. Go to www.ontla.on.ca and click on ‘Members (MPPs)’ on the top left menu. In the ensuing window, click on ‘Current MPPs’. Find your MPP and write them a letter or an email telling them you are opposed to Bill 117.
I have never seen so much conversation or so many emails on one subject that affects our sport as Bill 117 has generated. It means that so
many motorcyclists and industry associations like the MCC are worried about losing part of our freedom and rights and this could be just a start if this law passes into legislation. Lets stand up and keep the family riding! MMM