Bikers Criticize Motorcycle Safety Campaign

AIEA (KHNL) - Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona is teaming up with the State Department of Transportation to launch a new motorcycle safety campaign urging riders to wear helmets.

But some bikers say, it's our choice, not yours.

State leaders made the announcement at Aloha Stadium on Friday about the controversial campaign. They say the campaign is designed to reduce motorcycle accidents and deaths.

Critics say helmets do not prevent crashes, and want the ads taken off the airwaves.

The TV and radio spots deliver two messages:

Drivers: watch out for bikers.

Bikers: wear a helmet.

Aiona and DOT say Hawaii ranks number five in the nation when it comes to motorcycle deaths.

"In 2005 we had 487 crashes motorcycle crashes in this state. 22 fatalities, that compared to 2004 in which we had 20 fatalities so as you can see the numbers are going up," says Aiona.

But a state motorcycle group called Street Bikers United Hawaii says helmets do not prevent motorcycle crashes. The most recent crash happened on the Nimitz and the rider did have a helmet on.

"Actually a helmet can hurt you more than help you, and we have statistics that can back up that claim," says Street Bikers United State Director Brian Grayling.

Critics say bikers also should have the freedom to choose.

"We are not anti-helmet, we believe in letting the rider decide. I've been riding a motorcycle for 30 years, I choose not to use a helmet," says Grayling.

"They have to think about their loved ones, the family, the people that are affected if they get into a collision," says DOT Director Barry Fukunaga.

DOT is using federal money to pay for the ad campaign.

Street Bikers United says the grant should go towards strengthening biker education and training and accuses DOT of misusing the funds to promote a political agenda.