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  1. #1
    Registered User miairhead's Avatar
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    Helmetless article Michigan

    A N MLIVE INVESTIGATION

    UNEASY RIDERS

    INJURY, DEATH RATES HIGHER FOR HELMETLESS BIKERS

    FIRST IN A SERIES

    BY JOHN BARNES

    JBARNES1@MLIVE.COM
    The words are achingly sad, a glimpse into the past from the perspective of the present.

    A father is afraid. His son is not wearing his motorcycle helmet. And the son tries to reassure him ‘«Ų to a point.

    ‘«£I‘«÷m always going to be more of a risk taker then you ever were,‘«ō Scott Pohl says in a mes*sage sent from his phone on May 23. ‘«£That‘«÷s where I get a thrill out of life. You may call it stupid but I call it living. I hope you can understand that.‘«ō

    Not long afterward, on the second day of summer, the 25-year-old went over his han*dlebars into a Ford Explorer whose driver never saw him coming. His helmet was in his motorcycle‘«÷s right satchel.

    ‘«£When they changed that law, I thought it was stupid,‘«ō said Scott‘«÷s father, Karl. ‘«£ I didn‘«÷t know it would affect me like it has. Scott lost his life, and there‘«÷s going to be many, many more. He very well may have survived that crash.‘«ō

    Scott Pohl was the 75th motorcyclist without a helmet killed or seriously injured in Michigan after the state lifted its helmet mandate to give riders choice, an MLive Media Group investigation found.

    At least 700 other motorcy*clists without helmets crashed in the six months after Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers changed the state‘«÷s 35-year-old law, records show.

    And while the state is plan*ning a study next year to weigh the fallout, police crash reports already paint a bleak picture.

    Motorcyclists without hel*mets were much more likely to die or suffer serious injuries, MLive‘«÷s investigation found. They were more likely to be at fault. And many were not li*censed to be on motorcycles in the first place‘«Ų aproblem that includes riders with helmets.

    But the investigation also found Michigan crash records fall far short of providing spe*cific details about injuries, which critics say skew statis*tics. A helmetless crash death could have been due to a chest injury ‘«Ų as reporters found in a Kalamazoo County case.

    ‘«£It is frustrating,‘«ō said Vince Consiglio, president of ABATE of Michigan, the group most influential in lifting the man*date. ‘«£Pennsylvania, Florida and others all do a better job identifying whether we‘«÷re deal*ingwith severe head injuries or something else.‘«ō

    Still, opponents argue the higher injury and death rates are undeniable. And just two weeks ago, the investigative arm of Congress said direct costs related to motorcycle crashes totaled $16 billion in 2010.

    Riders are 30 times more


    MELANIE MAXWELL | MLIVE.COM OM Scott Pohl told his parents he‘«÷d be safe riding his motorcycle without a helmet. Not long afterward, the Howell-area man died from head injuries when a driver who never saw him turned into his path. His helmet was in his satchel.

    likely to die in crashes than are car occupants, the General Accounting Office noted. It also said mandatory helmet laws are the ‘«£only strategy proven to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.‘«ō

    One police commander does not need studies to tell him that.

    ‘«£If you were to run full force, as hard as you can, into a cement wall with a helmet on, and then run full force, as fast as you could, into a cement wall with no helmet on, what‘«÷s going to hurt worse?‘«ō said Lt. Chris McIntire, head of the Michigan State Police post in northern Kent County.

    How many did not have to die?

    MLive reporters examined state police data for more than 3,000 motorcycle crashes ‘«Ų with and without helmets ‘«Ų in the six months after the repeal, April 13 to Oct. 13. They also analyzed information on nearly 16,000 crashes from 2008 until the new law.

    In those six months, the bulk of this year‘«÷s riding season, crash records show:

    _ Cyclists without helmets were 43 percent more likely to suffer ‘«£incapacitating‘«ō injuries.

    Of more than 100 deaths ‘«Ų evenly split between those with and without helmets ‘«Ų they were three times more likely to be killed.

    _ Helmetless operators were at fault 51 percent of the time, compared to 42 percent for those with helmets. They also were more likely to have been drinking ‘«Ų one in seven compared to one in 17 with helmets.

    _ Some riders are ignoring requirements they be 21 to ride helmetless. The youngest in a crash was 14, in Muskegon Heights. Two riders, ages 19 and 20 from Eaton and Bay counties, were killed. Almost all underage riders without helmets were at fault in crashes.

    _ Most were not licensed to be on the road. Michigan has a loophole allowing riders to avoid safety classes or road tests required to be fully certified.

    The new law allows helmet choice for properly licensed motorcyclists 21 or older, provided they purchase the right insurance and pass a motorcycle safety course or have been endorsed to ride for two years.

    Much of the legislation ‘«Ų such as the $20,000 insurance mandate ‘«Ų is unenforceable.

    ‘«£Clearly they made the law such that it‘«÷s an honor system,‘«ō said Kalamazoo Township Police Chief Tim Bourgeois.

    Perhaps surprisingly, most riders in crashes had kept their helmets on. About threefourths wore helmets, far short of the 50 percent detractors predicted overall.

    But the higher death and injury rates have remained consistent since MLive began tracking crash reports a month after the law was lifted.

    The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning is planning its own analysis of 2012 crash data, likely in the spring, said Shanon Banner, spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will do the study.

    The department‘«÷s highway safety office also will fund a field observation, which Banner said ‘«£will provide a more accurate analysis of actual helmet use‘«ō than only those in crashes. More than 550,000 riders are licensed in Michigan, up 11 percent since 2006.

    Still, the biggest question likely will go unanswered: How many suffered debilitating head injuries who might have been spared?

    No one knows, and lawmakers chose not to find out.

    ‘«ˇIt‘«÷s a waste of fricking money‘«÷

    It didn‘«÷t take long for Michigan‘«÷s first helmetless motorcyclist to be hospitalized. The same afternoon the mandate was lifted, a 25-year-old Montcalm County man enjoying his newfound liberty was thrown face first into the car he rearended.

    It took a bit longer for the first to be killed. Seventeen days later, a father of four died after crashing helmetless on I-69 in Flint.

    And on it goes for helmetless crashes, records show:

    _ Michael Allen, a 27-year-old Afghanistan war veteran studying to be a kindergarten teacher, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he crashed June 12 on a short trip to the store in Bay County.

    He was the 49th rider without a helmet to suffer serious injuries.

    _ Tabbitha Bartlett, 19, of Eaton Rapids, became the youngest fatality when the cycle on which she was a passenger hit a culvert on June 27. Her boyfriend also lost his father that day ‘«Ų he was the driver.

    Their deaths were number 18 and 19.

    _ Bryan Smith, 29, of Wyandotte, suffered brain damage when he and Mario Orsette crashed July 17 in Taylor.

    Smith, a passenger, was uninsured and needed 18 plates to rebuild his face. He was the 97th helmetless rider to suffer serious injuries. Orsette was the 25th death.

    But was the law at fault? The Flint man had been drinking. And anyway, his injuries would not have been prevented by a helmet, his family says.

    An effort to answer such questions was nixed by lawmakers. An early version of the proposed law required a study within four years on helmetless head injuries and their cost to the state. The House stripped out that requirement.

    Some senators tried to restore and expand the effort, requiring the secretary of state to document ‘«£the types and severities of injuries.‘«ō They also wanted data on alcohol involvement and how many operators had not passed a safety course.

    The effort failed by three votes. Some worried about cost; some mistakenly thought state police already collected the data.

    ‘«£That‘«÷s the fault of our politics and our elected government. We could have had that information if we wanted that,‘«ō said Dan Petterson, president of the pro-helmet motorcycle group SMARTER, for ‘«£Skilled Motorcyclist Association ‘«Ų Responsible, Trained and Educated Riders.‘«ō

    Petterson instead approached federal highway safety representatives to evaluate the impact in Michigan.

    ‘«£They told me, ‘«ˇNo, it‘«÷s a waste of fricking money. Why we would we do that? We have multiple studies that will tell us what happens,‘«÷‘«ō Petterson recalled.

    One such study was done in 2009. Research in 18 states ‘«Ų including neighboring Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota ‘«Ų found unhelmeted motorcyclists treated at hospitals suffered nearly twice the percentage of head and face injuries, about one in five. The injuries were also more severe.

    But legislating a similar study here might not have mattered.

    Michigan does not have the technology to identify motorcyclists‘«÷ injuries, much less whether a rider was helmeted or not.

    Injured brain or a broken leg?

    The situation persists despite calls for reform. The governor‘«÷s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission in 2009 called for enhancing police crash reports to more ‘«£accurately report bodily injury location and severity.‘«ō

    Currently, police reports only rank severity of injuries, the worst being fatal or ‘«£incapacitating,‘«ō the least being no injury. They do not record where an injury occurred.

    ‘«£Police officers are not trained or equipped to determine type or extent of injuries at a crash,‘«ō said Banner, the state police spokeswoman. ‘«£Those determinations are better made by trained medical personnel in a hospital setting, or during a postmortem exam of fatally injured riders.‘«ō

    But unlike some other states, Michigan does not have a system that merges hospital, ambulance and police information to show whether a crash resulted in traumatic brain damage ‘«Ų one of the most severe and costly injuries ‘«Ų or a painful case of ‘«£road rash.‘«ō

    That system, financed largely through federal grants, is called CODES, for Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System. It was in place in the 18 states studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009.

    Michigan applied for CODES funding, but did not qualify because it does not have a statewide emergency medical database. Emergency rooms and hospitals also do not uniformly file an ‘«£external cause code,‘«ō which show if the cause was a motorcycle crash.

    ‘«£Some keep them, and some don‘«÷t,‘«ō said Linda Scarpetta, manager of the Injury and Violence Prevention Section at the state Department of Community Health. Even then, they might not report whether a head injury involved a helmet, she added.

    Anne Readett, communications chief for the Office of Highway Safety Planning, said the agency is working on a plan to link crash data with emergency or other healthcare information. The effort is some years from implementation, she said, but Michigan will lack at least one element that helped elsewhere.

    ‘«£Federal funding for CODES projects is no longer available,‘«ō Readett said.

    ‘«ˇMy goal is 100% not to get hurt‘«÷

    On May 23, Karl Pohl saw his son riding helmetless from their rural home southwest of Howell. He left a voice mail, then sent a worried text message.

    The son‘«÷s reply is eloquent, for the medium.

    Scott: ‘«£I made it to work safe and sound with my helmet on. I didn‘«÷t appreciate the attitude you gave me. .... however I understand where your coming from.‘«ō

    His dad replies: ‘«£I just wish you were of the same mind set you were when you first got your cycle......talking about head injuries etc.‘«ō

    Scott: ‘«£I sure as hell don‘«÷t want a head injury. Priority #1 is not to go down to begin with. ... I say a prayer every time I get on my bike too. I ask to be protected. It makes me feel safer so I hope you can relax a little more.‘«ō

    Scott Pohl died exactly one month later, when a driver who never saw him turned left. The cause of death was traumatic head injury.

    And this is what Scott‘«÷s father sees when he rereads the last line of his son‘«÷s message.

    ‘«£My goal is 100% not to get hurt.‘«ō And then he closes, ‘«£...... Love you Dad!‘«ō

    ‘«Ų Contributing to this report were: John Counts, of AnnArbor.com; Jonathan Oosting, of MLive‘«÷s statewide team; Dominic Adams, of The Flint Journal; Gus Burns, of MLive‘«÷s Detroit hub; Zane Mc Millin, of The Grand Rapids Press; and Aaron Mueller, of the Kalamazoo Gazette.
    Tom
    '84 R100RT '04 CLC(gone) Honda NT700V
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  2. #2
    Rally Rat
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    Helmets DO reduce head injury, especially brain injury, and to not wear one is simple folly of really messing up or ending your life. The rationale to not wear a helmet simply baffles me, and the example given above of simply running into a brick wall, on foot, with and without a helmet is a great example. Yet, the arguement goes on and on. I know a local police chief, a guy who no doubt has seen many crash results, and he rides without a helmet. He also only rides maybe 1500 miles a year. I ride on average 10,000 miles a year and never without proper gear. He has told me stories of his police cruiser driving skills during driver training. But he has never mentioned cycle rider training classes. I say he is a statistic waiting to happen.

    Wisconsin has been a helmet-choice state for decades, longer than I can remember since I started riding in 72. But I have always worn a helmet, my choice. But the bigger issue is always rider training and rider skills. I feel the riders most adamant and vocal about their "choice or right" to not wear a helmet are also a large percentage of the riders who have never had any rider training or never participate in advanced rider training and skills improvement. THAT is where the real issue of crash reduction lies. A helmet clearly helps the rider survive when IN THE EVENT of a crash. Better still to improve skills and strategies to avoid a crash.
    The example given above of the young rider insisting on no helmet, I would bet is also a rider with low traffic strategy skills.

  3. #3
    Bill Lumberg 175781's Avatar
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    Somewhere between 11 and 12K over the past year. 3/4, full, modular, even half, anything is better than bareheaded. Of course, I had 2 wrecks in my first two years of riding, both of which caused the helmet to come into play. One involved excessive speed on pea gravel, and would have left me disfigured were it not for my face shield. The other was a driver turning left in front of me, despite my turning on my high beam. It was a sunny day on a quiet street. The bike was strewn all over the intersection. I only had two scraped knees.

    Those were over a quarter century ago. Even then, it was enough to prove to me that a helmet is part of any good plan A.
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  4. #4
    Registered User amiles's Avatar
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    From the article:

    "a driver who never saw him"

    Every time I hear or read this I become livid. It seems that this is the "get out of jail free" buzzword after colliding with a motorcycle, Just like "I didn't know the gun was loaded" after someone is carelessly shot.

    Everybody makes mistakes on the road & elsewhere, but to attribute the cause to some type of acceptable temporary invisibility, responsibility is evaded in the eyes of many, trivializing motorcyclists, their deaths and injuries.

  5. #5
    Small road corner junkie pffog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amiles View Post
    From the article:

    "a driver who never saw him"

    Every time I hear or read this I become livid. It seems that this is the "get out of jail free" buzzword after colliding with a motorcycle, Just like "I didn't know the gun was loaded" after someone is carelessly shot.

    Everybody makes mistakes on the road & elsewhere, but to attribute the cause to some type of acceptable temporary invisibility, responsibility is evaded in the eyes of many, trivializing motorcyclists, their deaths and injuries.
    +++++1

    In my area add ......"he came out of nowhere", and the LEO will automatically blame the rider, as he "must" have been speeding. Heaven forbid you have sport tires on your bike or "bald" tires were also a contributing factor!
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  6. #6
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    Unfortunately, the "I never saw him" statement is true more often than not. As car drivers, individuals are mentally programmed for their entire lives to see cars, not motorcycles. Add the daily distractions to this mental programming and it is not surprising that we see this as the most common type of crash involving a motorcycle and another vehicle. This is just reality.

    Given this, it becomes even more important that as motorcyclists we recognize the danger posed by intersections and other driving situations where vehicles are likely to violate the rider's right-of-way. Does this mean we don't assess fault on the other driver, when appropriate? Not at all. But it does mean riders need to WAKE UP and protect themselves, both through situational awareness and the wear of proper protective gear. The MSF's SEE philosophy (Search, Evaluate, Execute) and the generally-accepted (although all too often ignored) idea of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) are two of the most important strategies that SMART riders employ to keep themselves protected.

    If you aren't ATGATT and riding with the right mental attitude, that's your choice. Just be aware that you are your own best friend or worst enemy on the road. That's your choice, too.

    OK, lecture over...we now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

  7. #7
    Registered User miairhead's Avatar
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    Unlicensed 50%

    RIDERS IN CRASHES DON‘«÷T HAVE A LICENSE



    BY JONATHAN OOSTING

    JOOSTING@MLIVE.COM
    Deangelo McGee was not supposed to be on his motorcycle the night he died.

    The 36-year-old Ferndale man was riding east on I-696 about 1:55 a.m. on June 24 when he missed his exit for Greenfield Road. He tried to cut to the ramp but hit rumble strips and lost control.

    McGee, who was not wear*ing a helmet, struck his head against the pavement and slid for about 45 feet, police said. His injuries were fatal. His 31-year-old passenger, who wore a helmet, suffered abra*sions and bruises. McGee, who became the 14th helmetless motorcyclist to die after Michigan lifted its helmet mandate, was riding illegally.

    State records show McGee recently had received a tem*porary instruction permit. But it prohibited him from riding at night and without a helmet. He was not supposed to have a passenger, and he was sup*posed to be under the supervi*sion of a fully licensed adult.

    Still, McGee is hardly alone in riding when he was not sup*posed to. Countless motorcy*clists have not completed the safety training or skills test re*quired to have a valid motorcy*cle license, yet many are hitting the road ‘«Ų and sometimes the pavement. Moreover, the state does not cross-check its records when an unendorsed rider registers a motorcycle.

    Of nearly 3,000 motorcycle operators in Michigan who crashed in the six months after the state‘«÷s helmet law was lifted this year, 52 percent were not li*censed, an MLive Media Group investigation found. That in*cludes 44 percent of the more than 700 operators in crashes who did not wear helmets.

    ‘«£They shouldn‘«÷t have been on the road in the first place,‘«ō said Vince Consiglio, presi*dent of ABATE of Michigan, a ‘«£freedom of choice‘«ō group that pushed for repeal of Michigan‘«÷s mandatory helmet law.

    ‘«£People think that if you put on a helmet, you‘«÷re protected. But the bottom line is, it‘«÷s the experience and ability to handle a motorcycle that makes the difference.‘«ō

    Longer-term data is con*sistent. Since 2008, only 53.5 percent of operators in Michi*gan crashes were endorsed to drive motorcycles, according to state police data on more than 19,000 crashes.

    Officials have known about the endorsement problem for years, and the Secretary of State and Office of Highway Safety Planning have pushed educational programs to raise awareness.

    But education alone is not working.

    ‘«£The thing is, they can get away with it,‘«ō said Dan Petterson, president of the pro-helmet motorcycle group SMARTER, for Skilled Motorcyclist Association ‘«Ų Responsible, Trained and Educated Riders. ‘«£But why people would choose to go without it, that I don‘«÷t know. Getting a motorcycle endorsement is a relatively easy process, and it‘«÷s a well-publicized process, too.‘«ō

    Risky business

    Michigan law requires motorcycle operators to have a valid driver‘«÷s license with a ‘«£CY‘«ō endorsement, for ‘«£cycle,‘«ō to operate on the road without limitations.

    The Secretary of State issues the endorsement for riders who pass vision and written tests and complete a certified safety course or approved oncycle skills test. Alternatively, riders who pass the vision and knowledge tests can receive a temporary instruction permit allowing them to ride with restrictions for 180 days unless they get an endorsement by passing a skills test. The state issued 22,000 temporary permits in 2012.

    But because there is no limit on the number of times the temporary permit can be renewed, a rider simply can apply again each season ‘«Ų without ever completing a safety course.

    Many motorcycle drivers, like 37-year-old Shawn Berkeypile, of Michigan Center, don‘«÷t bother with either approach.

    Berkeypile was rounding a corner in Leoni Township around midnight on May 19 when he lost control. He was found unconscious on his back, between two large oak trees in the front yard of a house.

    Secretary of State records show Berkeypile was not endorsed, and his driver‘«÷s license expired in 2007. Police said he was not wearing a helmet and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13. The legal limit is 0.08.

    Berkeypile survived, only to die three days later in a separate car crash. He was on his way home from a local bar.

    Police reports show that unendorsed operators, like Berkeypile, were more likely to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their crashes. Of the 225 motorcycle drivers who had consumed alcohol or used drugs prior to a crash this year though mid-October, police said only 80 were properly endorsed, about one in three.

    ‘«£We drive as we live,‘«ō said Petterson, who works safety courses as a rider coach. ‘«£If we are a person that lives an impulsive, risk-taking life in general, our driving behavior parallels that. We make risky decisions and we drive in a risky manner.

    ‘«£The same individual who chooses to ride after drinking is probably more likely to be unendorsed and may also ride without a helmet. They‘«÷re all connected.‘«ō

    Driving a motorcycle without an endorsement or temporary permit is a civil infraction, but police say it is difficult to enforce.

    ‘«£We have to have reasonable suspicion they‘«÷re violating the law,‘«ō said Sgt. Mike Church of the Michigan State Police. ‘«£And just riding a motorcycle doesn‘«÷t give us a reason to pull them over.‘«ō

    The five years of crash data analyzed by MLive shows younger riders are less likely to have a proper motorcycle endorsement. Only 48 percent of operators ages 16 to 31 in a crash were properly endorsed, compared to more than 60 percent of those older than 45.

    But safety advocates say rider training is equally important for older riders, many of whom let their endorsement lapse or paid the annual fee despite not riding for long periods.

    ‘«£What we‘«÷ve got now is an influx of motorcycle riders who maybe had a bike back when they were younger and are starting to ride again, whether it be for cheaper gas or because they have more time,‘«ō said Jack Peet, traffic safety manager for AAA Michigan, who sits on the governor‘«÷s motorcycle safety advisory commission. ‘«£These are inexperienced riders with bigger bikes than we used to have.‘«ō

    Hoping peer pressure will help

    Sgt. Steve Spink of the Michigan State Police spent the better part of two years studying motorcycle crash data. In a 2006 report, he recommended several ways the state might address endorsement and training issues.

    Spink recommended the state require decals on helmets showing officers if they were endorsed, a proposal rendered obsolete by the new law. He recommended a graduated licensing program for riders younger than 25 and non-renewable temporary permits for older bikers, good for a maximum 90 days. And he proposed the Secretary of State cross-check endorsements when an individual buys and registers a new motorcycle, or else require the owner to sign a waiver indicating they will not be the bike‘«÷s primary operator.

    ‘«£To me, that‘«÷s an obvious thing,‘«ō Spink said, noting the waiver would allow a father to buy and register a motorcycle for his son, for example. ‘«£I have to show proof of insurance, why don‘«÷t I have to show proof of endorsement?‘«ō

    The Governor‘«÷s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission, in its 2009-12 Motorcycle Safety Action Plan, again identified registration cross-checks as a way to boost endorsement levels.

    Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, an endorsed rider who has ridden motorcycles since she was 12, supports a cap on permit renewals, but has not embraced license and registration crosschecks.

    ‘«£Secretary Johnson understands the rationale behind the idea, but she would want to have more discussions with riders and other groups about what this would mean in practice,‘«ō spokesman Fred Woodhams said. While Johnson administers the process and can make recommendations, any attempt to link registrations to endorsements would require action by state lawmakers, which does not appear imminent.

    State Police First Lt. Thad Peterson, motorcycle safety co- chairman for the governor‘«÷s advisory commission, suggested fear of public backlash may be keeping any agency from jumping out front on the issue.

    Absent legislative action, Peterson said the motorcycle community should encourage endorsements, taking a stand against those who make responsible riders look bad.

    ‘«£They need to stigmatize anyone out there who is not properly endorsed,‘«ō he said. ‘«£When you make it a cultural thing, that‘«÷s when change can really happen.

    ‘«£Enforcement is supposed to operate against the few who operate outside the norm, and if we‘«÷re going to make our motorcycle community safe in Michigan, we need to have a cultural change so that it becomes uncool to ride without proper training.‘«ō
    Tom
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