MOTORCYCLE NEWS American Motorcyclist Association vs Virginia motorcycle-only checkpoints

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has expressed concern to Gov. Bob McDonnell over a recent motorcycle-only checkpoint in northern Virginia, calling the stop “discriminatory.”

The Arlington County (Va.) Police Department conducted a motorcycle-only checkpoint on May 28 during the annual Rolling Thunder gathering in Washington, D.C. The Rolling Thunder event, held May 27-29, involved tens of thousands of motorcyclists riding to the nation’s capital to seek accountability for prisoners of war and service personnel missing in action.

In the letter, dated May 31, AMA Washington Representative Rick Podliska told McDonnell that motorcycle-only checkpoints are discriminatory and profile only motorcyclists.

“The AMA urges the Commonwealth of Virginia to suspend the use of motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions raised by the motorcycling community have been addressed,” Podliska wrote.

Those questions include: How do motorcycle-only checkpoints increase the safety of motorcyclists? Where do states draw their authority to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints? Is “probable cause” required to stop a motorcycle and, if so, what constitutes probable cause?

“The safety of motorcyclists is better served by efforts that minimize injuries and fatalities by preventing crashes in the first place,” Podliska wrote. “The most efficient way of doing so is not through sporadic, discriminatory roadside checkpoints, but by mitigating crash causation.”

Copies of the letter were also sent to Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott, Virginia House of Delegates Transportation Committee Chairman Joe May and Virginia Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Yvonne Miller.

The Virginia motorcycle-only roadside checkpoint is the latest in a series of the discriminatory checkpoints that have been conducted in Utah, New York state and Georgia. The AMA is strongly opposed to this practice.

In a victory for motorcyclists, lawmakers in New Hampshire recently approved, and the governor signed into law, a bill that prohibits law enforcement agencies or political subdivisions from accepting federal money for motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints and the state police did so as thousands of motorcyclists rode through the state on their way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week March 4-13.

The AMA opposes the federal motorcycle-only checkpoint grant program, and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and some of his colleagues have asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to suspend the program.

Sensenbrenner has also introduced H.R. 904, which would prohibit the U.S. transportation secretary from providing funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints.

“The NHTSA should focus on decreasing the likelihood of crashes from occurring in the first place,” Podliska said. “No public money should be applied to promoting such a program without first addressing questions from the motorcycling community.”

In addition to letters submitted to the past and present governors of Georgia, the AMA also sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program that gives states money for motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions have been addressed.

To view the AMA’s letter to McDonnell, click here: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Libraries/Rights_Documents_State/5_31_2011_GovMcDonnell_MOC.sflb.ashx?download=true.

Motorcycle Checkpoints

Profiling thinly concealed under the label of safety by Chris Maida

As we get closer to spring, motorcyclists — like me —in the northern parts of the country, are looking forward to the promise of another great riding season. However, in many states, particularly New York, motorcyclists also face the unpleasant prospect of profiling thinly concealed under the label of safety. I’m very disappointed that the federal agency entrusted with making our public roads safe for all motorists is not only supporting the profiling of motorcyclists, it’s offering a handful of states our tax dollars to increase the use of checkpoints targeting only motorcyclists.

In my opinion, if the government is truly interested in our safety the NHTSA should do a study on how to make our presence more apparent to motorists who never seem to see us until they have run us over and/or off the road. On streets that are becoming increasingly dangerous to us thanks to a plethora of gadgets to look at and talk on inside the modern automobile, being heard, as well as seen, seems to me to be a natural addition in the move to improve our safety. For evidence I quote the most often heard statement uttered after a car/motorcycle accident: “I didn’t see him.” Short of wrapping us in reflective tape and strapping so many flashing lights on our bikes and bodies that we’d rival the Christmas light decorations we saw a couple of months ago, sound would be the next logical addition in the effort to keep us safer.

Unfortunately, motorcycle noise is also a huge sore point with many and the outcry to make bikes quieter is enormous. However, the decibel level increase we need to be safer is not any louder than what motorists and home owners already consider acceptable. Readers of this column know it is my belief that allowing motorcycles to be as loud as a large truck would help announce our presence near a car. Those that have opposed this initiative have stated that sound emanates only to the rear of a bike, but that is not what I have personally experienced. I have no trouble hearing what I call rumble pipes (think a set of Rinehart mufflers) coming up on my right or left when the bike is within 12 feet of my car. Want more evidence? Watch when a large truck is passing a motorist. You’ll usually see his head turn to see where the truck is in relation to him. And true, that is, in part, due to the fact that the truck has the power to hurt him if he gets in its way. Nevertheless, the point is the driver hears the truck as it comes up from the rear, and isn’t that what we need him to do for us?

In closing, I want to thank the AMA for spearheading the campaign against this misguided initiative by the NHTSA. I encourage all who read this to join the AMA and add their voices to this important organization, which is constantly working to protect our right to enjoy our sport, both on and off the road.

See you on the road. – Chris Maida, editor American Iron Magazine