MC Checkpoints Update

By Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School.

Legislative Update

As motorcycle riders we have many restrictions and regulations imposed on us including registration, inspection, licensing and helmet laws. We also have to stop at law enforcement checkpoints set up for sobriety, just like automobile drivers. When there is a “motorcycle-only” checkpoint however, many riders and motorcycle organizations feel that we are being unfairly singled out.

Many of our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. agree. U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a bipartisan bill would prohibit the use of federal funds to establish motorcycle-only checkpoints. It’s called S. 127, the “Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act,” and would restrict the U.S. Secretary of Transportation from granting funds to any government entity for a program to check helmet use or to create checkpoints for an operator of a motorcycle or a passenger on a motorcycle. The bill is supported by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and says passage of the bill will ensure that riders across the country are safeguarded from stops that they feel are ineffective and discriminatory. California, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, New Hampshire and Virginia have passed legislation curbing motorcycle-only checkpoints.

“Evidence suggests that motorcycle-only checkpoints do not effectively reduce motorcycle injuries or fatalities and do not address the factors that are the main contributors to motorcycle accidents,” the senators wrote in a press release about the bill. “Accordingly, NHTSA does not list the practice in its own 2013 Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Offices, which details policies and activities that the agency considers effective at reducing crash injuries and fatalities.”

States use funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to pay for the checkpoints, so federal legislation can halt the practice. If passed, this federal bill will cut off NHTSA funding.

This comes as NHTSA reports that the number of motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes declined by 6.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, and the number injured dropped 5.4 percent. In 2013, 4,668 motorcyclist fatalities were reported, down 318 from the 4,986 in 2012. One factor in the lower incidence of motorcycle crash fatalities was an 8.3 percent decrease in the number of motorcycle crashes in which the rider was impaired by alcohol. They also noted that there were 190 fewer fatalities in 2013 among motorcyclists aged 50 to 69 years.

These are sobering statistics and hopefully, with an increased emphasis on continued rider education and training, motorcycle crashes will continue to decline. Our responsibility as motorcyclists includes obeying traffic laws, being alert to other drivers, never riding while impaired or distracted and always wearing a helmet and high visibility gear.

Ride Safe!

Leave a Reply