The United States Senate passed a six-year highway bill today with strong bi-partisan support. The bill includes language that would end federal funding for motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. The bill also contains language defining three-wheeled automobiles, which are currently classified as motorcycles under federal law, as their own class of vehicle. These amendments were included in the final version of the bill due to the tireless efforts of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF).
Most motorcyclists have no objection with safety checkpoints as a whole. However, we should have an objection to the practice of stopping only motorcycles at roadside checkpoints. There is simply no justification for this practice, and motorcycle-only checkpoints tend not to be fruitful. We need only to look at the large checkpoint that was set up during Rolling Thunder a few years ago to see that. Those conducting the motorcycle-only checkpoint stopped 579 motorcycles over a period of seven hours and managed to write only 11 tickets; only four of which constituted a safety violation.
The discriminatory nature of these checkpoints has led states such as California, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia to prohibit these checkpoints within their borders. Both New Hampshire and Illinois have passed laws prohibiting federal funds from being used to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints. However, being that motorcyclists travel across state lines on a regular basis, this legislation is important to all motorcyclists regardless of what their particular state does.
From a personal standpoint I support safety checkpoints for all vehicles. If I am on my bike and there is a safety checkpoint stopping all motorists I will gladly cooperate and subject myself to the brief detention connected with such a stop. What I object to is being singled out from the motoring population as a whole due to the fact that I ride a motorcycle.
The language defining three wheeled automobiles as their own class of vehicle is also of great importance to motorcyclists. The MRF worked to include this language in the final bill in order to prevent these vehicles, which are growing in popularity, from being included in motorcycle crash data. Including motor vehicles which are not actually motorcycles in the corresponding crash data unfairly skews the data. Some states have addressed this issue in their state code. However, until it is addressed on the federal level we will continue seeing these three-wheeled automobiles included in federal motorcycle crash data.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives which will take it up in the fall. The MRF will continue to work on this bill as it moves through the House.
As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning what I have written please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are not a member of the MRF and wish to join you may do so at the following link: http://www.mrf.org/join.php
McGrath & Danielson
The Motorcycle Law Group