Largely due to the lobbying of the American Motorcyclist Association, a bill has been introduced in the United States Senate that would “restrict the 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.”
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives last May 7. (See “Sensenbrenner’s Bill” here.) http://www.agingrebel.com/8538
The Senate bill’s sponsors are Republicans Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both the Senate and House bills are titled the “Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act.”
The federal bills are part of a reaction to a federal court decision that found that motorcycle only checkpoints were not an unreasonable search and were therefore constitutional.
The federal decision followed a program of dragnets in which the state of New York conducted 17 “motorcycle safety checkpoints” in 2008. All of the checkpoints were conducted on roads leading to or from large motorcycle rallies. A total of 1,064 tickets were issued. Nine hundred and sixty-five of the tickets were either for non-safety offenses or for wearing the wrong kind of helmet. On average, riders were detained for between 30 and 45 minutes. The “safety” aspect of the searches was only rhetorical. The searches were implemented by cops dressed in riot gear.
Those New York checkpoints ignored “speed” and “alcohol;” and were conducted by officers of the New York State Police Special Investigation Unit and gang task force for the purposes of “criminal interdiction.” The checkpoints were paid for by a grant that was intended to fund “overtime for intelligence gathering and subsequent criminal and traffic enforcement resulting from this effort.”
Since the federal ruling that motorcycle only checkpoints are reasonable, California, Missouri, North Carolina, Illinois, New Hampshire and Virginia have passed state laws that limit or ban those roadblocks.
The American Motorcyclist Association has been tracking the use of checkpoints since 2008.
In a press release issued this week, AMA vice president for government relations Wayne Allard stated, “During the past two years, federal, state and local governments spent more than a half million dollars on motorcycle only checkpoints. The AMA believes that money could be better spent supporting programs that conduct rider education, reduce distracted driving and encourage motorist awareness of motorcycles.”
According to the AMA, “The state of Georgia used funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in March 2011 to conduct motorcycle only checkpoints as thousands of motorcyclists rode through the state on their way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week. Another motorcycle only checkpoint was conducted in northern Virginia during one of the nation’s most visible motorcycle rallies – Rolling Thunder – over the 2011 Memorial Day weekend.” And “Motorcycle-only checkpoints also were conducted in Utah when thousands of riders attended a world-class road-racing event.”