New Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Ban Funding of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

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Four U.S. senators representing both the Democrat and Republican parties introduced new legislation that would prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from funding checkpoints that specifically target motorcyclists.

The new bill – S.2078 – would put a stop to NHTSA‘s Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Program which provides states with federal funding for traffic checkpoints that stop only motorcyclists. The checkpoints allow law enforcement to inspect motorcycles and determine if they meet state standards ranging such as noise levels, tire conditions and handlebar lengths.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who introduced S.2078, argues the practice is discriminatory, unfairly picking on motorcyclists who already have to meet the same registration and licensing laws as other motorists, and stop at the same sobriety check points.

“These checkpoints unfairly target motorcycle riders who already have their vehicles inspected and registered just like all motorists,” says Shaheen. “We don’t have checkpoints that stop cars to check their tire pressure and we shouldn’t for motorcycles either.”

Cosponsor Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) echos Shaheen’s comments.

“Motorcyclists shouldn’t be pulled over simply because they’re driving a motorcycle and not a car,” Ayotte said. “It doesn’t make sense to use federal money to pay for discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints, and I’m pleased to see bipartisan support for the rights of motorcyclists.”

A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in 2013. H.R.1861, also known as the “Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act“, is currently in the hands of a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

Another Wisconsin politician, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) is a cosponsor to S.2078, argues the NHTSA-funded checkpoints violates riders’ rights and freedoms.

“Wisconsin can boast of hundreds of thousands of responsible and law-abiding motorcycle riders on America’s roads,” says Johnson. “To them, safety is as important as scenery, so I’m deeply concerned the establishment of these checkpoints unfairly, and perhaps unconstitutionally, violates their personal freedoms and rights.  The NHTSA grant program in question is a one-size-fits-all approach, will not address the primary causes of motorcycle accidents, and should be stopped.”

Another cosponsor, Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), argues the checkpoints are a waste of taxpayer funding that can have an adverse effect on states’ economies.

“Requiring bikers to drive through motorcycle-only checkpoints is not only an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars, but it also raises legitimate questions about discrimination against motorcyclists. In West Virginia, bikers travel near and far to drive on our winding roads and enjoy the beautiful scenery, which attracts tourism and helps boost both our local and state economies,” Manchin said. “As a Harley owner myself, I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation that simply would prohibit yet another senseless and unreasonable federal regulation which could harm states’ economies.”

A couple of states have recently held motorcycle-only checkpoints during popular events that attract a lot of riders. In 2011, Georgia used NHTSA funds to stop riders on their way to Florida for Daytona Bike Week while officials in northern Virginia staged similar checkpoints during Rolling Thunder. Utah officials also held checkpoints for riders leaving Miller Motorsports Park when it hosted a World Superbike Championship round.

 

The American Motorcyclist Association has long stood against the practice of funding motorcycle-only checkpoints. The AMA argues the money is better spent supporting rider safety programs

“During the past two years, federal, state and local governments spent more than a half million dollars on motorcycle-only checkpoints,” says Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. “The AMA believes that money could be better spent supporting programs that conduct rider education, reduce distracted driving and encourage motorist awareness of motorcycles.”

[Source: AMA, Senator Shaheen]

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Dennis Chung
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