UPDATE: Congress Expresses Concern with Federal Motorcycle Roadside Checkpoint Grant Program
September 30, 2010 -- US Representatives call for the suspension of Federally funded motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. US Representative James Sensenbrenner (WI) took the lead on a letter to Ray LaHood, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, asking him to address the benefits of motorcycle only checkpoints. As previously announced by the MRF, LaHood’s DOT recently asked for applications from law enforcement agencies to conduct federally funded motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints.
The letter goes on to encourage Mr. LaHood to suspend funding for National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland's program until the questions are answered. Sensenbrenner was joined on the letter by Representatives; Petri (WI), Jones (NC), Schock (IL), Lanborn (IA), McCotter (MI), Ryan (WI), Rehberg (MT), Terry (NE), Paul (TX), and Wilson (SC). Of note are Shock and Wilson who have respectively key noted Motorcycle Riders Foundation Meeting of Minds and Beast of the East this year.
The MRF would like to thank all of those who heeded the call to gather support for this important matter. Should you be fortunate enough to have one of these outstanding Members of Congress that signed onto the letter, the MRF encourages you to contact them and thank them. Ralph Bell of ABATE of SC had this to say to his Member of Congress, Joe Wilson: "I not only appreciate your signing on this letter but applaud your no nonsense understanding of what Freedom is. This grant is definitely against all of our Freedoms and discriminates against us because of what we ride. Thanks again for your support."
The letter asks that Ray LaHood, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, address the benefits of motorcycle-only checkpoints by October 13th. The letter goes on to encourage Mr. LaHood to suspend funding for National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Strickland;s program.
Read the letter here.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation will keep you updated on this issue.
In Other News
Wall Street Journal attacks California’s Motorcycle Awareness Month
Editors at the Wall Street Journal are not so fond of the Golden States decision to honor the motorcyclists of California. The opinion piece claims that the awareness month bill is part of a pile of legislation that should not have been passed before the State balances its growing budget crisis. Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick defended the legislation pointing out the need "to honor motorcyclists many contributions to the community". At least those in power have the right idea. We at the MRF have our opinion of journalists who attempt to diminish motorcyclists. Take a guess what that would be. Read the article for yourself and feel free to contact the author.
Read the Wall Street Journal article here.
Action Needed! Roadside Checkpoints and Motorcycle Helmets in Senate Hearing
September 28, 2010 -- A letter from Congressman James Sensenbrenner is being sent to United States Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seeking insight into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recent request for applications from law enforcement agencies to obtain grant money to hold motorcycle only roadside checkpoints. The letter also asks that the grant process be suspended until sound reasoning for the checkpoints is produced.
NHTSA recently announced that it would solicit applications and then award grants to police units who want to conduct motorcycle only roadside safety checkpoints. The MRF is strongly in opposition to this program.
Congressman Sensenbrenner is a long time friend of the MRF and ABATE of WI with a history of supporting motorcycle rights on issues such most notably as one of the first to spearhead the repeal of the National mandatory helmet law in 1995. He has also been a staunch advocate for fairness when it comes to health care issues for motorcyclists, as well as an active and vocal supporter for the NHTSA lobby ban.
Mr. Sensenbrenner has called on his colleagues to sign a letter of request to the US DOT to gain more information on the motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints and to halt funding until that information is produced.
Please call your United States Congressman and ask for them to sign on to the Sensenbrenner letter to Secretary Ray LaHood. Deadline for co-signers is close of business September 29th.
This approach to stopping the roadside checkpoints got unanimous consent when discussed at the MRF Meeting of the Minds 2010 MRF/State Motorcycle Right Organization Legislative Strategy Session held last weekend.
Senate safety hearing mentions motorcycle helmet use
Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation held a hearing on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations endeavors. The hearing featured NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. Strickland referenced the overall decline in traffic fatalities from 2004-2009. He also suggested that the rise in seat belt use and child restraint use are contributors to the decline. He then went on to point out the rise in motorcycle fatalities over the same time period.
Strickland's direct quote:
"However, you will notice that there is one indicator that is moving in the wrong direction, motorcycle fatalities. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of motorcycle riders killed increased from just over 4,200 to almost 4,462, an 11 percent increase. The number of motorcycle fatalities did fall between 2008 and 2009, the first time we have seen a decrease in more than a decade. We need to work to build on last year's progress. The most important step we could take would be to assure that all riders wear a DOT-compliant helmet, which are 37 percent effective in reducing fatalities. We estimate that helmets prevented over 1,800 fatalities in 2008, and that more than 800 additional fatalities could have been avoided if all riders wore helmets. NHTSA will actively work with Congress to promote helmet use".
The MRF will be contacting Strickland to remind him that accident avoidance over safer crashing is the best solution to motorcycle safety.
And from the AMA...
Congress members urge U.S. transportation secretary to suspend funding for motorcycle-only law enforcement checkpoints
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Federal lawmakers have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to suspend a grant program that provides money for law enforcement agencies to set up motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
In a letter dated Sept. 30, House members told LaHood that safety-related funds would be better spent in other areas to improve motorcycling safety. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) drafted the letter and then circulated it to his congressional colleagues for signatures before sending it to LaHood.
Besides Sensenbrenner, those who signed the letter are Reps. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).
To read the letter, click here.
Sensenbrenner and the other lawmakers want LaHood to suspend the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstrations Grant program run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is an agency of the federal Transportation Department. Under the grant program, NHTSA plans to award up to $350,000 in total -- to be divided among as many as five law enforcement agencies -- to set up traffic checkpoints that target motorcyclists.
The demonstration program is modeled after a controversial program conducted in New York where the state police set up a series of checkpoints that targeted only motorcyclists, raising the ire of the AMA and motorcycling community. In 2008, for example, New York State Police announced plans to set up 15 checkpoints near motorcycling events that summer.
"Crash prevention must be the primary source of safety," the lawmakers told LaHood in the letter. "With that being said, why does NHTSA continue to focus on secondary factors that do not prevent motorcycle crashes?"
The AMA fully supports the congressional letter to LaHood. The AMA earlier formally questioned the potential discriminatory and legal nature of the grant program. On Aug. 9, the AMA sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program until questions have been addressed. To read the letter, click here..
While law enforcement officials may defend the program as a safety measure to decrease motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities, there is no proof that it's effective, said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations. In fact, the practice has upset motorcyclists nationwide.
"The AMA believes that the best way for NHTSA to reduce motorcycle crashes is to employ proven strategies, such as rider education and motorcycle awareness programs, that decrease the likelihood of crashes from ever occurring," Moreland said. "These strategies must be research-based, and motorcyclists would be much better served by applying the funding to the national motorcycle crash causation study that is currently underway at Oklahoma State University."
This sentiment is supported by Sensenbrenner and many of his colleagues in Congress through the recently introduced H. Res. 1498: Supporting Efforts to Retain the Ban on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Ability to Lobby State Legislators Using Federal Tax Dollars and Urging the NHTSA to Focus on Crash Prevention and Rider Education and Training.
To urge your representative to support H. Res. 1498 go to AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation, then enter your zip code in the "Find your Officials" box.