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June 18. 2014 8:02PM

NH senators among those seeking to protect motorcyclists’ rights

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) Wednesday introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that would prohibit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from issuing grants to states for motorcycle-only checkpoints for one year.

 

The amendment is similar to legislation introduced by the senators earlier this year. The NHTSA initiated the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Program in 2009, which provides states with funds to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints where riders are specifically targeted by police to check that their vehicles meet state standards for noise, handlebar length, tire condition and a range of other legal requirements.

 

The bipartisan effort would block federal resources for one year from being used to fund these types of motorcycle-only checkpoints. Currently, motorcycle riders are already subject to state registration, inspection, licensing and helmet laws and must stop at sobriety check points like all other motorists.

 

“Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire is a perfect reminder of how important motorcycles are to our state’s identity and economy,” Shaheen said. “These checkpoints unfairly discriminate against motorcyclists who already must comply with registration and inspection requirements like all motorists.”

 

“I often hear Wisconsin motorcyclists refer to their passion for the ‘freedom of the road,’” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, those freedoms would be severally, and I would argue unconstitutionally, hindered by the presence of federally funded motorcycle-only checkpoints. Bikers should not be stopped, searched and inspected by law enforcement solely because they’re on two wheels and not four.”

“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,” Manchin said. “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. 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.”

 

“With motorcyclists from across the region in New Hampshire this week for Laconia Motorcycle Week, we renew our opposition to the use of federal funds to pay for discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints,” Ayotte said. “Motorcyclists shouldn’t be unfairly targeted just because they’re driving a motorcycle and not a car, and our amendment would protect their rights to abide by the same laws as other motor vehicles.”

 

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. 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.


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