The United States Senate is the latest venue in the battle to end the unfair practice of federally funded motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has reported that Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has introduced legislation which would prohibit the federal government from funding mandatory motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints. Joining her as the lead republican on the bill is Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). Also joining as original co-sponsors are Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
The federal government funded motorcycle-only checkpoints through a $70,000 grant in 2011. Georgia state police conducted two mandatory motorcycle only checkpoints which were timed with Daytona Bike Week to maximize motorcycle traffic. The police set up on the southbound lanes of I-75 and I-95 on the same day that Daytona bike week began. They conducted the same setup during the closing day of bike week in the northbound lanes. Police have also conducted motorcycle only checkpoints in New York, and in Virginia during Rolling Thunder.
Senator Shaheen explained why she introduced this legislation. “Motorcycles are an important part of New Hampshire’s identity and economy,” Shaheen said. “These checkpoints unfairly target motorcycle riders who already have their vehicles inspected and registered just like all motorists. We don’t have checkpoints that stop cars to check their tire pressure and we shouldn’t for motorcycles either.”
Senator Johnson said that “Wisconsin can boast of hundreds of thousands of responsible and law-abiding motorcycle riders on America’s roads. To them, safety is as important as scenery, so I’m deeply concerned that 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 that will not address the primary causes of motorcycle accidents and should be stopped.”
In explaining his support for the measure, Senator Manchin stated that “[r]equiring 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. 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.”
“Motorcyclists shouldn’t be pulled over simply because they’re driving a motorcycle and not a car,” Senator 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.”
Some states have addressed this issue on the state level. Missouri, Virginia, California, and North Carolina have passed legislation prohibiting motorcycle only checkpoints. New Hampshire and Illinois prohibit state use of federal dollars for motorcycle only checkpoints.
The MRF urges motorcyclists to contact their U.S. Senators and ask them to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation. A bill number is expected soon.
You can reach the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may also find and email your U.S. Senators at the following link:
If you have any questions or comments concerning any of the above please feel free to contact me. You may also contact Jeff Hennie, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the MRF. It was Jeff and the MRF who originally reported this matter. If you are interested in joining the MRF you may do so at MRF.ORG.
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath's Motorcycle Law Group