NHTSA To Fund Motorcycle Only Safety CheckpointsThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering federal funds that would expand the highly criticized practice of creating motorcycle-only checkpoints by law enforcement agencies.

Initially begun in New York State, the process involves setting-up checkpoints where only motorcycles are pulled over. Law enforcement officers then check for U.S. DOT-compliant helmets, legal exhaust systems, and compliance with licensing, registration and inspection regulations. The NHTSA program would also collect information on high-motorcycle-crash-incident areas and citations would be issued for any violations discovered.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has questioned the potential discriminatory and legal nature of this program and submitted a list of questions for clarification to the New York State Police. To date, New York authorities have not responded. The AMA has also sent a letter to Administrator Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program until questions have been addressed.  The AMA’s letter can be seen here.

The controversy over this enforcement checkpoint are centered around the use of probable cause, and the overt appearance of discrimination with the implementation of motorcycle only checkpoints. In Strickland’s letter questions are raised regarding how these motorcycle only checkpoints would help to make highways safer for motorists and how will the success or failure of these new checkpoint be measured.

It seems that while the NHTSA may be on the right track in researching and correcting deficiencies in safety gear worn by motorcyclists, the troubling issue is the method in which these checkpoints may be implemented and infractions enforced. Proponents of highway safety have argued that more useful data on highway safety could be gathered using random safety checks that included all motorists, and we deployed in varying levels, from quick visual inspection, to more through inspections. The data from these checkpoint would then allow lawmakers to get a better perspective on the actual deficiencies from all motorists on the highways rather than snapshot of motorcycles only.

While law enforcement officials in New York defend the program as a safety measure to decrease motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities, there is no proof of its effectiveness. The practice has drawn the ire of motorcyclists both locally and nationally.

The AMA believes public funding would better serve motorcyclists by applying it to the national motorcycle crash causation study that is currently underway. The primary source of motorcycle safety is in motorcycle crash prevention and NHTSA should focus on decreasing the likelihood of crashes in the first place. This is a sentiment supported by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and many of his colleagues in Congress through recently introduced H. Res. 1498. To urge your Representative to support this resolution, click here. The methods used in New York State remain highly suspect and no public money should be applied to promoting such a program without addressing questions from the motorcycling community.

The program in question is the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstrations Grant (DTNH22-10-R-00386). Although the grant has been closed to new applicants as of Aug. 13, 2010, you can view the grant notice here.

Motorcycle safety is important to everyone on the roads, and by doing your part when ever you ride you show that you care about your life and the lives of others!

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