NHTSA offers grant to fund motorcycle-only checkpoints

by Jeff on September 13, 2010

News from the AMA:

The 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.  To view AMA’s letter, click here.

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.

NHTSA is now seeking up to five other law enforcement agencies to participate in this practice and is offering $350,000 in federal funding.

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.

Specifically, how do motorcycle-only safety checkpoints (MOSCs) increase the safety of motorcyclists? Where do the selected states draw their authority to conduct MOSCs? Will “probable cause” be required to stop a motorcycle under the terms of this grant program? If so, what will constitute “probable cause?” What types of infractions were recorded by New York law enforcement officials at these checkpoints  ? And, what criteria will be used to determine if the MOSCs are successful?

The AMA urges all riders to contact Administrator Strickland and request the grant offer be suspended until these questions have been addressed. Follow the “Take Action” option to send a pre-written e-mail directly to Administrator Strickland demanding no federal dollars be used to expand programs that discriminate against motorcyclists.

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