Two years ago while on a trip with friends riding down the Blue Ridge Parkway we were all stopped by police as we exited the parkway headed into Cherokee, NC. The Police where only stopping motorcyclists and as we later found out there was a big motorcycle event in the town of Cherokee. At the time it was annoying. As we talked later that night around the campfire we all felt that this treatment was a bit unreasonable as a way to check on the riders attending the event, which we were not. I didn’t think much more about it until I got home and looked up more information on Motorcycle-only Checkpoints. I was upset with what I found.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made available to state law enforcement a grant to be used to setup motorcycle-only checkpoints. Under its Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration grant program, the NHTSA awarded 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. This money was put into place in Florida, Georgia, North Caroline, and Virginia among others. The demonstration program was to be modeled after a controversial program 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.
In February 2011 the AMA urged riders nationwide to contact Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia to stop the Georgia State Patrol from conducting any motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints.The NHTSA gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints.
In May of 2011 the AMA expressed their concern to Gov. Bob McDonnell over a recent motorcycle-only checkpoint in northern Virginia during Rolling Thunder. Being a resident of Virginia I contacted my delegate and expressed my concern of the discriminatory use of these checkpoints.
On Feb. 28, 2012 Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law H.B. 187, which was introduced by Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). The new law, which takes effect July 1, prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing checkpoints where the only vehicles subject to inspection are motorcycles.I also revived a personal letter from my delegate in response to my concern for this issue. Similar laws have now been enacted in New Hampshire and North Carolina.
On the national level this is also being addressed:
On March 3 2011, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced bill H.R. 904 into Congress. The legislation, with original co-sponsors Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would prohibit the DOT “from providing grants or any funds to a state, county, town, or township, Indian tribe, municipal or other local government to be used for any program to check helmet usage or create checkpoints for a motorcycle driver or passenger.” This bill was wrapped into H.R 7, the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012.” H.R 7 was passed by the House on Feb 7th and has moved to the Senate.
if you have been subjected to a motorcycle-only checkpoint in your state I implore that you reach out and contact your local, state and federal elected officials and bring this issue to their attention. Go to http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/issueslegislation and select the Support federal legislation to prohibit the funding of discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints option on the page.