NHTSA Sponsors Motorcycle-only Checkpoints

AMA seeks suspension of $350,000 grant

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Aug. 12, 2010
The American Motorcyclist Association has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to suspend a grant for a motorcycle-only checkpoint programs.

The NHTSA is offering a grant worth up to a total of $350,000 to law enforcement agencies for setting up traffic checkpoints that target only motorcycles. The grant, known as the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration grant program, will be open to up to five agencies, and will be used to study the effectiveness of such programs.

The program is based on a similar program conducted by New York State Police. In 2008, New York State troopers set up 15 checkpoints near motorcycling events, pulling aside motorcyclists to educate them on safety issues as well as issue traffic tickets for violations such as riding without a license, use of illegal helmets and use of illegal exhaust systems.

At the time, the AMA questioned the potentially discriminatory nature of the New York State Police program. The AMA is now asking the same questions to the NHTSA.

“How do motorcycle-only checkpoints increase the safety of motorcyclists?” asks Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations, in a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland on Aug. 9. “Where do the selected states draw their authority to conduct” motorcycle-only safety checks?

“Will ‘probable cause’ be required to stop a motorcycle under the terms of this grant program?” Moreland also asks. “If so, what will constitute probable cause?”

Documents outlining the NHTSA’s grant program cite several statistics regarding motorcycle safety. According to the NHTSA, motorcycles make up nearly 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S. yet account for 14% of traffic fatalities. The NHTSA also says 25% of riders in fatal crashes in 2008 were operating their motorcycles without a valid license, more than double the rate of drivers.

Moreland says if the NHTSA is concerned about the safety of motorcyclists, funding safety programs that prevent crashes would be better than motorcycle-only checkpoints.

“The primary source of motorcycle safety is in motorcycle crash prevention, and NHTSA should focus on decreasing the likelihood of crashes from occurring in the first place,” says Moreland.

The AMA is urging riders to contact Strickland asking to suspend the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration grant program.