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A Victory For Motorcyclists and the US Constitution in Old Virginny

Three cheers for the legislators in Virginia who made sure their state was the latest to ban motorcycle-only checkpoints.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law H.B. 187, a bill introduced by delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) which takes effect July 1 and prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing checkpoints specifically set up to inspect motorcycles.

Riders were outraged when the Arlington County Police Department set up a motorcycle-only checkpoint during the Rolling Thunder ride on May 28, 2011, and immediately began pushing for this latest legislation.

Virginia now follows  in the footsteps of New Hampshire and North Carolina, two states which have already banned such checkpoints.

“Officials say they set up these motorcycle-only checkpoints to pull over motorcyclists to check for safety violations,” said AMA deputy director of government relations Rick Podliska. “But if officials are really concerned about motorcyclists’ safety, then they need to stop discriminating against us with these checkpoints and start supporting programs that prevent motorcycle crashes, such as rider safety training and driver awareness programs.”

For their side of the story, advocates of the checkpoints point to safety concerns.

A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that agency’s administrator, one David Strickland, is concerned about the increasing number of fatalities among motorcyclists.

“If the argument is, well, you can’t single us out by vehicle, we do,” said Lt. Jim Halvorsen of the New York State Police. “When we do seat-belt checkpoints, we waive motorcyclists through because they don’t have seat belts. Both helmets and seatbelts are required safety devices.”

According to Halvorsen, of the approximately 27,000 motorcyclists who passed through checkpoints in New York State last year, about 2,500 were detained for closer inspection. Among those detained, 380 were ticketed for wearing “illegal” helmets. Six riders were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, forty-nine  were ticketed for riding without the proper license class and a total of 1,665 tickets were issued.

Podliska said the AMA opposes motorcycle-only checkpoints and has been tracking – and battling against – such stops since they first appeared in New York several years ago. The AMA does lots of good work for anyone who rides with such initiatives as a Motorcycle Hall of Fame. The AMA honors the heroes and the heritage of motorcycling for future generations in a variety of ways and keeps on top of legislative events which affect riders, so check them out at AmericanMotorcyclist.com.