Skip Navigation LinksBlog
  • Distracted driving is getting a lot of attention in our state legislatures. But is it enough?

    When reviewing the 114 distracted-driving bills the American Motorcyclist Association is currently tracking across the country, we find the topics range from South Carolina’s proposal to make “driving while distracted” illegal, to something as specific as Connecticut’s proposed prohibition against driving with a pet in one’s lap. For the most part, however, distracted driving legislation focuses on the inappropriate use of technology, such as cellular phones and even products like the wearable Google Glass.

    These distractions are so commonplace that we hardly think about them anymore.

    We hear a “ding,” and we’ve got a text-message, and we want to respond to it. Or a special “ring” alerts us to an update on a friend’s Facebook page, so we have to check that. Is that Beyoncé singing? Time to answer a call from the BFF. Johnny Paycheck? You can let that call from the boss go to voicemail. It’s almost funny, isn’t it, how easily we can become distracted?

    But really, it’s not funny at all when we are operating a heavy, complicated motor vehicle in the midst of other road users who are tempted by the same distractions.

    On a daily basis, we face an onslaught of information coming to us from more and more sources. Even the cars themselves, with everything from complex entertainment systems to navigation screens to image enhancements meant to help the driver, can actually make the problem worse.

    According to the U.S. government’s webpage on distracted driving, 3,328 people were killed on U.S. roads due to distracted driving in 2012 alone. For comparison, through 2014, 3,528 combat deaths have been reported in Iraq since the war began.While the motorcycling community has been affected by distracted driving for as long as there have been bikes on the road, the need for a strong position statement against distracted driving was answered by the AMA in 2009. As states struggle with the dangers of these distractions on the roadways, the AMA continues to encourage and support legislation to reduce the number of distracted driving incidents and impose strong penalties against those individuals who choose to neglect their primary responsibility on the road. Support from AMA members and clubs at the local level is crucial to the ongoing success of these legislative efforts.

    You can find the AMA position on distracted driving and other bills in your state by visiting your state action center or under “Rights” at www.americanmotorcyclist.com.

    Full story

  • Data Privacy Sorely Lacking in the 21st Century

    When most retailers or websites want your personal information, they have to ask for it. And you get a chance to say, “No.” But there is at least one integral part of your everyday life where information can leak without your direct knowledge or consent.

    Today, many vehicles connect with other entities through navigation devices such as GPS, music services and apps on phones. In addition, most cars and trucks come equipped with event data recorders – commonly called black boxes.

    These black boxes collected crash data. However, there are few protections in place to keep your data from being collected and used by others.

    The legal and privacy protections have failed to match the pace of development and implementation of new technology. As a result, more personal information than you are aware of – or comfortable with – is being shared with corporations, the government and others.

    As part of a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, all new automobiles would be required to have an event data recorder (EDR). Yet, the privacy protections related to that data are ambiguous at best. Only 14 states recognize that the data collected by an EDR is the property of the owner and require a court order or consent of the owner for access.

    A bill was introduced in the Congress that attempted to resolve this issue, but it was not enacted.

    At the same time, though, assuming that one bill would protect the information of all motorists is delusional thinking. The Senate privacy bill would cover only information collected by an EDR, not information assembled from the myriad other computer systems found on cars and motorcycles.

    Motorcycling is about freedom. I don’t want to feel there is a spy glass on me when riding my favorite route in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Take the first precautionary steps before riding season starts. Check your owner’s manual and see if your motorcycle is equipped with an event data recorder or other technology that has the capacity to store information.

    If your bike has an EDR, please let the government relations department at the AMA know, so we can more effectively work to protect your privacy at the federal and state level. You can contact the government relations department.

    Full story

  • The AMA’s Role In Federal Wilderness Legislation is Critical

     The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires every national forest or grassland managed by the U.S. Forest Service to develop and maintain a land management plan. To do so, each forest or grassland turns to the current planning rule for direction.

    The 2012 planning rule was published in the Federal Register on April 9, 2012, which was the beginning of the nearly three-year process to develop the planning directives that became effective and available to the public on Jan. 30.

    One of the realities of the 2012 rules, as in those before them, is pages of exceptions to the simple language defining lands appropriate for Wilderness designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act. To this day, the AMA supports that act’s description of Wilderness: “…Where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain, undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence,” and “…generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

    In contrast, the newly effective 2012 rules go so far as “recognizing the potential need to provide for passive or active restoration of wilderness character in previously modified areas.”

    As frustrating as this agency’s political reality may be, areas that seem inappropriately designated as Wilderness may not come out of a Forest Service inventory at all. They may be pet projects of federal elected officials with personal agendas or involved in political gamesmanship, who may have no idea of the tradition and importance of OHV recreation in the area.

    Having the AMA government relations office in Washington, D.C., is critical to monitoring potential Wilderness designations. The depth of federal and forestry experience of the AMA staff provides an inside track to affecting the Wilderness designation process.

    Full story

  • AMA supports efforts to protect riders from unsafe fuel

    In an effort to prohibit the availability of E15, a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, the American Motorcyclist Association supports legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the RFS Reform Act of 2015.

    The bipartisan bill would:

    •    Amend the Renewable Fuel Standard to recognize market conditions and realities
    •    Eliminate the conventional biofuels mandate. This effectively prohibits the use of corn-based ethanol in the RFS.
    •    Cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent

    In other words, E15—a fuel blend that can damage motorcycle fuel systems and engines—will not be permitted if this legislation becomes law.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    By taking action you will help protect from inadvertent misfueling the 22 million motorcycle and all-terrain vehicles (and the riders who depend on their safe operation) currently in use on America’s roads and trails.

    Preventing these inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s top priorities due to the fact that motorcycles and ATVs are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel. In fact, often, simply using fuel with blends of ethanol over 10 percent can void a manufacturer’s warranty, potentially leaving motorcyclists with thousands of dollars in additional maintenance costs.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    Join the conversation with us by tweeting using #RFSBroken or share with your friends on Facebook.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Increasing number of distractions in new vehicles

    Although they are not yet here, automated, driverless cars are coming.

    However, looking at some of the new features manufacturers are researching, developing and testing for potential use in new cars, one would think that focusing on the road already is an obsolete concept.

    This development poses problems for motorcyclists, as each new feature represents another potential distraction for drivers.

    CityLab reports that car companies – in an effort to woo young drivers – increasingly are trying to integrate new and more technology into vehicles. For instance, Beetle is working to seamlessly integrate mobile phones into its new cars – even allowing drivers to take selfies while driving.

    We all know that distracted driving is a significant factor in many motorcycle crashes. While we don’t have updated data, the Hurt Report stated in 1981 that the most common cause of motorcycle crashes is another vehicle violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.

    The phrase, “I just didn’t see the motorcycle,” is still too common after a crash. Creating new distractions in vehicles can’t be helping the problem.

    Paradoxically, even some of the new features designed to make drivers more aware of the road can serve as distractions.

    The Massachusetts General Court is considering a bill that would allow cars to have monitors installed that would allow a front-seat passenger to have a television and allow screens that provide “the driver with navigation and related traffic, road, and weather information; images used to enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind or to the sides of the motor vehicle; or images that permit the driver to monitor vehicle occupants seated rearward of the driver.”

    Instead of creating new distractions, government agencies, car companies and individual drivers to work to reduce driver distraction. New technologies may not be the answer.

    It is incumbent upon motorcyclists to continue to advocate for sensible policies. The AMA will continue to work with state legislators, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and all other stakeholders to reduce distracted driving and increase the safety of all roadway users.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: AMA visits with state legislators at NCSL

    Last week, AMA staff attended the National Conference of State Legislators.

    While some legislators and staff avoided our booth, many were interested in hearing more about our legislative efforts to protect and promote motorcycling – the Indian Chief that Indian Motorcycles loaned us for the event didn’t hurt either.

    Nick Haris and I spoke with legislators from Maine to Washington and from Texas to Montana. Many of the legislators are riders themselves and, as a result, understand the needs of the motorcycling community.

    2014 has been for motorcycle-related legislation – and it isn’t over yet.

    So far this year, Louisiana passed legislation prohibiting motorcycle-only checkpoints. Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would limit the checkpoints in some way, though the legislation either has not yet passed or failed.

    Additionally, the AMA tracked more than 250 pieces of legislation related to distracted driving. Some of these bills, such as Wisconsin’s A 124, prohibit any driver from engaging in any activity that “reasonably appears to interfere with the person’s ability to drive the vehicle safely.”

    With distracted drivers contributing to many accidents, it is encouraging to see so many legislatures taking up bills to combat the problem.

    Equipment issues also proved to be popular this year. The AMA is tracking 49 bills relating to everything from air filters to handlebar height. Perhaps most importantly, Kansas passed H 2318, a bill that allows for modulating headlamps on motorcycles and certain auxiliary side lighting. Lighting issues will remain important as the riding community continues to look for ways to increase conspicuity.

    Unfortunately, many states limit auxiliary lighting.

    On the privacy front, many states introduced bills that would codify that data captured by an event data recorder belongs solely to the owner of the vehicle. Additionally, New Jersey introduced a bill, A 3527, which would prevent the state from sharing license-plate information with other states for purpose of issuing traffic violations based on evidence from traffic cameras. Missouri H 1368 attempted to ban the use of global positioning systems as a method of tracking the number of miles a vehicle travels.  

    With no long-term federal funding fix for the Highway Trust Fund, tolls became a more important issue in states this year. Currently, we are tracking 107 bills related to the collection of tolls. The AMA opposes tolls because they divert traffic off highways and onto smaller roads that were not designed to handle such large volumes. This makes the roads more dangerous, not only for motorcyclists, but for all motorists.

    While always a hot-button issue, helmet laws (both for and against) accounted for only 1.9% of the bills the AMA tracked.

    This is just a small sample of the over 2,200 motorcycle-related bills the AMA is tracking. If you have any questions regarding specific legislation please do not hesitate to contact the government relations department at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Enhanced enforcement and motorcycling

    It seems every day I read a news article detailing how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state-level departments of transportation, or local law enforcement agencies are conducting enhanced enforcement operations targeting motorcyclists.

    Often, the article will contain this phrase: “Extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas frequented by motorcyclists and where motorcycle crashes occur.”

    Whether on the racetrack, trail or highway, motorcycle safety is the top priority for the AMA.

    I applaud any and all efforts to reduce motorcycle crashes in an efficient and legal manner. However, I fear the drive behind many of these efforts is misguided.

    Yes, motorcycle crashes have gone up. But, it is too easy to look at the raw numbers and assume that motorcycling is getting more dangerous.

    For one thing, there are many more motorcycles on the road today. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of registered motorcycles has more than doubled.

    Perhaps most importantly, you can’t assume that motorcyclists themselves are the cause of all of the increase in crashes.

    According to the landmark 1981 Hurt report, “The most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision by violating the right-of-way of the motorcycle at an intersection, usually by turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle because the car driver did not see the motorcycle.”

    To use more recent data, in 2007, according to the NHTSA[1], 50 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved another type of motor vehicle. In 40 percent (939) of these fatal accidents, the other vehicle turned left across the motorcycle’s path while the rider was going straight or passing or overtaking the vehicle.

    I hope law enforcement agencies recognize this and tailor their enforcement strategies accordingly – enforcement should not target areas simply because they are “frequented” by motorcyclists.

    Instead, enforcement should target areas where motorcyclists are at greatest risk and motorcycle crashes occur. But even then, not all of the focus should be on the rider. It also should focus on the myriad factors that cause crashes, including distracted drivers, speeding (by both passenger motor vehicles and motorcycles) and driving under the influence.  

    We riders can do our part by ensuring that we can be seen. This will reduce the chance that another motorist will invade our right of way.

    Drivers paying attention to, and respecting, motorcyclists will not occur until enhanced enforcement aligns to counter the causes of crashes. That is why we must ensure enforcement and education campaigns are reaching their target audiences in an effective and legal manner.

    [1] http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810990.pdf

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Recreational Trails Program a potential casualty of highway negotiations

    On June 26, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) plan to generate $9 billion to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.

    The plan included changes to retirement plans and an increase in the annual fees levied against large trucks. As a result of these changes, the trust fund would have remained solvent until 2015.

    As I have detailed in a previous blog, finding a solution is important to on- and off-highway motorcycling.  

    Senate Republicans opposed Wyden’s proposal because – in their estimation – it did not provide a fair balance of spending cuts to tax increases.

    Late last week, the committee announced several changes to the original plan that has garnered some bipartisan support.

    However, amendments are still likely to be offered during the plan’s markup this week.

    One amendment that may potentially be offered would move spending authority for the Transportation Alternatives Program from the trust fund to the general fund. If this happens, funds for the Recreational Trails Program would have to be appropriated annually instead of having contract spending authority.

    The result would be a loss for motorized and non-motorized trail users. Relying on the appropriations process would introduce more uncertainty in year-to-year funding, with multi-stage trail projects facing additional hurdles. It would also put trail funding in direct competition with all other discretionary programs.

    There are only two ways to prevent the RTP’s user-pay/user-benefit status from being severed – keep the TAP within the highway trust fund, or move RTP out of TAP and create a separate program housed within the highway trust fund.

    The main argument for moving the TAP into the general fund is that the programs within TAP do not pay for themselves. However, this analysis does not take into account that the Recreational Trails Program – a program that IS funded through the gas tax – is included as part of the TAP account.

    When gassing up off-highway-vehicles, users are contributing an estimated $234 million annually to the trust fund and are apportioned only $85 million from the RTP.

    The American Motorcyclist Association urges members of Congress to consider the RTP when looking at programs to reshuffle during budget negotiations.

    The next markup in the Finance Committee is scheduled for this week. In the meantime, the AMA is working to spread the word on Capitol Hill about the RTP. At first glance it may not seem like a program ideally suited to the highway trust fund. However, because of its unique user-pay/user-benefit status, it deserves to have the contract spending authority of the fund.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Privacy – the next frontier in motorcycle rights

    Technology has progressed rapidly in the past 25 years. It is now possible for governments and private entities to capture more data on what once were private activities.

    While the federal government has attempted to address some of the resulting issues regarding intrusions into people’s personal space, public policy has had a difficult time keeping up with technology and safeguarding privacy.

    On June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H. AMDT. 815 to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. This amendment would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from using any federal funds to “acquire a camera for the purpose of collecting or storing vehicle license plate numbers.”

    According to Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) it “gives states and local governments a one-year pause on purchasing these cameras until Congress can deal with the issue more fully.”

    If implemented without the change, the THUD appropriations bill could have impacted motorcyclists by allowing public agencies – and the private contractors who actually collect the data – to continue to install cameras which, as Rep. Fleming said on the House floor, can “reconstruct intimate details of our lives, who we visit, where we worship, from whom we seek counseling, and how we might legally and legitimately protest the actions of our own government.”

    This information could be used by insurance companies to justify not paying a claim or charging higher premiums – or for denying coverage to veteran riders. Capturing license plate information and comparing time stamps could lead to speeding tickets being issued via mail.

    Historical riding information describing individual riding trends – potentially irrelevant to the case – could be used to portray a motorcyclist in a negative light in civil or criminal proceedings.

    Thankfully, the House version would, hopefully, give Congress time to find a solution.

    Traditionally, data privacy concerns have not been an issue for motorcyclists. Going forward, the riding community will have to be aware of privacy issues and actively work to ensure our privacy rights are protected.

    You may recall, earlier this year a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that did not grant motorcyclists the same ownership afforded to other motorists of data collected by event data recorders. Anyone could have accessed information on your bike.

    While the bill was amended to include motorcyclists in a markup of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the original wording demonstrates that riders are not often considered when drafting legislation that affects motorcyclists.

    This was not the case for H.R. 4745. Not only did motorcyclists win by securing passage of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) amendment to continue the ban on federal agencies lobbying state governments, all motorcyclists also gain additional privacy protections from Fleming’s amendment.

    Rest assured, the AMA will remain on the lookout for important legislation and regulations that may affect your right to ride.

    Full story

  • DC Insider: Running on empty – the Highway Trust Fund and motorcycling

    Passing a new highway bill is quickly becoming one of the last issues Congress must grapple with before the midterm elections in November.

    Yet, the bill is vitally important to all highway users, especially motorcyclists.

    Absent congressional action, by the end of July the Highway Trust Fund will have to slow reimbursements to states for highway projects.

    As a result, new surface transportation projects and maintenance may slow during the summer construction months, leaving motorists of all types with a system of poorly maintained roads.

    The drain on the trust fund already affects planners at the state and local levels, as they struggle to prioritize short-term maintenance and new long-term road projects amid budget uncertainties.

    Failure to pass a new long-term bill will mean more potholes and congestion.

    But, just as important, without legislation to reauthorize highway programs, many of the motorcycling community’s other concerns will go unaddressed.

    For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would continue to have authority to issue grants for controversial motorcycle-only checkpoints. As a result, these discriminatory and ineffective checkpoints could, make cross-country travel to events such as Americade a hassle for millions of riders over the summer.

    Then there’s the Recreational Trails Program. Without reauthorization, the RTP would lose its authority to issue grants to fund off-highway-vehicle projects and trails at the height of the riding season.

    Perhaps most importantly, motorcycle safety programs under 23 U.S.C. § 402 and § 405 no longer would be authorized.

    As a result, the government would no longer provide grants to states for motorcycle safety training or anti-distracted-driving campaigns. Both programs have proven extremely effective in making the roads safer for motorcyclists.

    The overall economy would be hit hard as well. It is estimated that failure to top off the trust fund would result in 700,000 lost jobs.

    The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a portion of the bill on May 15. However, the U.S. House of Representatives must still act. The House version of the bill is expected sometime in July.

    For updates on congressional actions please sign up to receive AMA alerts.

    Full story

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. Next page