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  • Highway Bill or No Highway Bill

    MAP-21, the acronym for our nation’s current surface transportation bill, is scheduled to expire at the end of May. Since Congress has yet to determine how the next highway bill will be funded, it is more than likely that MAP-21 will be extended for a short period of time. This will allow Congress time to determine the length and funding sources for the next transportation bill.

    In the meantime, the administration released its preferred version of the highway bill—the Grow America Act 2.0. It is basically the same bill the administration introduced in 2014.

    It includes some items the American Motorcyclist Association strongly supports, such as the Recreational Trails Program. The RTP was created on a bipartisan basis in 1991 to provide funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail users.

    However, the administration’s proposed bill does not include language to prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints. These checkpoints are discriminatory and the funds being used to operate them should be used to implement proven strategies that help prevent a crash from occurring in the first place, such as rider education and motorist awareness programs.

    It also includes language to allow the federal government to “…engage in activities with States and State legislators…” to change state laws. The AMA opposes this language because we do not believe the federal government should use federal taxpayer dollars and politically charged studies to influence the creation of state laws. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services in a letter to the AMA, “We used a wide body of research from various organizations to identify/define evidence-based interventions. We include studies conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the World Health Organization [Part of the United Nations], and other organizations.”

    Of course Congress will soon have their versions of the next highway bill too. To ensure motorcyclists’ rights are protected, the AMA has been very active on Capitol Hill monitoring proposed legislation and regulations. In the past three weeks, the AMA has met with more than two dozen congressional offices to make sure your voices are heard. Be assured, the AMA is working diligently to make sure Congress includes the interests of motorcyclists in the next highway bill.

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  • All Motorcyclists Feel the Impact of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

    We hear feedback from members all the time. Feedback helps us do a better job of serving the AMA mission and we welcome it.

    One of the many issues you have sounded off on is the AMA’s interest in motorcycle-only checkpoints. “What are motorcycle-only checkpoints?” you ask. “I have never experienced them. What is the big fuss?”

    This is what AMA member Brian LeSchander thought until he encountered one in New York.

    “I was directed by a trooper to pull off the main road into a dead end road that was less than 50 yards long with at least a dozen bikes parked in every direction. The area was covered with rocks , stones and debris. I have a 850-pound motorcycle with a passenger aboard and would not choose this as a stop point if I wasn’t directed to. I was ordered to shut down and get off the bike, produce my license, registration and insurance ID card. The officer held my documents and said he would return them to me after we do a lights, horn and tire check, in case he had to write me a citation. I have a current NYS inspection sticker on this bike, and that apparently wasn’t sufficient. My paperwork was also in order. He still insisted that we proceed with the check. He did the check and with a smile handed me my paper work back and released me.”

    It is true that, currently, only a few states implement these checkpoints. And with your help, we have pushed back to prohibit them from appearing in many areas.

    However, New York state still routinely targets motorcyclists with motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    New York budgeted $490,000 in the past two years alone for these discriminatory stops. Even more troubling, the state used motorcycle safety funds from Section 402 of Title 23. These funds should promote programs like rider education to prevent motorcycle crashes from occurring and not be used to arbitrarily pull over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections.

    We know New York spends much more. It states in its highway safety plans that it has conducted motorcycle-only checkpoints “officially” since fiscal year 2009, but conveniently fails to mention its costs for fiscal years 2009-11.

    I hear you still saying, “But that is New York, I don’t live there”

    The problem is, the funds New York uses to operate motorcycle-only checkpoints are federal dollars. Federal dollars that your state can use in the same way. When we pay our taxes, we should not have to worry the funds will be used to target us with discriminatory checkpoints.

    Still not moved to act to end motorcycle-only checkpoints?

    There is a report soon to be published from an international organization with a long name and broad influence on motorcycle safety: the Joint Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Transport Forum. Buried in the initial report is a section on use of law enforcement. According to the draft report, “A mix of traditional visible enforcement (with on-the-spot roadside checks by police) and automated enforcement for offences such as speeding or red light has the biggest deterrence effect” (emphasis added).

    Now, not only are we fighting how our federal dollars are spent, but also an international body that supports the use of checkpoints.

    Fed up? You can do something about it.

    The AMA supports S. 127, federal legislation that would prohibit federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Doing so would severely impact the implementation of these discriminatory checkpoints nationwide. In addition to S. 127, we are pushing for support of H.R. 1861, a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives..

    Act today by letting your federal lawmakers know that you oppose motorcycle-only checkpoints and support this legislation.

    You — the motorcyclist — can count on the AMA to guard your freedoms while you enjoy the ride.


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  • Safety and Trail Fund Raids

    Whether through a registration fee, a special use permit or an OHV sticker purchase, motorcyclists often pay directly for the services they use.

    The motorcycling community does not expect a free lunch and lawmakers tend to respect that fact. We want rider training, increased motorist awareness and accessible trails, and we are willing to chip in to make those needs a reality — even agreeing to additional fees for special accounts intended to enhance the experiences of motorcyclists. But we also demand accountability.

    Unfortunately, many legislators view these accounts as a means to balance or certify a budget or provide a funding boost for a pet project unrelated to motorcycling.

    This year, riders in Texas took notice that motorcycle deaths are rising in their state while dropping across the country, all while the state sits on nearly $16.5 million in unspent motorcycle safety funds. Each year, the funds in the account — accumulated through a $5 surcharge on motorcycle license fees — were held so Texas could certify that its biennial budget balanced.

    As a result, state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) introduced S.B. 754, a bill that would increase the revenue dedicated to motorcycle education and push other legislators to end the practice of using motorcycle training funds to hide budgetary shortfalls.

    New Mexico faces a different fight.

    Registrations for off-highway vehicles in New Mexico are $50 per owner, collected biennially. The New Mexico Off-Highway and Motor Vehicle Act of 2005 specifically earmarks this money for OHV programs.

    However, buried within the 200-page appropriations act is a transfer of $500,000 to the conservation services program of the New Mexico State Park system. As the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance states, “This is especially ironic (and wrong) because by current law, OHVs are not even allowed in any state park!”

    In both of these situations, riders are paying into funds that are not being deployed correctly, if at all. This is unfair and should be immediately rectified.

    Lawmakers can’t fix what they don’t know about. That’s why you need to make sure you are communicating with your elected officials. Haven’t advocated for motorcyclists’ rights before? Read the AMA’s recently updated “How To Communicate With Government” for tips on getting started.

    Are the funds in your state being spent for their intended purpose? If you suspect they are not, please contact the AMA Government Relations Department at

    If you live in Texas or New Mexico and would like to take action on either of these important issues, please view the AMA Action Alerts for each state, fill out the form at the bottom of the page and click the red “Submit” button.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.


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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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