The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has expressed concern to Gov. Bob McDonnell over a recent motorcycle-only checkpoint in northern Virginia, calling the stop “discriminatory.”
The Arlington County (Va.) Police Department conducted a motorcycle-only checkpoint on May 28 during the annual Rolling Thunder gathering in Washington, D.C. The Rolling Thunder event, held May 27-29, involved tens of thousands of motorcyclists riding to the nation’s capital to seek accountability for prisoners of war and service personnel missing in action.
In the letter, dated May 31, AMA Washington Representative Rick Podliska told McDonnell that motorcycle-only checkpoints are discriminatory and profile only motorcyclists.
“The AMA urges the Commonwealth of Virginia to suspend the use of motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions raised by the motorcycling community have been addressed,” Podliska wrote.
Those questions include: How do motorcycle-only checkpoints increase the safety of motorcyclists? Where do states draw their authority to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints? Is “probable cause” required to stop a motorcycle and, if so, what constitutes probable cause?
“The safety of motorcyclists is better served by efforts that minimize injuries and fatalities by preventing crashes in the first place,” Podliska wrote. “The most efficient way of doing so is not through sporadic, discriminatory roadside checkpoints, but by mitigating crash causation.”
Copies of the letter were also sent to Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott, Virginia House of Delegates Transportation Committee Chairman Joe May and Virginia Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Yvonne Miller.
The Virginia motorcycle-only roadside checkpoint is the latest in a series of the discriminatory checkpoints that have been conducted in Utah, New York state and Georgia. The AMA is strongly opposed to this practice.
In a victory for motorcyclists, lawmakers in New Hampshire recently approved, and the governor signed into law, a bill that prohibits law enforcement agencies or political subdivisions from accepting federal money for motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints and the state police did so as thousands of motorcyclists rode through the state on their way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week March 4-13.
The AMA opposes the federal motorcycle-only checkpoint grant program, and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and some of his colleagues have asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to suspend the program.
Sensenbrenner has also introduced H.R. 904, which would prohibit the U.S. transportation secretary from providing funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints.
“The NHTSA should focus on decreasing the likelihood of crashes from occurring in the first place,” Podliska said. “No public money should be applied to promoting such a program without first addressing questions from the motorcycling community.”
In addition to letters submitted to the past and present governors of Georgia, the AMA also sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program that gives states money for motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions have been addressed.