VI. Mandated helmets
Threat: Renewed interest for a national mandatory helmet law can bring unintended consequences for riders.
Status: In the 1970s, the federal government linked the disbursement to states of federal highway funds with a mandate for helmet use. This strategy was later determined to be unconstitutional by the courts.
• States have since been allowed to determine whether or not helmets should be mandated.
• On March 25, 2010, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland suggested before a Congressional subcommittee that anything Congress could do to get riders to wear helmets was welcomed, including possible penalties. The AMA immediately sought clarification of Strickland's comments.
• The AMA opposes mandates but strongly encourages the voluntary use of personal protective equipment, including gloves, sturdy footwear and a properly fitted motorcycle helmet certified by its manufacturer to be DOT compliant.
• The AMA believes that programs that can prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, such as rider education, motorist awareness, proper licensing, and alcohol awareness should be the focus of legislators. Protective equipment mandates divert precious state resources from these programs to enforcement.
•The AMA does not oppose laws requiring helmets for minor (under age 18) motorcycle operators and passengers, believing that many young motorcyclists and/or their passengers may lack the maturity to make an informed decision regarding the use of motorcycle helmets.
• AMA position statement: amadirectlink.com/legisltn/positions/helmet.asp.
What riders can do: Seek clarification of Administrator Strickland's comments using nhtsa.gov/Contact. Also, contact U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them not support any efforts to mandate helmets.
VII. Distracted driving
Threat: Advances in mobile technology have made it easier than ever to become momentarily distracted by operating the controls of a cell phone, PDA, stereo system, a global positioning unit, or some other device. Motorcyclists are being injured and killed resulting from the distracted and/or inattentive driving behaviors of vehicle operators.
Status: Landmark research by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) revealed that nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.
• Most states do not have laws and penalties that discourage this behavior.
• AMA supports legislation that includes enhanced penalty options, as determined by the courts. Examples include: Enhanced fines, operator's license suspension, points assessed on the operator's driving record, community service, and/or imprisonment.
• The AMA supports the prominent placement of signage that notifies roadway users of specific sanctions for those convicted of moving violations while operating a motor vehicle in a distracted or inattentive manner.
What riders can do: Organize in support of state legislation for enhanced penalties for distracted and/or inattentive driving that results in injury or death to other roadway users.
VIII. High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access
Threat: Motorcyclists may be ticketed for riding in an HOV/carpool lane.
Status: The U.S. Code governing HOV lanes-Title 23, Section 166 (23USC166)-states that agencies that govern HOV lanes must allow motorcycles to use the lanes unless they prove motorcycles pose a safety hazard in the lanes, and that proof is accepted by the U.S. Transportation Secretary following a Federal Register notice and public comment period on the ban. Nevertheless, some jurisdictions have ignored the law and ticketed motorcyclists in HOV lanes.
• The most publicized incident involved Karen Perrine and New York City, see amadirectlink.com/news/2008/NYC.asp.
• Perrine's challenge was finally resolved in 2008, but the New York City Department of Transportation did not revise its traffic rules to specifically permit motorcycles in all HOV lanes until the spring of 2009.
• The AMA has also assisted riders in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania in overcoming improperly issued HOV lane citations.
What riders can do: Remain vigilant to violations of the law by enforcement authorities, and report such cases to the AMA when they occur.