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Congress members urge U.S. transportation secretary to suspend funding for motorcycle-only law enforcement checkpoints

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Federal lawmakers have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to suspend a grant program that provides money for law enforcement agencies to set up motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

In a letter dated Sept. 30, House members told LaHood that safety-related funds would be better spent in other areas to improve motorcycling safety. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) drafted the letter and then circulated it to his congressional colleagues for signatures before sending it to LaHood.

Besides Sensenbrenner, those who signed the letter are Reps. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

To read the letter, click here: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/legisltn/documents/SensenbrennerLetter.pdf

Sensenbrenner and the other lawmakers want LaHood to suspend the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstrations Grant program run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is an agency of the federal Transportation Department. Under the grant program, NHTSA plans to award up to $350,000 in total — to be divided among as many as five law enforcement agencies — to set up traffic checkpoints that target motorcyclists.

The demonstration program is modeled after a controversial program conducted in New York where the state police set up a series of checkpoints that targeted only motorcyclists, raising the ire of the AMA and motorcycling community. In 2008, for example, New York State Police announced plans to set up 15 checkpoints near motorcycling events that summer.

“Crash prevention must be the primary source of safety,” the lawmakers told LaHood in the letter. “With that being said, why does NHTSA continue to focus on secondary factors that do not prevent motorcycle crashes?”

The AMA fully supports the congressional letter to LaHood. The AMA earlier formally questioned the potential discriminatory and legal nature of the grant program. On Aug. 9, the AMA sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program until questions have been addressed. To read the letter, click here: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/legisltn/documents/Strickland_Law_Enforcement_Grant_8-9-2010.pdf.

While law enforcement officials may defend the program as a safety measure to decrease motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities, there is no proof that it’s effective, said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations. In fact, the practice has upset motorcyclists nationwide.

“The AMA believes that the best way for NHTSA to reduce motorcycle crashes is to employ proven strategies, such as rider education and motorcycle awareness programs, that decrease the likelihood of crashes from ever occurring,” Moreland said. “These strategies must be research-based, and motorcyclists would be much better served by applying the funding to the national motorcycle crash causation study that is currently underway at Oklahoma State University.”

This sentiment is supported by Sensenbrenner and many of his colleagues in Congress through the recently introduced H. Res. 1498: Supporting Efforts to Retain the Ban on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Ability to Lobby State Legislators Using Federal Tax Dollars and Urging the NHTSA to Focus on Crash Prevention and Rider Education and Training.

To urge your representative to support H. Res. 1498 go to AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation, then enter your zip code in the “Find your Officials” box.