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Posts Tagged ‘Oregon Helmet Laws’

Random-CheckpointIn Oregon non-DOT motorcycle helmets are ALLOWED by definition under ORS 801.366.  See page #59 (HERE).

Independent of your views on the usage of these helmets, many riders would agree that motorcycle-ONLY safety checkpoints are inappropriate.  Yet in spite of the activism and involvement from the motorcycle community to stop or prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-ONLY checkpoints the progress hasn’t always been favorable.

Case in point is the Court of Appeals for the New York Second Circuit which backed roadblocks for the purpose of issuing motorcycle citations.

The back story is that in 2007, the New York State Police began using federal taxpayer grant money to target these motorcyclists with the stated objective “to detect motorcycle safety violations and ensure proper registration and operator compliance with New York State’s motorcycle license requirements.  The first roadblock was set up on October 7, 2007 to hit participants returning from a motorcycle rally nearby in Connecticut. Signs were posted on Interstate 84 ordering motorcycle riders to “exit ahead” while a uniformed police officer directed traffic into a rest area. From there, a total of 280 motorcyclists were detained and forced to undergo “full-blown inspections” that generated 104 traffic tickets. The most common citation was for improper helmet.

In 2008, a total of 17 roadblocks were held, detaining 2278 motorcyclists who were issued 600 tickets for infractions that had nothing to do with safety. Another 365 citations were issued for use of an unapproved helmet. Several detained bikers sued the state police after they were detained 45 minutes or more.

In U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe rejected the motorcyclists’ argument that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to this case.  To get around the constitutional need for individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before a seizure, courts have created a “special needs” doctrine that allows roadblock programs serving a particular government need.

In this situation, the state produced statistics that showed motorcycle fatalities dropped 17 percent in the same year that motorcycle helmet ticketing increased 2175 percent, and Judge Sharpe agreed this was proof that the roadblock’s primary purpose was safety. The courts then must balance whether the government need to enhance safety is greater than the interference with individual liberty.

The appellate judges agreed with the lower court’s analysis that it was:  “Applying this balancing test, we conclude that the well catalogued public interest in highway safety is well served by the safety checkpoint program and outweighs the interference with individual liberty in this case,” the second circuit ruled in a brief, summary opinion. “Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that there was no constitutional violation.” A copy of the summary order of November 29, 2012 is at: Wagner v. Sprague (US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 11/29/2012).

I choose to wear a DOT approved helmet, but I dislike discriminatory checkpoints.  Have you been to the Laughlin River Run lately and rode out to Oatman, Arizona on the Oatman-Topock Highway?  How about return to the hotel from a concert at the Buffalo Chip during Sturgis week?  Random LEO check points are the norm.  Officers invade your personal space to check for alcohol.

Could Oregon be next to implement similar “safety” initiatives?  Hopefully not, but you might recall that at an ABATE rally in Olympia, WA a few years ago it become a photo op for “profiling” riders and law enforcement writing down license plate information (video HERE).  In 2011, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5242  which outlaws profiling of motorcyclists and earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law California Bill AB 1047 which outlaws motorcycle only checkpoints.

If motorcycle only checkpoints raise your blood pressure then write or ride to the Oregon capitol in February and talk to your state legislators.  Explain to them that there is no reason why anybody in any state should be profiling any particular group including motorcyclists and you want them to stop it.

Photo courtesy Doug Chanco.  The 2012 Biker Rally at the Capitol HERE.

UPDATE:  Added the link to Oregon helmet law history HERE.

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Stop "Nanny" Bills

We’ve been told a number of times that Oregon legislators know what’s best for us.  They seem to have a motto of just ‘trust us,’ now go out there and have some crazy fun.  But govern that fun because there are a lot of well intentioned legislative bills that treat citizens like children incapable of making a good decision — called “nanny” bills — which in my view try to mandate common sense and are simply telling people how to live their life.

For 2011, they don’t want you to smoke.  Anything anywhere.  Don’t even think about driving with a pet in your lap or riding a bike with headphones.  And when your windshield wipers are on (happens a lot in the northwest) they want it mandatory to use your headlights too.  Yeah, legislators want to lower the boom on all these so-called questionable habits and are as busy as ever protecting us from ourselves.  In fact, 2,837 measures have been introduced since January.  Some read like duplicates and some contradict other bills.  Yep, it’s “March Madness” from Salem!

One of the more prolific sponsors is Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D) who after reading a bike safety study by OHSU decided to authored a bill that would make it illegal to carry a child under the age of 6 years old in a bike trailer (HB 2228).  I’m curious if he collaborated with Eugene-based Burley Design, who have employees engaged in the making of trailers for more than 30 years and if they see this as a job killer?   Not even slightly distracted about jobs, Mr. Greenlick also wants to require a prescription to smoke cigars or cigarettes and wants to add a special tax on soda to discourage its consumption (HB 3223).

The Legislative Counsel’s office says it costs $980, on average to draft and circulate a bill.  That suggests there is a $2.7M cost for the drafting and routing of the 2,837 measures for 2011!  While we can debate the actual costs and if a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) is less cost, what isn’t debatable is the loss of productivity of the people put there to serve us and the wasting of the states time and money on non-sense bills versus working to grow the economy and create jobs.  Some examples of those all-important issues (and there are many, believe me) that legislators think face our state:

  1. HCR 14 – adopts Code of West as model of conduct in State of Oregon.
  2. SCR 3 – designates Border collie as official state dog.
  3. HB 2010 – requires public schools to offer students instruction in Mandarin Chinese if school offers student instruction in two or more second languages.
  4. SB 160 – creates offense of driver operation with obstructing animal (makes it illegal to drive with a pet on your lap).
  5. SB 805 creates offense of unlawfully confining egg-laying hen.

So, by now you’re asking how does this relate to motorcycles and/or transportation measures?  I didn’t read all 2,837 measures, but I quickly scanned them and below are the measures motorcyclists might be interested in keeping an eye on:

SB 948 Declares that data used to diagnose, maintain or repair motor vehicles that is created, collected or contained in motor vehicle is exclusively owned by motor vehicle owner.
SB 945 Prohibits manufacturers from selling or offering for sale, and other specified persons from knowingly selling or offering for sale, brake friction material or motor vehicles or trailers with brake friction material containing specific amounts of certain fibers or elements that are hazardous when released into state waterways.
HB 3579 Prohibits advertising that seller will value property being offered as payment toward purchase or lease of motor vehicle at certain amounts.
SJR 36 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to allow revenue from taxes on motor vehicle fuel and ownership, operation or use of motor vehicles to be used by state police for policing highways.
SB 873 Requires persons 75 years of age or older to renew driver licenses every two years and to take driving test prior to renewal.
SB 845 Requires Department of Transportation to issue driver license or driver permit to applicant who has complied with all requirements for license or permit but does not provide proof of legal presence in United States.
SB 846 Directs Department of Transportation to adopt standards for bicycle trailers designed for human passengers.
HB 3504 Authorizes civil forfeiture of motor vehicle if person is convicted of offense relating to driving while suspended or revoked.
HB 3377 Authorizes photo radar in City of Salem.
HB 3513 Creates Ignition Interlock Device Program Fund and continuously appropriates moneys in fund to Department of Transportation to pay for installation and maintenance of ignition interlock devices for use by persons who are indigent.
HB 3483 Requires use of headlights when windshield wipers are on.
SB 767 Creates offense of unlawfully idling motor vehicle engine.
HB 3259 Directs Department of Transportation to provide photograph on driver license, driver permit or identification card to licensed private investigator.
HB 3250 Directs Department of Transportation to issue Keep Kids Safe registration plates.
SB 647 Increases penalty for driving while suspended or revoked.
HB 3149 Establishes standards for personal vehicle sharing programs.
HB 3141 Requires only persons under 21 years of age to wear motorcycle helmet while riding on or operating motorcycle. I blogged on this previously HERE.
HB 3072 Requires use of headlights at all times.
HB 3039 Directs Department of Transportation to erect and maintain roadside memorial sign under certain circumstances for police officer killed in line of duty.
HB 2738 Directs Department of Transportation to consult with Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute when designing Gray Whale registration plate.
HB 2768 Adds driving while fatigued to offense of reckless driving.
HB 2749 Creates offense of driving while drowsy.
HB 2545 Establishes tax on motor vehicle rentals.
HB 2333 Prohibits use of studded tires.
HB 2507 Permits person to use mobile communication device while operating motor vehicle in frontier counties.
HB 2042 Permits person to provide Department of Transportation with odometer disclosure form for vehicle 10 years old or older.
SB 160 Creates offense of driver operation with obstructing animal.
SB 180 Prohibits Department of Transportation from administering examination for driver license in language other than English.

And sticking with that ‘cowboy’ code theme and applying it to the 2011 legislature… I’m thinking “big mouth, no cows” might be more appropriate.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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Rep. Andy Olson (R)

Republican Rep. Andy Olson, a 29-year OSP veteran turned Albany lawmaker has a fatal flaw.  He wants to be liked by motorcyclists.

It all started when he sponsored House Bill 3141 which allows Oregon motorcycle riders and passengers to ride without helmets if they’re 21 or older.  The bill would amend the state motorcycle helmet law to say that only persons under 21 years of age are required to wear one.  I’ve written previously HERE about helmet laws in Oregon.

But, what are the odds of newly re-elected Governor John Kitzhaber (D) approving a “threat to the health and safety of Oregonians” … that’s like Dick Cheney caring what the public thinks or like Sarah Palin suddenly saying Obama’s great or like Paul Krugman saying trickle-down economics work.  A Leopard can’t change its spots and if anyone remotely believes that Doctor/Gov. Kitzhaber would allow it to become law, then they are ignoring history, evidence and logic!  Gov. Kitzhaber had an opportunity to approve a similar bill (HB 2454) back in August 1997, but he vetoed it on the very last day before it would have become law.

With all due respect to Mr. Olson, this anti-helmet campaign is dumb given the Governors clear stance on the topic and because there are a lot of other campaigns more important (government intrusion on attire, noise, superbike legislation etc.) to riders, but Mr. Olson is committed and said the change would allow riders to hear better and see more.  Huh?  That’s the logic to influence the Governor?!   Mr. Olson expects the measure to go to the House transportation panel and come up for a hearing in a week or so.  Hey, Mr. Olson I have an idea… how about stop wasting tax dollars and work on how to generate jobs.  You’d have a better chance of building a helmet factory in Oregon!

Looking for some balanced reporting on the helmet choice discussion?  Here is some information that might cause a moment of pause…

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that helmets reduce crash-related head injuries, the leading cause of death among riders wearing no helmets. And, a recent study published online in the Journal of American College of Surgeons shows that riders who wore helmets were 22% less likely than non-helmeted riders to sustain a cervical spine injury after a motorcycle collision.  I’m not a doctor, but basically they debunked a popular myth that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can be detrimental during a motorcycle crash.  They dispelled the hypothesis that helmet weight causes significant torque on the neck during motorcycle crashes which could contribute to spinal injuries.

Photo courtesy of Andy Olson’s Facebook page.

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