As riding season approaches, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, R-Endwell, and other sympathetic lawmakers are sponsoring an array of bills aimed at protecting bikers.
The group American Bikers Aimed Toward Education will be riding to the Capitol on May 15 for a “freedom rally” to promote the interests of motorcyclists across the state.
Some of the bills they are promoting would give bikers a choice about wearing helmets, better inform them about insurance coverage options, and prevent profiling by police.
Lupardo is sponsoring bill A.218 which would exempt those who are age 21 and over from being required to wear motorcycle helmets. Members of ABATE say some helmets can severely restrict peripheral vision and significantly reduce hearing. They also note that no helmet, regardless of cost or design, is capable of resisting impact stresses above 13 m.p.h., as federal Department of Transportation testing has shown, and, in lateral skids, helmets deteriorated at just 1 – 1/2 m.p.h.
The choice of when and where to wear the helmet would best be left up to the person operating the motorcycle, as is the case in the several other states, the group says. They point to the death of Dale Earnhardt who was killed by a basal skull fracture caused by extreme whiplash where his helmet was a significant contributing factor. There is no Senate version of this bill.
“When somebody survives a motorcycle accident it could be from any combination of riding equipment, gear, or protection, not just a helmet,” says “Prospector,” ABATE’s secretary. “We are not anti-helmet. We are for the right to choose.”
Another bill, A.481/S.4506, also sponsored by Lupardo, condemns the profiling of motorcyclists and requires that during basic law enforcement training, this issue is addressed. Specifically the bill would train officers to not stop a vehicle simply because that vehicle is a motorcycle, but rather for legitimate suspicion of criminal activity. The Senate version is sponsored by James Sanders, D-Queens.
Members of ABATE say police often unfairly focus on motorcyclists that belong to clubs or ride in packs and, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, will pull over a motorcyclist under a “made-up” probable cause to interrogate the rider and search the vehicle, trying to obtain information or take photos of the rider to add to their data banks.
A new bill also sponsored by Lupardo would require owners’ policies of liability to inform the insured that motor vehicle no-fault insurance does not apply to motorcycles. Furthermore the bill would require insurance companies to inform the insured that supplemental motorist coverage is available as an alter-native.
ABATE says that no-fault insurance is a safety net that protects all new York citizens from having disastrous financial losses following am motor vehicle accident. There is no Senate version of the bill.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele, I-Sag Harbor, and Senator Rich Funke, R-Rochester, are sponsoring a bill, A.6562/S.1670, that provides a minimum penalty of $300 for a moving violation that causes the serious injury or death of another person.
Other legislation ABATE supports includes a bill (S.2119) sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie, R-Watertown, that would establish a motorcycle safety awareness component as a requirement for driver licensing. Another (A.1146/S.2202), sponsored by Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, and Sena-tor Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, requires the five-hour pre-licencing course to include motorcycle awareness and safety components as well as two questions regarding those matters on the written driver’s license exam.
Although ABATE is supporting this bill by Gantt, they oppose two other bills he is sponsoring.
The first, A.1031, would require motorcycle riders to wear helmets that meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards and which have been impact tested. The second (A.998) would increase the fine from $100 to $700 for operating a motorcycle with a muffler that produces excessive or unusual noise.
Numerous complaints from the public have been about excessively loud noise from motorcycles, states in the justification written in the bill memo. Some motorcyclists modify the exhaust system of a motor-cycle to amplify the noise for safety reasons, so other motorists will be more alert.
Senator Catharine Young, R-Olean, is sponsoring bill S.530 that would prohibit the operation of a motorcycle with any child under the age of 6, unless the child is seated in a sidecar. ABATE, in opposition, says that a child’s size and ability to sit safely on a motorcycle should determine if they can ride.