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Coast to Coast Legislative Report from AIM and Bill Bish

For September Bill Covers, Reflective Vest, Club Issues, Federal Grants and Mo'

By Bill Bish with images courtesy of the Bob T. collection
9/21/2012


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THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit www.ON-A-BIKE.com.

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NCOM COAST TO COAST BIKER NEWS
Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)




FEDERAL HIGHWAY SAFETY GRANTS IN JEOPARDY
Despite a spike in traffic fatalities, states could lose as much as $120 million in highway safety grants if Congress doesn't change a planned bill to fund the government's operations for six months. Congress passed a new highway bill this year that streamlines the federal grant process that provides state funds for alcohol-impaired and distracted driving prevention, increased occupant protection, motorcycle safety, teen driving safety and data collection. Under the typical rules for a continuing resolution, new programs such as those authorized under the highway bill cannot be funded.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that its estimate of all traffic deaths for the first quarter of 2012 show a 13.5% increase to the highest number since 2008. The substantial increase is the second-largest quarterly jump in traffic deaths since NHTSA began tracking deaths on a quarterly basis in 1975 -- and the biggest since 1979.

NHTSA reported the rate of traffic deaths per 100 million miles of vehicle travel increased significantly to 1.1 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled during the first three months, up from 0.98 in the same period last year, with 7,630 fatalities compared to 6,720 in the first quarter of 2011. The increase would end a steady decline in U.S. road deaths over the last seven years, falling last year to their lowest number since 1949.

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HEAD OF MOTORCYCLE CRASH STUDY RESIGNS OVER CONCERNS
Dr. Samir Ahmed, the Oklahoma State University researcher who has been heading up the latest motorcycle crash causation study, announced that he was leaving the program in a Sept. 11 e-mail stating; "I am writing to let you know that I am no longer working on the motorcycle crash causation study. I have serious reservations about the value of study with the existing FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) involvement. My expectations of the study are very low."

Dr. Samir did not offer any further explanation as to the reservations he has regarding the FHWA involvement. The study was originally planned to examine 900 crashes but due to funding difficulties that was cut back to approximately 300, though the Case Counter on the FHWA website currently reads 100.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) had raised commitments from its members to provide $3 million to the study but decided not to make the money available for a study with fewer than the 900. It was decided then that the study would use only one location instead of the three that had been envisioned, and the reduced study got underway last year.

In the meantime, the MSF has announced the conclusion of an unprecedented year-long Motorcycle Naturalistic Study in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute designed to track comprehensive, real-time routine riding that likely included near crash, pre-crash, and actual crash data that had heretofore been unavailable. The study is yielding preliminary results that will be released at a later date.



HELLS ANGELS SUE FEDS OVER BAN ON MEMBERS ENTERING THE U.S.
NCOM Brothers Behind Bars Newsletter editor Mike Davis SOS MC Retired recently reported that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is going to court to protest a U.S. government policy barring the club’s foreign members from visiting the United States and is also fighting its federal designation as a “known criminal organization.”

In a complaint filed in federal court in Washington, DC the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation names Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Alejandro Mayorkas who is the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and claims its designation as a "known criminal organization" by the departments of Homeland Security and State violates immigration law and the group's constitutional rights by systematically denying entry to its members in 26 countries on six continents.

HAMC v. Napolitano et al. (1:12-cv-1357) disputes the Obama administration’s foreign policy that declares “the Hells Angels, the Outlaws, Bandidos, and the Mongols” to be organized crime groups and is seeking an injunction allowing foreign members to be granted visas to travel to the U.S. In its lawsuit, the group claims the government routinely denies visas "to all aliens based solely on their membership in a Hells Angels charter without further analysis into whether or not that individual seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in unlawful activity."

Lawyers for the club describe its membership as composed of loosely associated charters, "made up of motorcycle enthusiasts who have joined to ride motorcycles together, organize social events, fundraisers, parties and motorcycle rallies" and the group says any crimes committed by its members have been done as individual acts, and are not representative of the club as a whole.



DEPUTY SUSPENDED FOR SEIZING BIKER’S CAMERA
The Dallas County Sheriff's office issued a 30-day suspension without pay to a deputy after footage showed him seizing a helmet-mounted camera from a motorcyclist as potential evidence of alleged crimes committed by other unidentified riders.

A video viewed nearly 500,000 times on YouTube shows the Texas deputy on camera issuing this comment to the biker: "The reason you're being pulled over is because I'm gonna take your camera and we're gonna use it as evidence of in the crimes that have been committed by other bikers."

Our legal experts at AIM/NCOM (Aid to Injured Motorcyclists/National Coalition of Motorcyclists) agree that the officer’s rationale does not constitute probable cause to make a traffic stop and does not justify seizing the camera, nor is it illegal to wear a camera on a helmet.

The sheriff’s deputy eventually arrested the motorcycle rider and according to the Examiner newspaper he then tried to slam the door of the patrol car on the biker’s leg before hauling him off to jail. The biker was finally released and issued a ticket for only an obstructed license plate.

The officer was also disciplined for leaving a drunk driver at the jail without booking him before going out on the call relating to motorcyclists riding on I-35.



LONE STAR COURT RULES ON CELLPHONE SEARCHES
Suds, Texas Commander of the U.S. Defenders/COIR Division, issued the following notice re: Texas Court of Appeals Opinion on Cellphone Searches --

Our AIM/NCOM Attorney Bill Smith shared an important decision made by the Texas Court of Appeals about evidence retrieved from a cellphone without a search warrant.

The Court rules in favor of the people. The opinion cited a case where an individual was arrested on one charge, and based on hearsay, an investigating detective went to the property room of the jail and retrieved the individual’s cellphone and scrolled through the photos he had stored on it. Originally arrested for disorderly conduct, the defendant now had to face an indictment of improper photography or visual recording.

Prosecutors argued that a jailed individual had no rights to expectation of privacy. The Texas Court of Appeals disagreed and stated that while an inmate has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his cell, his/her stored property does fall under reasonable expectation of privacy. It is not as though the officer saw the pictures scrolling on the display screen, rather the phone had to be turned on and the photos accessed and scrolled through. While this may not stop a rogue officer from scrolling through your cellphone, anything found will not be admissible in court without a search warrant first.



SPEED CAMERAS COULD BE ANYWHERE
As drivers become more savvy about spotting speed cameras along roads and highways, police are making it tougher by disguising their revenue-generating equipment. Authorities in and around Washington D.C. are expanding their speed camera programs, reports the Washington Examiner, and now they're purchasing cameras that look like mailboxes and trash containers to unsuspecting motorists. They're also more mobile, so police can reposition them so drivers cannot get used to seeing them in one particular area.

Nearby Prince George's County in Maryland purchased nearly 60 mobile cameras last year, and expects to generate $28 million in annual revenue, reports the news outlet. A similar speed-camera program in D.C. generated $55 million in fiscal year 2011.

Meanwhile, the traffic-camera debate has ignited state and local governments across the country: some embrace camera-based technology as a cost-efficient law-enforcement and safety tool; others cast it off as an overly intrusive money grab.

In all, 13 states utilize speed-reading cameras, while 12 states have passed laws banning them. Twenty-four states are currently operating at least one red-light camera within their borders, while another nine prohibit their use. Despite the conflicting laws, overall use of cameras has gone up rapidly in recent years: red-light cameras were in 25 communities in 2000, compared with more than 500 today. Speed cameras went from 20 jurisdictions in 2005 to 113 today.



NEW BIKE INSURANCE SUSPENDED OVER LAW AND ORDER CONCERNS
Insurance companies have stopped offering insurance policies to purchasers of new motorcycles in Karachi, Pakistan due to increase in snatching and theft incidents of two wheelers in the city.

Law enforcement agencies, facing targeted killings and a skyrocketing crime rate, are apparently not interested in curbing such criminal activity, leaving poverty-stricken citizens at the mercy of thieves who are snatching dozens of motorcycles daily.

Motorcyclists who recently purchased brand-new bikes are being fleeced by illegal insurance agents to get their bikes insured, as all listed insurance companies in the city have suspended bike insurance policies due to the prevailing law and order situation.

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AUSTRALIA MAY REQUIRE RIDERS TO WEAR FLORESCENT CLOTHING
Australia's 1.3 million motorcycle riders would be forced by law to wear florescent jackets under proposals splitting the biker and scooter community. A national battle over the possibility of compulsory hi-visibility clothing began when the luminescent idea was pushed by Senior Sergeant Bill Gore of the Wangaratta Highway Patrol as part of a safety bid to reduce motorcycle accidents.

A Victorian Government road safety inquiry will consider the hi-viz option and, if adopted, other states could be expected to follow suit.

Damien Codognotto, Melbourne-based spokesman for the Independent Riders' Group, is fighting mandatory day-glo because it could affect the liability of a bike or scooter rider after an accident. "Gore's law is likely to change the legal standing of motorcycle and scooter riders and their liability after a crash regardless of who was at fault," he told news.com.au.

"Compulsory third party insurers are looking to reduce payouts for victims of road trauma who were on two wheels (who are) seen as easy targets for reduced compensation,” explained Codognotto. “That is not only unjust considering the premiums and taxes we pay, it is disastrous for riders' families." He said there had not been much research into the issue and the collection of crash-site data had been patchy.



LAWSUITS FILED OVER BAD GAS
Two Indiana residents have filed separate class-action lawsuits against BP after they were told it would cost thousands of dollars to fix their vehicles, which were damaged by a bad batch of gasoline from the company’s Whiting refinery.

BP has issued a recall for about 2.1 million gallons of off-specification gasoline that was shipped to stations in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin in early August. The company has reported that more than 7,000 people have already reported problems to BP.

Lake County resident Mark Gonzalez says in his suit, filed in the federal court in Hammond, IN that he filled up both his 2002 GMC Yukon and his 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle with the bad gasoline, leading to repairs costing more than $1,000.

The attorney representing one complainant said they decided to file for class-action status, which must still be granted by a federal judge, because so many people like his client have been hurt by the bad gasoline but would likely spend more on legal fees than any money they would receive from BP.

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QUOTABLE QUOTE: "There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
~ Denis Waitley (born 1933), American author and motivational speaker

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