Riverside County, California officials again consider drastic restrictions on off-road riding.
    After more than a year of effort by the American Motorcyclist Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, and Off-Road Business Association, off-highway motorcyclists (including former AMA Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath), and other motorcycling organizations, it appeared that a compromise had been reached with officials in Riverside County, California. However, at its most recent meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors raised the possibility of new and even more drastic restrictions on off-highway riding, including the possibility of a complete ban on off-highway riding in "residential areas" and onerous permit fees for those who want to ride on their own land.
    The Board of Supervisors' actions surprised and dismayed AMA officials and other motorcyclists who have worked diligently with the Riverside County Planning Commission to reach a compromise.
    Instead of accepting the Planning Commission compromise proposal, the Board of Supervisors discussed other options at its latest meeting, including a ban on riding in residential areas and expensive permits. Then the Board postponed voting on the issue for another two months. As a result, a controversy that most motorcyclists thought was nearing an end is now up for debate again.

    The Virginia Governor's Motorcycle Advisory Council, which was named by Gov. Mark R. Warner, includes 11 AMA members. The 31-person panel, comprised of state and local officials, state agency representatives, and motorcycle enthusiasts, will promote motorcycle safety, tourism, and business development. Creation of the council is the latest step in Governor Warner's "MotorcycleVirginia!" initiative.
    Those named to the Virginia Governor's Motorcycle Advisory Council include representatives of the AMA Community Councils, AMA Chartered Clubs, and state motorcyclists rights advocates as well as representatives of many state agencies.
    Since its launch in 2004, "MotorcycleVirginia!" has produced more than 50,000 "Watch for Motorcycles" bumper stickers and created a website featuring Virginia's motorcycle routes, safety guidelines, and motorcycle resource links. For more information, visit www.motorcycleva.com.

    Washington’s Senate Bill 6663 would allow motorcycles to use the breakdown or access lanes when traffic is slowed to less than 10 MPH. Riders would not be able to proceed faster than 20 MPH and must give way to emergency vehicles and disabled vehicles.
    The status of this bill, as well as most motorcycle-related legislation throughout the country can be viewed by accessing StateWatch on the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) Rapid Response Center at www.AMADirectLink.com. This service is available to all riders thanks to those who join the AMA.

    Florida highway safety officials have dropped a proposal that would have dramatically increased the medical insurance required of those who ride while not wearing a helmet from $10,000 to $50,000.
    Discovering that the insurance policies could be difficult, if not impossible, to find and exorbitantly expensive -- and after getting a cool reception from Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Cabinet -- the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles scrapped the idea.
    But officials are proposing another change that they say could help increase motorcycle safety. That change would require all new motorcyclists to complete a rider training course. Currently, Florida requires only riders under the age of 21 to complete the course.
    While the concept may sound good, Florida would be hard-pressed to meet the logistical challenges of such a mandate. The dramatic increase in training demand combined with an insufficient number of instructors, equipment, and training sites could result in lengthy delays and actually push new riders to avoid training and licensing altogether.
    While the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) strongly supports and encourages riders to take advantage of rider education opportunities, the Association maintains a position against making such programs mandatory. Our full position statement on compulsory rider education can be found at http://www.amadirectlink.com/legisltn/positions/ridered.asp.

    Wisconsin legislation would help protect motorcyclists. The Roadway Users Responsibility Act, SB 528 introduced in the Wisconsin state Senate and based on model legislation that's part of the Justice for All campaign, takes a multi-pronged approach to protecting motorcyclists.
    With assistance from AMA and ABATE of Wisconsin, the measure was introduced by state Sen. David Zien (R-Chippewa Falls), an 18-year AMA member, and seeks to increase penalties for drivers who kill or injure motorcyclists or other vulnerable road users.
    The bill would increase the penalties for right-of-way violations that result in injuries or death to others. In many cases across the country, inattentive drivers have killed or maimed motorcyclists and been punished with fines as small as $70, because state laws treat these serious crashes as minor traffic infractions.
    Zien's bill would also include motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian awareness information in driver education programs. And it includes a provision that would allow motorcyclists to proceed through a red light when the traffic sensor doesn't detect the motorcycle and conditions make it safe to proceed.
    You can learn more about the Justice for All Campaign, keep track of legislation that affects your right to ride, and contact your elected representatives quickly and easily, through the AMA's Rapid Response Center found at www.AMADirectLink.com.

    Oklahoma’s Jaggers’ Law represents ABATE of Oklahoma's renewed effort to enhance penalties for irresponsible motorists who injure or kill other roadway users. Senate Bill 1989 is named in honor of David Jaggers, former Sgt-at-Arms of the Downed Bikers Association of Oklahoma, who was killed by an irresponsible driver in October, 2003.
    This marks the third year that ABATE of Oklahoma, AMA and others are attempting to enact Jaggers' Law as part of the Justice for All campaign. You can get more information on this bill and Justice for All by checking out www.AMADirectlink.com

    Pennsylvania recently revised the motorcycle learner’s permit procedure. Prospective riders who are seeking a learner’s permit must now pass the knowledge test before the permit will be issued. Previously, learner’s permits were issued without the requirement of the test.
    Future riders can visit www.dmv.state.pa.us to learn more about Pennsylvania’s motorcycle licensing and safety program.

    Minnesota riders are invited to attend the 3rd Annual “Bikerday at the Capitol” from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2006.
    This event is cosponsored by ABATE of Minnesota, St. Croix Valley Riders, Minnesota Motorcycle Club Coalition, Motorcycle PAC of Minnesota, and Minnesota Motorcycle Riders Association.
    Attendees will receive an information packet and copies of relevant House and Senate bills. For more information contact Mack Backlund at MandMback@aol.com.

    The United Kingdom’s Department for Transport's 'THINK! Take longer to look for bikes' campaign started on January 30th. The campaign urges motorists to continually look for motorcyclists throughout the Kingdom. A parallel campaign, urging motorcyclists to make themselves more visible, will run via six-sheet posters.
    The 30 second television advertisement encourages urban car drivers to look longer for bikes. A radio advertisement backs up the TV message and "acts as an in-car reminder," said a statement from the Department.
    In 2003, 73 per cent of all crashes involving a two-wheeled motor vehicle also involved a car. The Department’s report, 'In-Depth Study of Motorcycle Accidents', concluded that the most common cause of motorcycle crashes - as with bicycle crashes - is a right of way violation. The majority of these incidents occur at intersections and "it is usually the motorist - rather than the rider - who is at fault." In 65 percent of these 'right of way' incidents, drivers fail to see motorcyclists who other witnesses report were easily visible.
    To learn more about the campaign and view the advertisements, visit the campaign website at http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/.

    San Francisco, CA area motorcyclists have turned an anti-motorcycle rant into positive press for riders.
    Recently, morning disc jockeys on a Bay Area radio station, Live 105, complained about lane-sharing motorcyclists and joked about drivers opening car doors in front of riders, causing them to crash. Lane-sharing is not illegal in California and helps reduce traffic congestion.
    Outraged motorcyclists, concerned that the comments could incite car drivers to injure riders, flooded the station with complaints. The Bay Area Riders Forum (BARF), an online message board, played a central role in allowing riders to coordinate their actions.
As a result of the complaints, the on-air personalities apologized and at least one of them has promised to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse to learn more about motorcycling. The station also agreed to air public service announcements about motorcycle safety.

    New Hampshire officials have purchased land to create a 7,500-acre state park with the potential for 350 miles of trails for ATVs. The park will be the first of its kind in New England.
When the state last raised registration fees, it promised some of the money would go toward trail development. But resistance to adding ATV trails to existing state parks stymied those efforts.
    You can find more information on the Jericho Lake ATV Park, in Berlin, N.H., which could open as early as this spring at www.jericholakeatvpark.com or the state Bureau of Trails, (603) 271-3254.

    Vermont House Bill 805 in would require ALL residents of Vermont to obtain health insurance coverage in order to get or renew a driver's license.
    Part of the bill’s Statement of Purpose includes a mandate for individual health insurance, proof of which must be shown to obtain a driver's license, state tax refund, or hunting or fishing license.

    The AMA, working with other state motorcyclists-rights organizations, and with the grassroots support of Ohio motorcyclists, has derailed proposed state legislation that would have required all motorcyclists under 25 in Ohio to wear helmets.
    The helmet provision arose almost as an afterthought on legislation that was originally intended to raise funds for agencies that provide services to person who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. The bill, originally introduced late last year by Ohio state Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), would have raised penalties for offenses such as driving with a suspended license. Some of the money raised by the higher fines would have gone to the agencies that treat traumatic brain injuries, including one in Patton's district.
    However, tacked on to the end of the bill was a provision to change motorcycle helmet laws in Ohio. Currently, riders with less than one year of experience or under 18 years of age must wear helmets. Patton's original bill would have raised the age to 25.
    Further, it would have increased penalties for not wearing a helmet, mandating a $500 fine and either a weekend jail sentence or mandatory safety training.
    When the AMA and other organizations spread word about the proposal, grassroots motorcyclists responded. The ensuing flood of e-mails and phone calls to Patton's office convinced him to reconsider. Patton filed substitute legislation removing the change in the age requirement, and the AMA Government Relations Department is continuing to monitor the pending legislation to ensure that the provision raising penalties for failure to wear a helmet is also removed. That change, if allowed to stand, would essentially make failure to wear a helmet a criminal offense instead of a minor misdemeanor, like most traffic infractions.
    An even better outcome of Patton's discussions with motorcyclists was that he agreed to co-sponsor another pending bill in the Ohio legislature that would increase penalties for drivers who violate right-of-way laws and injure or kill another person.
    That measure, House Bill 388, was introduced by Representative Jon Peterson (R-Delaware) and resulted from the Ohio Right-of-Way Working Group's efforts. The bill fits in with the AMA's Justice for All campaign.

AMA Government Relations News & Notes is a monthly service compiled and edited by the AMA
Government Relations Staff to keep motorcyclists informed of happenings around the world. We welcome
your news & views. Please submit all material to Terry Lee Cook, Grassroots Manager,
13515 Yarmouth Drive, Pickerington, OH 43147; fax 614-856-1920 or e-mail to tcook@ama-cycle.org