The Motorcycle Safety Fund
This month’s article will coincide with the reinstatement of Motorcycle Safety Fund scholarships with Motorcycle rider courses. As many of you know, the Motorcycle Safety Fund (MSF) ended in July of 2016. The bill that would have extended it and the Arizona Motorcycle Safety and Advisory Council (AMSAC) died at the end of that year’s legislative session. A new bill in 2017 recreated the fund but did not recreate AMSAC. The process for dispersing the money involves the Arizona Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Foundation (AMSAF) and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). This seems like alphabet soup to many but bear with me, it will get simpler. The MSF receives money from the extra dollar tax motorcycle lobbyists pushed to add to each mc registration in the 1990s. Alberto Gutier is the director of GOHS and for a couple of years some of us attended AMSAC meetings. A proposal was made to use the MSF money to subsidize the training courses. At opening day of the legislature 2014, Alberto came to the group of motorcycle activists and told us that he had decided to use the money for training riders.
From 12/31/2013 to 12/31/2014 there was a remarkable drop in motorcycle fatalities. I often speak with Mick Degn, the chairman of AMSAF, and we were delighted that the numbers had dropped. We could not prove causality but we were sure we were on the right track.
At that time, ABATE of AZ did not have a designated Lobbyist so some members just became activists and that was sufficient to push the legislative efforts that members and the board of directors chose. One of the subjects that bikers were interested in was distracted driving and/or texting while driving. There were discussions about possible laws to deal with this issue. The board had different ideas. They decided that with laws currently on the books and the possibility of further intrusion into privacy by law enforcement, ABATE would not support any further legislation on this issue. One of the problems cited was that any collision could lead to police opening a driver’s phone to search for activity at the time of the collision, an otherwise illegal search. I was reminded that the motto of ABATE is Educate Not Legislate. That ended any further efforts on this subject.
Something I do every year is review the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) crash statistics for the previous year. These are generally published around June of each year. The website for these records is https://www.azdot.gov/motor-vehicles/Statistics/arizona-motor-vehicle-crash-facts.
Each year I notice that one of the biggest factors is lack of training. In 2016 there were 23 fatalities due to overturning, and 28 to collision with fixed objects. That is about 35% of total fatalities. The vast majority of fatal accidents occurred in broad daylight on dry roads. Of the 144 fatalities, 43 were under the influence of alcohol and 12 were suspected of being under the influence of drugs.
When we were lobbying Alberto Gutier to subsidize training courses, I spoke about people who moved here and saw that we could ride 365 days a year. Many buy a motorcycle with more power than they ever felt and soon find themselves in a position they were not prepared for. I talked about military veterans who were returning from the wars and found the motorcycle community welcoming and supportive. They were getting hurt and killed by situations that a couple of days of training would have prevented. I believe our focus should be to expand motorcycle training scholarships, not legislate use of telephones. We can’t prevent people from driving distracted. We can prepare ourselves to deal with the stupidity of drivers who are incapable of focusing on the road. We have more than 203,000 registered motorcycles in Arizona. In 2013 there were 180,000. The crash and fatality rates have dropped noticeably since 2013. I believe we are doing something right. I also believe that if there is an auto-motorcycle collision, the police will not only search the car driver’s phone, they will more than likely search the biker’s phone as well in the interest of fully investigating the incident. We must decide if we want to leave that door open. We also should decide if we want to be classified as vulnerable road users. I believe that would give more ammunition to the helmet law proponents. My old idea of rubber baby buggy bumpers on motorcycles has resurfaced. It is up to the ABATE membership what direction our legislative efforts should go. The next session begins on Monday, January 8, 2018. We have time to decide. As you all know, Motorcycle Day at the Dome will be on Wednesday May 2, 2018. At that point, it will be too late to affect any pending legislation. The session may have already ended by that day. Please let your chapter officers know what your thoughts are on this matter.
Our members should try to attend opening day in January. That day is interesting. Many groups with legislation or issues pending at the legislature are in attendance. It has a circus-like atmosphere and many interesting people.
Johnny D ALMA MC
ACMC Designated Lobbyist
ABATE State PAC Officer