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Motorcycling Related Laws – Update from the Virginia General Assembly

I regret to report that HB 2193, the bill that would expressly make it illegal to blow grass onto the highway, was tabled yesterday by a sub-committee of the House Courts of Justice Committee. As we riders are aware, grass on the road can be a hazard to motorists, especially motorcyclists, and particularly in curves when the grass becomes wet. As 8:30 rolled around last night we found ourselves being the last bill heard. Despite re-writing the bill, the sub-committee did not believe that we adequately addressed their concerns that the bill would impact property owners whose activities on their property would not adversely affect motorcyclists. The bill as re-written would have prohibited intentionally placing grass or grass clippings on a paved roadway with a speed limit of 35 MPH or greater. A violation would have been a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries only a fine. Delegate Roxanne Robinson, our patron who carried the bill for us, has vowed to work with us again next year to address this issue. This is not the first time it has taken the Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) multiple years to address an issue, nor do I imagine it will be the last.

There is, however, good news coming out of Richmond. VCOM worked closely with the patrons of two competing motor vehicle inspection fee bills. One would have raised the fees on both motorcycles and automobiles; the other would affect only automobiles, raising the maximum fee from $16.00 to $20.00. The first bill was laid on the table (killed) and the second was allowed to move on. So, for the second year in a row, motorcyclists have dodged an inspection fee increase.

We also have good news to report on SB 1364 and HB 1780, which are identical bills that would change the definition of a salvage vehicle to remove the requirement that the vehicle be a late model vehicle. VCOM had concerns with these bills as they could have adverse effects on the ability to rebuild a totaled motorcycle and put it back on the road with a clean title. Many times, older motorcycles are totaled due to cosmetic damage only; this is because of the lower value of many motorcycles as opposed to cars. Under these bills those motorcycles would be salvage vehicles and would have to carry a branded title. Both bills are being sent to be studied by a committee to determine the best way to address the issue. We have been told by DMV that VCOM will have a place on that committee.

Finally, HB 1941 has been passed out of subcommittee unanimously. This bill increases from a Class 6 felony (Maximum 5 year penalty) to a Class 4 felony (Maximum 10 year penalty) the punishment for a person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment. The bill also creates a Class 6 felony for a person who drives in the same manner and causes serious bodily injury, but not permanent and significant physical impairment, of another person. VCOM strongly supports this bill. Too many of our members have had their lives forever changed due to the actions of a drunk driver.

As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning any of the pending legislation affecting Virginia motorcyclists, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycling Related Laws – Update from the Virginia General Assembly

Thank you to those who personally lobbied and/or wrote emails to members of the House Transportation Subcommittee supporting HB 2446, VCOM’s bill that would have allowed motorcycles to drive on the right shoulder of limited access highways when (i) traffic on such highway is stopped or traveling at a speed of not more than 10 miles per hour, (ii) the driver of such motorcycle travels at a speed of not more than 15 miles per hour, and (iii) the driver of such motorcycle uses the first available exit to leave the highway.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the bill faced heavy opposition from the Virginia State Police and other state agencies. Being that this was the first time that this bill has been introduced, members of the subcommittee sided with caution and failed to take action on the bill. That essentially ends the bill for the year. That does not mean the issue is gone. We have had numerous legislative victories that took four or five years to achieve. As long as this issue is important to Virginia motorcyclists, VCOM will continue to pursue it.

The subcommittee also acted on HB 1872, a bill introduced at the request of ABATE of Virginia that would allow motorcyclists to ride without a motorcycle helmet if they are over the age of 20 and are a registered organ donor. The bill failed to advance on a vote of 6-2. While VCOM generally supports freedom of choice, we had grave concerns over the organ donor requirement, which we found disturbing, and quite possibly illegal. VCOM did not support HB 1872, although, out of respect to the members of ABATE of Virginia, we did not actively oppose it either. Instead, VCOM made all legislators aware that HB 1872 was not introduced at the request of VCOM as many had mistakenly assumed.

Finally, I will be on WNIS 790 this evening at 6:00 pm talking and taking questions about these and other legislative issues affecting motorcyclists at the 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly. If you are in Hampton Roads you can listen on AM 790. Those outside of the Hampton Roads area can live stream at www.wnis.com. Click on the “Listen Live” tab at the top right of the page.

As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning any of the pending legislation affecting Virginia motorcyclists, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycle Bill Prohibiting Grass Clippings in the Highway to be Heard in Sub-Committee Today

The Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) has just received word that HB 2193, the bill introduced by Delegate Roxann Robinson to amend section 18.2-324 of the Code of Virginia to clarify that it is illegal to blow grass onto the highway, will now be heard in sub-committee this afternoon. Grass on the road can be a hazard to motorists, especially motorcyclists, and particularly in curves when the grass becomes wet.

I have posted the email address for each member of the sub-committee below so that you can email your support for this bill if you wish. Should you choose to email the members, feel free to point out the following:
1. The bill simply amends Code Section 18.2-324, which prohibits depositing items that are a hazard to vehicular travel onto the roads, so that grass is included in that list of items.
2. Grass can be a hazard to motorcyclists, especially in a curve when wet, due to the grass becoming slippery.
3. This bill is in keeping with the original purpose of 18.2-324, which was to keep substances off of the roads which can affect a vehicle’s tires and cause a vehicle to lose traction.
4. The statute already includes soil, sand, mud, and gravel. Grass can be as dangerous to motorcycles as any of those substances.
5. Unlike leaves and pine needles which can fall naturally onto the roads, grass must be blown or dropped onto the road. That action should be prohibited.
Keep in mind that the term highway as used in this code section refers to all roads open to vehiclular travel. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this bill or any other matters before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The members of the sub-committee are as follows:

Delegate Gilbert (Chairman) DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Bell DelRBell@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Adams DelLAdams@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Collins DelCCollins@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Ransone DelMRansone@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Watts DelVWatts@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Herring DelCHerring@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Mullin Delmmullin@house.virginia.gov

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycle Auxiliary Light Bill Signed by The Governor

HB 1464, the motorcycle auxiliary light bill that was introduced by Delegate Roxann Robinson at the request of the Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) was signed by the Governor. The bill will become law as of July 1, 2018.

As of July 1st, Virginia motorcyclists will be able to utilize aftermarket lighting to improve visibility even if such lighting is not approved by the Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, or any other federal agency or safety organization. Below is the language that the bill added to 46.2-1012 of the Code of Virginia:

Notwithstanding § 46.2-1002, motorcycles or autocycles may be equipped with standard bulb running lights or light-emitting diode (LED) pods or strips as auxiliary lighting. Such lighting shall be (i) either red or amber in color, (ii) directed toward the ground in such a manner that no part of the beam will strike the level of the surface on which the motorcycle or autocycle stands at a distance of more than 10 feet from the vehicle, and (iii) designed for vehicular use. Such lighting shall not (a) project a beam of light of an intensity greater than 25 candlepower or its equivalent from a single lamp or bulb; (b) be blinking, flashing, oscillating, or rotating; or (c) be attached to the wheels of the motorcycle or autocycle.

Thank you to everyone who worked to pass this legislation, and thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to send an email or write a letter in support of this bill. As always, this was a group effort.

If you have any questions about this bill or any other matters concerning motorcycle related laws, do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Update on Motorcycle Issues at the 2017 Virginia General Assembly

I will start by apologizing for any spelling or grammatical errors. I am writing this in the Lansing Michigan airport. I have spent the weekend with members of ABATE of Michigan and had the honor of speaking at their annual meeting. They are a great group of motorcyclist rights advocates. My 6:00 am flight out of Lansing has been delayed until 9:30 am. Thus the opportunity to pen (figuratively of course) this update.

***UPDATE**** As I hit send I am actually sitting in Chicago O’Hare. Looks like I will be here for a while. However, the same disclaimer applies.

As many on this list know, ABATE of Virginia has facilitated the introduction of House Bill 2235, a bill that would allow adults to ride motorcycles without a motorcycle helmet. VCOM has been clear in its support of that right, which is currently enjoyed by riders in thirty-one states. VCOM does not support this bill however. More accurately, VCOM does not support the strategy of those who facilitated this bill. The bill as originally introduced would require a rider to be an organ donor in order to have the right to choose not to wear a motorcycle helmet. Legislative Services was going to publish the bill with a warning that the organ donor requirement may well be illegal. The bill was rewritten without the organ donor requirement. It is ABATE of Virginia’s intent to have the bill amended to add the organ donor requirement back into the language of the bill. VCOM strongly opposes this plan.

First and foremost, the organ donor plan is gruesome and perpetuates the idea that riding without a helmet increases deaths. We know that this is not the case (I will be happy to debate that issue at a later time), so why would we bolster that misconception with a condition that has nothing to do with riding motorcycles? What is the nexus between organ donation and choice? Additionally, the plan has legal problems as evidenced by the action taken by Legislative Services. Can the government trade legal rights and privileges for its citizen’s organs? If it can, should it? For what else should the government allow a citizen bargain his or her organs? What about those citizens who for religious or cultural reasons can’t donate organs? Are they left out? The list of legal and ethical questions surrounding this plan is unending. Finally, it is just wrong. Are we as motorcyclists so desperate for a change in the law that we are willing to offer up our body parts to pay for the right to make our own choices? I can only tell you that this motorcyclist is not. I am an organ donor because I chose to be one, not because of some barter with the government. It is VCOM’s opinion that the plan to amend the bill should be abandoned. It is bad for Virginia and is bad for motorcyclists.

VCOM believes that real change will come from building and maintaining relationships, not from gimmicks, and not from plans which demonstrate a willingness to trade our dignity for freedom. I have known the proponents of this plan for a long time. I appreciate their past efforts and their dedication to the rights of Virginia Motorcyclists. However, on this particular topic we simply cannot agree.
As always if you have any questions or comments concerning this topic, or if you simply want to let me know how much you disagree with my position, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycle Lobby Day 2017 TBA

The Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) will be making a change to the annual January legislative meeting. Lobby Day is usually held on Martin Luther King Day. For two decades Virginia motorcyclists have gathered on that day to go the state capital in order to urge their legislators to support motorcyclists in Virginia. However, this year’s legislative agenda hinges more on working with state agencies than it does on winning support of individual legislators. For this reason, VCOM has decided not to hold a traditional lobby day. Instead, on a date to be determined, VCOM will host a reception in Richmond in order to give attendees a chance to visit their legislators and show support to those legislators who support us. It will also be a great opportunity to engage in fellowship with other riders interested in protecting the rights of motorcyclists.

VCOM continues to work with the Virginia State Police to create acceptable standards to allow motorcyclists in Virginia to utilize accent lighting in order to increase rider nighttime visibility. At this time, we foresee this as the one issue which may require legislative action. If it does, we will attempt to schedule the reception on a day that the Senate Transportation Committee meets. It will be important to have as many supporters there as possible if we are not able to work out an agreement with the State Police.

VCOM is also working with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in order to create a Driver Improvement Clinic for motorcyclists. Currently in Virginia, Driver Improvement Clinics, which allow drivers to add positive points to their driver’s license, are held strictly in classroom settings and are geared for automobile drivers. VCOM is working with the DMV to create a Driver Improvement Clinic for motorcyclists which will include classroom training as well as actual riding time on a range. We will keep you updated as we move forward on this project.

Finally, VCOM is actively monitoring every bill that is being introduced in the General Assembly this year. If one is introduced which affects motorcyclists, we will immediately report it on this list and formulate a strategy to either support or oppose the legislation depending on its merit. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions, comments, or concerns about this or any other matter concerning motorcycling in Virginia, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

National Motorcycle Conference Coming to Virginia Help Needed

For the first time ever Virginia will host the Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s Meeting of the Minds. This annual conference will bring 300 to 500 grassroots motorcycling advocates from across the country to Williamsburg Virginia from September 21-24, 2017. This conference is the premier motorcyclists rights conference in the country.

I am the conference coordinator and in order to put on a successful conference I will need all of the help that I can get. Members of VCOM, VABA and ABATE of Virginia have committed to help put this conference on but we will need many more volunteers to make this work. I am currently looking for volunteers to help organize this conference. Virginia can host a great conference but it will take input from Virginia motorcyclists.

If you are willing to help, or have any questions please contact me at either jim@vcomonline.org or 1-800-437-9434. September will be here before we know it so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested. I need all of the help I can get.

Jim Cannon
Director, Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists
1-800-437-9434
Jim@vcomonline.org

The Amended Motorcycle Auxiliary Light Bill Now Moves to the Full Senate

As often happens in the legislative world, a not so funny thing happened on the way to committee. HB 939, our auxiliary light bill to allow motorcyclists to utilize LED type accent lighting, ran into last minute trouble. Despite coming out of the House of Delegates on a 100-0 vote, the bill was fiercely opposed by the Senator Carrico, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. On top of that, the Virginia State Police lobbied the Governor’s office and obtained a promise that the bill, as written, would be vetoed if it reached his desk.

Chairman Carrico proposed an amendment which essentially re-wrote the bill. The amendment reads as follows:

The Superintendent of State Police shall establish guidelines setting forth a procedure pursuant to § 46.2-1005 to allow for the submission and approval of auxiliary lights on motorcycles that are not approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers and shall publish such procedure on the Department of State Police’s website by January 1, 2017. The approval of any lights or equipment shall also be published on the Department’s website and the Department shall notify official safety inspection stations of such approved equipment.

Needless to say we were not happy with this last minute attempt by the Virginia State Police to halt the progress of the bill. However, it was made clear by many on the committee that had supported the bill less than 24 hours prior that without the amendment the bill would fail in committee. We were left with a difficult decision. We could refuse to allow the amendment and pull the bill, or we could watch the bill be amended and then work with the State Police to create standards. Jim, me and the other 14 motorcyclists present retired to a conference room to debate the options and to take a vote. We all agreed to let the majority decide. After much debate and a 9-7 vote it was decided to keep the bill alive. The bill was thereafter amended in committee and passed as amended by a unanimous vote.

So where does this leave us? The Virginia State Police have until January 1, 2017 to create standards for auxiliary (accent) lighting. During testimony before the committee they promised to work with VCOM in doing so. Further they told the committee that the LED type lights that we had photos of were acceptable and that, with our help, they would create a standard that would allow them.

As of this writing, I have already had two conversations with a representative of the Virginia State Police. He has stated that he is eager to have something in place prior to the January 2017 date in order to allow motorcyclists to utilize accent lighting to improve overall visibility. VCOM has committed to work in good faith toward that goal. That being said, we are prepared to go back to the General Assembly in a much stronger position if all parties involved fail to act in good faith for the good of Virginia motorcyclists. So far the tenor and tone of the conversations is much different than last year at this time.

We were certainly hoping for a quicker resolution to this matter, but we will continue our efforts to find a way for Virginia motorcyclists to legally take advantage of this safety tool. Thank you to each and every one of you who answered the call to send emails or make phone calls. Your efforts are much appreciated. I also want to send a special thanks to those of you who took the time to come to Richmond in support of this bill. You did not sign up for the spirited debate and vote that you ended up being a part of, but your opinion and voice was critical in the decision making process. Thank you.

As always, if anyone has questions or comments about this matter please do not hesitate to contact me. I will continue to send information on this topic as the year progresses.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycle Auxiliary Light Bill Pushed to Next Senate Transportation Committee Meeting

Our Auxiliary light bill, HB 939, met with strong opposition from Chairman Carrico yesterday. He has adopted the position of the Virginia State Police and spoke strongly against the bill. However, before a vote could be called, the committee room was evacuated due to a tornado warning. The bill has been pushed to the next meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee on March 2, 2016.

We have a week to shore up our support for this bill. It is important that we keep the emails flowing to the members of the committee. It is even more important that we have bodies at the capitol on March 2nd. The committee needs to know that this is an issue important to motorcyclists.

We are asking motorcyclists to come to the General Assembly building on the morning of March 2nd to lobby and express support for HB 939. VCOM will host a reception in the 7th Floor West Conference Room from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. That afternoon, after session when the Transportation Committee convenes, we would like to have a show of solidarity for this legislation.

If you can be there please email me and let me know. The General Assembly Building is located at 201 N. 9th St., Richmond, Virginia. There is parking on Grace St. between 6th & 7th Streets, as well as on 7th St. between Broad and Marshall and at the corner of 8th and Marshall.

When emailing members of the Senate Transportation Committee, remember to point out the following:

The bill increases visibility of motorcycles, especially at night;

Unlike automobiles which are required to have side marker lights or wrap around headlights / tail lights which are visible from the side, motorcycle lights are often only visible from the front and rear and do not have the same illumination as automobiles;

NHTSA published a report on the effectiveness of side marker lights on motor vehicles. The report concluded that side marker lights are a cost effective safety device which reduce the number of nighttime angular collisions that occur in the United States;

Several surrounding states, including Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have passed similar legislation and motorcyclists from those states are currently riding on Virginia roads with similar lighting. It makes sense to give Virginia motorcyclists the same safety tools that out of state riders already use on Virginia roads.

Please support this sensible bill which makes motorcycles more visible at night. The list of committee members is below. When you send emails it is best to send an email to each Senator individually. It is also helpful to include your address if you are a constituent.

Senator Carrico (Chairman) – district40@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Cosgrove (Vice Chairman) – district14@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Newman – district23@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Deeds – district25@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Marsden – district37@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Favola – district31@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Alexander – district05@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Edwards – district21@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Wexton – district33@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Garrett – district22@senate.virginia.gov
Senator DeSteph – district08@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Chase – district11@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Suetterlein – district19@senate.virginia.gov

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycle Auxiliary Light Bill Going to Senate Transportation Committee

Our Auxiliary light bill, HB 939, is going to be heard this Wednesday (February 24th) before the Senate Transportation Committee. This bill would allow motorcyclists to utilize auxiliary lighting, such as LED accent lighting, in order to be more visible at night. Current Virginia law requires that all lighting be approved by the superintendent of the Virginia State Police. That means that all lighting must go through an approval process. The vast majority of smaller lights appropriate for motorcycles have never undergone such a process, and due to the size of the manufacturers making such lighting, most likely never will.

You can view HB 939 at the following link:

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?161+ful+HB939

Even though VCOM has successfully guided this bill through the House of Delegates, the Virginia State Police continues to oppose the bill and is looking to defeat it in the Senate. VCOM encourages all motorcyclists to email the members of the committee and express support for this bill. While we are getting positive feedback from most committee members, some, including Chairman Carrico, continue to have reservations about this bill.

When emailing members of the Senate Transportation Committee, remember to point out the following:

The bill increases visibility of motorcycles, especially at night;

Unlike automobiles which are required to have side marker lights or wrap around headlights / tail lights which are visible from the side, motorcycle lights are often only visible from the front and rear and do not have the same illumination as automobiles;

NHTSA published a report on the effectiveness of side marker lights on motor vehicles. The report concluded that side marker lights are a cost effective safety device which reduce the number of nighttime angular collisions that occur in the United States;

Several surrounding states, including Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have passed similar legislation and motorcyclists from those states are currently riding on Virginia roads with similar lighting. It makes sense to give Virginia motorcyclists the same safety tools that out of state riders already use on Virginia roads.

Please support this sensible bill which makes motorcycles more visible at night. The list of committee members is below. When you send emails it is best to send an email to each Senator individually. It is also helpful to include your address if you are a constituent.

If you are able to attend the meeting, that would be helpful as well. Having a committee room packed with motorcyclists has been a powerful tool in the past. The committee will meet in Senate Room A at the General Assembly Building on the afternoon of February 24th, 45 minutes after the Senate adjourns session. If you were to arrive around 1:30 pm you should be safe. The General Assembly Building is located at 201 N. 9th St., Richmond, Virginia. There is parking on Grace St. between 6th & 7th Streets, as well as on 7th St. between Broad and Marshall and at the corner of 8th and Marshall.

Senator Carrico (Chairman) – district40@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Cosgrove (Vice Chairman) – district14@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Newman – district23@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Deeds – district25@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Marsden – district37@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Favola – district31@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Alexander – district05@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Edwards – district21@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Wexton – district33@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Garrett – district22@senate.virginia.gov
Senator DeSteph – district08@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Chase – district11@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Suetterlein – district19@senate.virginia.gov

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com