The Virginia Motorcycle Legislative roundtable for 2013 was held yesterday in Richmond. We had a great turn out from motorcyclists of varying age and experience. Participants included members of ABATE of Virginia, the Virginia Biker’s Association, the U.S. Military Vets MC, American Legion Riders, Harley Owners Group, and Rider coaches with the Virginia Rider Training Program. We also had independent riders who took advantage of the weather to ride in on an array of motorcycles from cruisers to sport bikes.
The group agreed that pursuing legislation to classify three wheeled automobiles as something other than a motorcycle was a priority. We are seeing an increase in three wheeled automobiles. The fact that they have less than four wheels is the only thing that they have in common with motorcycles. Other than that, the operator sits in a seat rather than straddling one. The operator controls the vehicle with a steering wheel and not a handlebar. The throttle is controlled by a foot peddle rather than by hand. These vehicles are automobiles yet are currently classified as motorcycles. Some are currently being manufactured in Virginia. The concern is that as more of these vehicles are operated on the roadways, the more they will be included in crash data, thus negatively impacting motorcycle accident statistics. The Virginia DMV has worked hard over the past few years to improve its ability to collect accurate data. When we have accurate data, we can better identify real issues that need to be addressed to improve motorcycle safety. Including these vehicles in motorcycle crash data defeats that effort.
The group also agreed that we will wait until after the upcoming election to determine additional legislative initiatives. Races from the Governor’s Mansion on down will impact our strategy. The group identified two things to look at in November. One is increased penalties for individuals who violate traffic laws, and as a result cause the death of another. The idea is to make such an offense reckless driving. This would allow the judge to impose jail and/or suspend someone’s driver’s license if the court found that to be appropriate. Under current law a person is usually charged with a traffic infraction which carries a simple fine.
The other issue important to a majority of the group was amending Virginia’s motorcycle helmet law to allow adults age twenty-one and older to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. This would bring Virginia in line with a majority of the United States. Thirty-one states currently allow adult riders to make such a choice.
I want to thank the participants of the roundtable for giving up a beautiful riding day to come to Richmond to discuss issues important to Virginia motorcyclists. Our next meeting will be in preparation for our lobby day. On Sunday January 19, from 12:00 p.m. until we get through, Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists lobbyists will lead an informational meeting to discuss the year’s legislation affecting motorcyclists. We will also discuss how to talk to your legislators about these issues in case you have never done that. Later that evening, attendees will enjoy a free homemade BBQ dinner. On Monday January 20th, we will take our annual trip to the Capitol. After lobbying our legislators, we will go to Penny Lane Pub for lunch as a thank you for coming to support Virginia Motorcyclists. I hope all can make it.
As we receive more information on issues that affect motorcycling in Virginia I will pass it along. As usual, if anyone has any questions or comments concerning this material please do not hesitate to contact me.
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group