It was my intention to write this editorial AFTER I returned from Daytona Bike Week.
You know what they say about “good intentions” right? There’s a road paved to you-know-where with them, and sometimes in this business I feel like I’m headed there in the express lane with the throttle wide open.
Since the schedule won’t cooperate, I’m writing this a few hours before leaving for the annual spring motorcycle migration. I fully expect this year’s event to be well attended, despite the lingering economic uncertainty.
I believe most of you are as tired of winter as I am. Hopefully the lower hotel/motel rates (than in years past) should offset the higher gasoline prices and lure you down to spend a few days basking in the early spring Florida sunshine.
For some of you that will mean passing through my home state of Georgia. If you take I-75 or I-95, I apologize for the discrimination you will likely experience on the ride through.
Normally Georgia is considered motorcycle friendly.
However, we have pimped out our troopers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a measly $70,000.
Let’s put this into perspective. For less than the cost of two patrol cars and a motorcycle, the Georgia Highway Patrol allowed itself to be hired out to perform discriminatory traffic profiling, under the guise of “safety checkpoints.”
In their press release the GSP said they were focusing on high speed motorcycles and reckless riding and would be checking for non-DOT approved helmets, valid tags and motorcycle endorsements.
I’m all for safety but how does a check point deter high speed motorcycle riders. And when did an improper tag become unsafe?
What’s worse is the GSP spokesperson had the audacity to claim the stop should only take about a minute for the rider who has all the proper paperwork.
I don’t know about you but it takes me more than a minute to stop, get off the bike, take off my helmet and gloves and get my wallet, find my insurance card and license and then suit back up.
The brain trust who wrote that press release obviously never rode a motorcycle.
What chaps my ass the most isn’t the “safety spin” or “it’s not really an inconvenience” spin the Georgia State Patrol is putting on this. What chaps me the most is how eager they are to participate in blatant discrimination for a little overtime pay.
Is there nobody in a position of authority in the State Patrol that has the moral turpitude to stand up and say, “This is wrong and we should not participate in it, regardless of how much money the Federal Government is throwing at us.
Not to mention these checkpoints will be conducted on interstate weigh stations. The same brain trust who wrote the GSP press release must have thought it would be a good idea to mix motorcycles and 18 wheelers.
I don’t know about your state, but Georgia has made some deep cuts to the State Patrol budget. I’ve got a good source inside the department who told me that troopers have been instructed to stay in one spot during the bulk of their shift and not drive any more than they absolutely have to.
As a former law enforcement officer I can tell you that sitting in one spot for a long period of time makes for a boring shift. I can’t really blame them for filling their time with checkpoints, but I do blame them for participating in “discriminatory” checkpoints.
In a perfect world individual State Patrol officers would step up and complain about this type of enforcement and refuse to condone it.
In this world we’ll have to rely on legislation that has been introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to block the Department of Transportation (who funds NHTSA) from giving grants that target motorcycles only.
Not only would it stop the Georgia checkpoints it would also stop the checkpoints that New York State has been doing. (corrected 03-04-2011 – The New York checkpoints are State funded, not with NHTSA grants.)
I’m trying my best not to Chicken Little this issue and cry “foul” at every perceived injustice to motorcyclists, so if there’s someone out there who can justify these checkpoints, I’d love to hear your argument for their validity.
Until next month, ride safe and always take the road less traveled.