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  • AMA Expands Social Media Communication with Government

    You may have noticed that the AMA’s Government Relations Department has ramped up social media communications and now provides more online advocacy tools for riders, such as the new AMA Social Media Portal. The power of social media to facilitate political discussion and encourage action is a valuable resource to any grassroots program.

    Although the immediacy of using social media to communicate with government is alluring, it still requires careful planning and consistent message development to be successful. With the widespread adoption of social media by legislators and regulators, the AMA emphasizes social media communication as an important part of its advocacy efforts.

    Social media has redefined how organizations, advocates and individuals communicate with government. Now, people can present real-time opinions, arguments and information to elected officials and program administrators. A 2013 study by the Congressional Research Service reported that 83.4 percent of members of Congress had a registered Twitter account and 90 percent had a registered Facebook page.[1]

    The bottom line: Congress and federal and state agencies are online, so advocates need to be there, too.

     Members of Congress and their staffs also use social media to gauge public opinion. A 2010 study by the Congressional Management Foundation found that “nearly two-thirds of senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents. 42% say Twitter is somewhat or very important.”[2] A robust grassroots program must include sending messages through social media channels to influence this growing audience and reinforce email campaigns, press releases, magazine articles and other long-form communication.

    Social media presents a great opportunity for the AMA and its members to:

    • Expand the reach of a message
    • Target influencers with that message
    • Motivate advocates to spread this message

    We have a clear opportunity to send our message to elected officials through social media, but we must send that message as an organization and as individual AMA members in full-force.

    Whether it is sending email alerts to activists, posting information to the website or developing Tweet-to-Congress campaigns, the AMA is committed to providing a variety of digital channels to deliver a clear message to government.

    Has this digital initiative worked?

    Last year, AMA advocates sent 58,591 letters to elected officials. This year, the AMA already has sent 42,912 messages with the alert on the Wi-Fi Innovation Act producing 7,058 messages.

    The AMA understands that our online and other advocacy efforts can be successful only if they are supported by motorcyclists, like you, who are willing to take action.

    Thousands of riders like you join the AMA to unite for a common goal – to protect our freedom to ride. Please follow the AMA on Twitter @AMA_Rights and like us on Facebook. And sign up for AMA action alerts here.


    [1] Glassman, Matthew E., Jacob R. Straus, and Colleen J. Shogan. "Social Networking and Constituent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress." Congressional Research Service. http://www.politico.com/pdf/PPM138_twitter.pdf.

    [2] Congressional Management Foundation. "#Social Congress Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill." https://www.scribd.com/embeds/60974277/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-1241fgf3lzksrknnibiv.

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  • All Motorcyclists Feel the Impact of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

    We hear feedback from members all the time. Feedback helps us do a better job of serving the AMA mission and we welcome it.

    One of the many issues you have sounded off on is the AMA’s interest in motorcycle-only checkpoints. “What are motorcycle-only checkpoints?” you ask. “I have never experienced them. What is the big fuss?”

    This is what AMA member Brian LeSchander thought until he encountered one in New York.

    “I was directed by a trooper to pull off the main road into a dead end road that was less than 50 yards long with at least a dozen bikes parked in every direction. The area was covered with rocks , stones and debris. I have a 850-pound motorcycle with a passenger aboard and would not choose this as a stop point if I wasn’t directed to. I was ordered to shut down and get off the bike, produce my license, registration and insurance ID card. The officer held my documents and said he would return them to me after we do a lights, horn and tire check, in case he had to write me a citation. I have a current NYS inspection sticker on this bike, and that apparently wasn’t sufficient. My paperwork was also in order. He still insisted that we proceed with the check. He did the check and with a smile handed me my paper work back and released me.”

    It is true that, currently, only a few states implement these checkpoints. And with your help, we have pushed back to prohibit them from appearing in many areas.

    However, New York state still routinely targets motorcyclists with motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    New York budgeted $490,000 in the past two years alone for these discriminatory stops. Even more troubling, the state used motorcycle safety funds from Section 402 of Title 23. These funds should promote programs like rider education to prevent motorcycle crashes from occurring and not be used to arbitrarily pull over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections.

    We know New York spends much more. It states in its highway safety plans that it has conducted motorcycle-only checkpoints “officially” since fiscal year 2009, but conveniently fails to mention its costs for fiscal years 2009-11.

    I hear you still saying, “But that is New York, I don’t live there”

    The problem is, the funds New York uses to operate motorcycle-only checkpoints are federal dollars. Federal dollars that your state can use in the same way. When we pay our taxes, we should not have to worry the funds will be used to target us with discriminatory checkpoints.

    Still not moved to act to end motorcycle-only checkpoints?

    There is a report soon to be published from an international organization with a long name and broad influence on motorcycle safety: the Joint Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Transport Forum. Buried in the initial report is a section on use of law enforcement. According to the draft report, “A mix of traditional visible enforcement (with on-the-spot roadside checks by police) and automated enforcement for offences such as speeding or red light has the biggest deterrence effect” (emphasis added).

    Now, not only are we fighting how our federal dollars are spent, but also an international body that supports the use of checkpoints.

    Fed up? You can do something about it.

    The AMA supports S. 127, federal legislation that would prohibit federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Doing so would severely impact the implementation of these discriminatory checkpoints nationwide. In addition to S. 127, we are pushing for support of H.R. 1861, a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives..

    Act today by letting your federal lawmakers know that you oppose motorcycle-only checkpoints and support this legislation.

    You — the motorcyclist — can count on the AMA to guard your freedoms while you enjoy the ride.

     

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  • Safety and Trail Fund Raids

    Whether through a registration fee, a special use permit or an OHV sticker purchase, motorcyclists often pay directly for the services they use.

    The motorcycling community does not expect a free lunch and lawmakers tend to respect that fact. We want rider training, increased motorist awareness and accessible trails, and we are willing to chip in to make those needs a reality — even agreeing to additional fees for special accounts intended to enhance the experiences of motorcyclists. But we also demand accountability.

    Unfortunately, many legislators view these accounts as a means to balance or certify a budget or provide a funding boost for a pet project unrelated to motorcycling.

    This year, riders in Texas took notice that motorcycle deaths are rising in their state while dropping across the country, all while the state sits on nearly $16.5 million in unspent motorcycle safety funds. Each year, the funds in the account — accumulated through a $5 surcharge on motorcycle license fees — were held so Texas could certify that its biennial budget balanced.

    As a result, state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) introduced S.B. 754, a bill that would increase the revenue dedicated to motorcycle education and push other legislators to end the practice of using motorcycle training funds to hide budgetary shortfalls.

    New Mexico faces a different fight.

    Registrations for off-highway vehicles in New Mexico are $50 per owner, collected biennially. The New Mexico Off-Highway and Motor Vehicle Act of 2005 specifically earmarks this money for OHV programs.

    However, buried within the 200-page appropriations act is a transfer of $500,000 to the conservation services program of the New Mexico State Park system. As the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance states, “This is especially ironic (and wrong) because by current law, OHVs are not even allowed in any state park!”

    In both of these situations, riders are paying into funds that are not being deployed correctly, if at all. This is unfair and should be immediately rectified.

    Lawmakers can’t fix what they don’t know about. That’s why you need to make sure you are communicating with your elected officials. Haven’t advocated for motorcyclists’ rights before? Read the AMA’s recently updated “How To Communicate With Government” for tips on getting started.

    Are the funds in your state being spent for their intended purpose? If you suspect they are not, please contact the AMA Government Relations Department at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

    If you live in Texas or New Mexico and would like to take action on either of these important issues, please view the AMA Action Alerts for each state, fill out the form at the bottom of the page and click the red “Submit” button.

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  • Distracted driving is getting a lot of attention in our state legislatures. But is it enough?

    When reviewing the 114 distracted-driving bills the American Motorcyclist Association is currently tracking across the country, we find the topics range from South Carolina’s proposal to make “driving while distracted” illegal, to something as specific as Connecticut’s proposed prohibition against driving with a pet in one’s lap. For the most part, however, distracted driving legislation focuses on the inappropriate use of technology, such as cellular phones and even products like the wearable Google Glass.

    These distractions are so commonplace that we hardly think about them anymore.

    We hear a “ding,” and we’ve got a text-message, and we want to respond to it. Or a special “ring” alerts us to an update on a friend’s Facebook page, so we have to check that. Is that Beyoncé singing? Time to answer a call from the BFF. Johnny Paycheck? You can let that call from the boss go to voicemail. It’s almost funny, isn’t it, how easily we can become distracted?

    But really, it’s not funny at all when we are operating a heavy, complicated motor vehicle in the midst of other road users who are tempted by the same distractions.

    On a daily basis, we face an onslaught of information coming to us from more and more sources. Even the cars themselves, with everything from complex entertainment systems to navigation screens to image enhancements meant to help the driver, can actually make the problem worse.

    According to the U.S. government’s webpage on distracted driving, 3,328 people were killed on U.S. roads due to distracted driving in 2012 alone. For comparison, through 2014, 3,528 combat deaths have been reported in Iraq since the war began.While the motorcycling community has been affected by distracted driving for as long as there have been bikes on the road, the need for a strong position statement against distracted driving was answered by the AMA in 2009. As states struggle with the dangers of these distractions on the roadways, the AMA continues to encourage and support legislation to reduce the number of distracted driving incidents and impose strong penalties against those individuals who choose to neglect their primary responsibility on the road. Support from AMA members and clubs at the local level is crucial to the ongoing success of these legislative efforts.

    You can find the AMA position on distracted driving and other bills in your state by visiting your state action center or under “Rights” at www.americanmotorcyclist.com.

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  • Data Privacy Sorely Lacking in the 21st Century

    When most retailers or websites want your personal information, they have to ask for it. And you get a chance to say, “No.” But there is at least one integral part of your everyday life where information can leak without your direct knowledge or consent.

    Today, many vehicles connect with other entities through navigation devices such as GPS, music services and apps on phones. In addition, most cars and trucks come equipped with event data recorders – commonly called black boxes.

    These black boxes collected crash data. However, there are few protections in place to keep your data from being collected and used by others.

    The legal and privacy protections have failed to match the pace of development and implementation of new technology. As a result, more personal information than you are aware of – or comfortable with – is being shared with corporations, the government and others.

    As part of a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, all new automobiles would be required to have an event data recorder (EDR). Yet, the privacy protections related to that data are ambiguous at best. Only 14 states recognize that the data collected by an EDR is the property of the owner and require a court order or consent of the owner for access.

    A bill was introduced in the Congress that attempted to resolve this issue, but it was not enacted.

    At the same time, though, assuming that one bill would protect the information of all motorists is delusional thinking. The Senate privacy bill would cover only information collected by an EDR, not information assembled from the myriad other computer systems found on cars and motorcycles.

    Motorcycling is about freedom. I don’t want to feel there is a spy glass on me when riding my favorite route in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Take the first precautionary steps before riding season starts. Check your owner’s manual and see if your motorcycle is equipped with an event data recorder or other technology that has the capacity to store information.

    If your bike has an EDR, please let the government relations department at the AMA know, so we can more effectively work to protect your privacy at the federal and state level. You can contact the government relations department.

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  • The AMA’s Role In Federal Wilderness Legislation is Critical

     The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires every national forest or grassland managed by the U.S. Forest Service to develop and maintain a land management plan. To do so, each forest or grassland turns to the current planning rule for direction.

    The 2012 planning rule was published in the Federal Register on April 9, 2012, which was the beginning of the nearly three-year process to develop the planning directives that became effective and available to the public on Jan. 30.

    One of the realities of the 2012 rules, as in those before them, is pages of exceptions to the simple language defining lands appropriate for Wilderness designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act. To this day, the AMA supports that act’s description of Wilderness: “…Where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain, undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence,” and “…generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

    In contrast, the newly effective 2012 rules go so far as “recognizing the potential need to provide for passive or active restoration of wilderness character in previously modified areas.”

    As frustrating as this agency’s political reality may be, areas that seem inappropriately designated as Wilderness may not come out of a Forest Service inventory at all. They may be pet projects of federal elected officials with personal agendas or involved in political gamesmanship, who may have no idea of the tradition and importance of OHV recreation in the area.

    Having the AMA government relations office in Washington, D.C., is critical to monitoring potential Wilderness designations. The depth of federal and forestry experience of the AMA staff provides an inside track to affecting the Wilderness designation process.

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  • AMA supports efforts to protect riders from unsafe fuel

    In an effort to prohibit the availability of E15, a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, the American Motorcyclist Association supports legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the RFS Reform Act of 2015.

    The bipartisan bill would:

    •    Amend the Renewable Fuel Standard to recognize market conditions and realities
    •    Eliminate the conventional biofuels mandate. This effectively prohibits the use of corn-based ethanol in the RFS.
    •    Cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent

    In other words, E15—a fuel blend that can damage motorcycle fuel systems and engines—will not be permitted if this legislation becomes law.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    By taking action you will help protect from inadvertent misfueling the 22 million motorcycle and all-terrain vehicles (and the riders who depend on their safe operation) currently in use on America’s roads and trails.

    Preventing these inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s top priorities due to the fact that motorcycles and ATVs are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel. In fact, often, simply using fuel with blends of ethanol over 10 percent can void a manufacturer’s warranty, potentially leaving motorcyclists with thousands of dollars in additional maintenance costs.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    Join the conversation with us by tweeting using #RFSBroken or share with your friends on Facebook.

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  • DC Insider: Increasing number of distractions in new vehicles

    Although they are not yet here, automated, driverless cars are coming.

    However, looking at some of the new features manufacturers are researching, developing and testing for potential use in new cars, one would think that focusing on the road already is an obsolete concept.

    This development poses problems for motorcyclists, as each new feature represents another potential distraction for drivers.

    CityLab reports that car companies – in an effort to woo young drivers – increasingly are trying to integrate new and more technology into vehicles. For instance, Beetle is working to seamlessly integrate mobile phones into its new cars – even allowing drivers to take selfies while driving.

    We all know that distracted driving is a significant factor in many motorcycle crashes. While we don’t have updated data, the Hurt Report stated in 1981 that the most common cause of motorcycle crashes is another vehicle violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.

    The phrase, “I just didn’t see the motorcycle,” is still too common after a crash. Creating new distractions in vehicles can’t be helping the problem.

    Paradoxically, even some of the new features designed to make drivers more aware of the road can serve as distractions.

    The Massachusetts General Court is considering a bill that would allow cars to have monitors installed that would allow a front-seat passenger to have a television and allow screens that provide “the driver with navigation and related traffic, road, and weather information; images used to enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind or to the sides of the motor vehicle; or images that permit the driver to monitor vehicle occupants seated rearward of the driver.”

    Instead of creating new distractions, government agencies, car companies and individual drivers to work to reduce driver distraction. New technologies may not be the answer.

    It is incumbent upon motorcyclists to continue to advocate for sensible policies. The AMA will continue to work with state legislators, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and all other stakeholders to reduce distracted driving and increase the safety of all roadway users.

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  • DC Insider: AMA visits with state legislators at NCSL

    Last week, AMA staff attended the National Conference of State Legislators.

    While some legislators and staff avoided our booth, many were interested in hearing more about our legislative efforts to protect and promote motorcycling – the Indian Chief that Indian Motorcycles loaned us for the event didn’t hurt either.

    Nick Haris and I spoke with legislators from Maine to Washington and from Texas to Montana. Many of the legislators are riders themselves and, as a result, understand the needs of the motorcycling community.

    2014 has been for motorcycle-related legislation – and it isn’t over yet.

    So far this year, Louisiana passed legislation prohibiting motorcycle-only checkpoints. Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would limit the checkpoints in some way, though the legislation either has not yet passed or failed.

    Additionally, the AMA tracked more than 250 pieces of legislation related to distracted driving. Some of these bills, such as Wisconsin’s A 124, prohibit any driver from engaging in any activity that “reasonably appears to interfere with the person’s ability to drive the vehicle safely.”

    With distracted drivers contributing to many accidents, it is encouraging to see so many legislatures taking up bills to combat the problem.

    Equipment issues also proved to be popular this year. The AMA is tracking 49 bills relating to everything from air filters to handlebar height. Perhaps most importantly, Kansas passed H 2318, a bill that allows for modulating headlamps on motorcycles and certain auxiliary side lighting. Lighting issues will remain important as the riding community continues to look for ways to increase conspicuity.

    Unfortunately, many states limit auxiliary lighting.

    On the privacy front, many states introduced bills that would codify that data captured by an event data recorder belongs solely to the owner of the vehicle. Additionally, New Jersey introduced a bill, A 3527, which would prevent the state from sharing license-plate information with other states for purpose of issuing traffic violations based on evidence from traffic cameras. Missouri H 1368 attempted to ban the use of global positioning systems as a method of tracking the number of miles a vehicle travels.  

    With no long-term federal funding fix for the Highway Trust Fund, tolls became a more important issue in states this year. Currently, we are tracking 107 bills related to the collection of tolls. The AMA opposes tolls because they divert traffic off highways and onto smaller roads that were not designed to handle such large volumes. This makes the roads more dangerous, not only for motorcyclists, but for all motorists.

    While always a hot-button issue, helmet laws (both for and against) accounted for only 1.9% of the bills the AMA tracked.

    This is just a small sample of the over 2,200 motorcycle-related bills the AMA is tracking. If you have any questions regarding specific legislation please do not hesitate to contact the government relations department at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

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  • DC Insider: Enhanced enforcement and motorcycling

    It seems every day I read a news article detailing how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state-level departments of transportation, or local law enforcement agencies are conducting enhanced enforcement operations targeting motorcyclists.

    Often, the article will contain this phrase: “Extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas frequented by motorcyclists and where motorcycle crashes occur.”

    Whether on the racetrack, trail or highway, motorcycle safety is the top priority for the AMA.

    I applaud any and all efforts to reduce motorcycle crashes in an efficient and legal manner. However, I fear the drive behind many of these efforts is misguided.

    Yes, motorcycle crashes have gone up. But, it is too easy to look at the raw numbers and assume that motorcycling is getting more dangerous.

    For one thing, there are many more motorcycles on the road today. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of registered motorcycles has more than doubled.

    Perhaps most importantly, you can’t assume that motorcyclists themselves are the cause of all of the increase in crashes.

    According to the landmark 1981 Hurt report, “The most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision by violating the right-of-way of the motorcycle at an intersection, usually by turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle because the car driver did not see the motorcycle.”

    To use more recent data, in 2007, according to the NHTSA[1], 50 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved another type of motor vehicle. In 40 percent (939) of these fatal accidents, the other vehicle turned left across the motorcycle’s path while the rider was going straight or passing or overtaking the vehicle.

    I hope law enforcement agencies recognize this and tailor their enforcement strategies accordingly – enforcement should not target areas simply because they are “frequented” by motorcyclists.

    Instead, enforcement should target areas where motorcyclists are at greatest risk and motorcycle crashes occur. But even then, not all of the focus should be on the rider. It also should focus on the myriad factors that cause crashes, including distracted drivers, speeding (by both passenger motor vehicles and motorcycles) and driving under the influence.  

    We riders can do our part by ensuring that we can be seen. This will reduce the chance that another motorist will invade our right of way.

    Drivers paying attention to, and respecting, motorcyclists will not occur until enhanced enforcement aligns to counter the causes of crashes. That is why we must ensure enforcement and education campaigns are reaching their target audiences in an effective and legal manner.

    [1] http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810990.pdf

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