Monday, July 14, 2014
Do Motorcyclists Really Want A Road Guard Certification?
While at a recent meeting of ABATE of Washington Board of Directors, there was a presentation made about the "Road Guard Bill" presented to the legislature in January. After reading the Bill, and hearing the claims made by its proponents I questioned whether they had really thought this through. Some of the claims made about the Bill appear to be groundless. Since there was nothing in the Bill stating even remotely what was being claimed. There was no option other than to go to the Washington State Patrol or local law enforcement and request they perform road guard duties (which they do not perform for free). Only then, IF they refuse to do so, may a "certified" road guard perform their duties. If this Bill had become law, it would have been a misdemeanor,[potentially] punishable by jail time up to 90 days, or a fine up to $1,000, OR BOTH (RCW 9.92.030).
Since the proponents of the Bill referred to a similar law enacted by the state of Minnesota in 2012, as an example of how such a law could be created here in Washington, let's take a look at what that law would require. Please realize, that even some 29 months after the law was enacted, Minnesota is still in the "rulemaking" phase. Here are a few of the rules created for this new Minnesota law (emphasis added):
7422.0200 subsection 1(D) requires Road Guard Certificate holders to "obtain consent from the chief of police, or the chief's designee, of any city of the first class through which the group is proceeding".
7422.0200 subsection 1(E) requires Road Guard Certificate holders to "notify each statutory or home rule charter city through which the group is proceeding".
7422.0200 subsection 3 requires "the motorcycle group ride must be an organized gathering of motorcyclists of at least 20 motorcyclists that:
A. is sponsored by an entity that has liability insurance in force for all participants and organizers of the motorcycle group ride.
B. follows a route in accordance with the notification provided.
C. is riding in daytime hours only.
So, let's do a quick review of what you just read. Shall we?
1. The organizers have to "obtain consent" to pass through a 'first class' city, and notify the smaller cities and towns. So under this type of law, your group ride has to ask permission from the police in the larger cities, and inform the smaller ones of your route.
2. Organizers of the group ride have to have liability insurance for all participants and the organizers of the ride in effect before the run starts (An additional cost to organizers)
3. Must follow the route without changes. How many times have you been on a run that was running late, or had for some reason to change its route during the ride?
4. Can only ride in daylight.
Here are the requirements for being allowed to be a Road Guard Certificate holder according to 7422.0300:
1. A 5 year driving record must be reviewed by the commissioner.
2. No more than 2 moving violation convictions within the last two years.
3. No "impaired driving incident" for five years.
4. No "Reckless" or "Careless" driving for five years.
5. No "Vehicular Homicide" conviction (one would hope not).
6. Must be able to carry on a normal conversation at a distance of 5 feet without hearing aid.
7. Must meet the vision requirements to obtain a license (seems obvious)
8. Must have mandated insurance on their motorcycle.
This all seems relatively benign. However, after you have earned your certificate, you would be required to allow the government to review your driving record annually, and to submit a copy of your driving record if you are not licensed in Minnesota.
Failure to meet and maintain ANY requirements of the law after you have been certified will result in the suspension of your certification.
A road guard MUST provide a "breath sample" whenever law enforcement "has reason to believe" the road guard is under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Grounds upon which 'reason to believe' may be based include:
1. Facts or statements provided by the road guard.
2. Drivers license record and accident record.
3. Court documents, or police records.
4. Facts which the law enforcement officer has personal knowledge.
5. A blood, breath, or urine test indicating the presence of alcohol or controlled substance...or a test refusal.
Still want a road guard law like this in Washington? Now we can take an abbreviated look at SOME of the gear you would be required to carry if the Minnesota model was enacted here in Washington. You would have to carry the following items on your bike to use in the performance of your duties:
18 inch octagonal "stop paddle".
A communications device with which to contact law enforcement (a cell phone that can send and receive text and emails is accetable).
Plus, you will have to wear high visibility, retroreflective pants and vests (or jacket), as required in ANSI/ISEA 107-2004. Which means your helmet will be required to have a retroreflective strip visible from 360 degrees.
That is a lot of restrictions, liability and cost, to be able to road guard a group ride. Do we as motorcyclists really wish this sort of thing here in Washington state? I heard a comment during the meeting that "a lot of motorcyclists in the state want a road guard bill". Since then, I have been asking motorcyclists across the state that question. The responses I have received have all been virtually identical. They want to be able to perform road guard duties without getting a ticket; but they don't want to deal with the costs, restrictions, and liabilities of being forced to be certified and insured to perform the duties they have always performed anyway. Just something to think about.
Catch you on the road sometime...