The Washington Traffic Safety Commission issued a Press Release on July 24, 2015 that read:
Motorcycle enforcement patrols begin July 31
OLYMPIA, WA — This summer’s “It’s A Fine Line” motorcycle safety campaign will take place between July 31 and August 16 in Pierce, King, and Snohomish County. During these dates, 20 law enforcement agencies including the Washington State Patrol in these three counties will be looking for illegal violations on and around motorcycles.
A kickoff event for the campaign will take place at Hinshaw’s Motorcycle Store in Auburn on July 31 at 10:00 AM. Hinshaw’s is located at 1611 West Valley Hwy South, Auburn, WA 98001.
Participating law enforcement officers along with motorcycle riders, safety officials, and motorcycle dealers will be available for interviews. The event is open to the public to raise awareness of motorcycle safety issues.
In Washington, motorcycle deaths are not steadily declining like overall traffic deaths. From 2011 through 2013, motorcycles made up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles on our roads, but accounted for almost 17 percent of all traffic fatalities (225 of 1327).
In the first six months (January-June) of 2015, there have been 22 motorcyclist fatalities. The five year average (2010-2014) for this same six month time period is 29 fatalities. Speeding, running off the road, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are the main contributing factors in these crashes. Motorcyclists should always ride sober and within the posted speed limits, get the required training and endorsement, and wear DOT compliant helmets and protective gear.
Here’s how we responded on behalf of the Confederation of Clubs (and all motorcyclists):
We represent the Confederation of Clubs. We received a copy of your July 24, 2015 Press Release.
We appreciate the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s commitment to motorcycle safety. We agree that riders face a number of density-based safety hazards in Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties.
But the bulk of motorcycle accidents do not involve fatalities and are not caused by motorcyclists. The majority of accidents are caused by driver inattention and two out of three cases involve violation of the motorcyclist’s right of way.
The first line of the press release reads: “Motorcycle enforcement patrols begin July 31”. A program designed to treat motorcycles and motorcyclists differently than other motorists clearly falls within the definition of “motorcycle profiling” (which means using the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question or taking enforcement action). See RCW 43.101.419.
By looking for “illegal violations on and around motorcycles” the Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will be violating both the prohibition against motorcycle profiling and the injunction that prohibits the Washington State Patrol from utilizing Biker 101 (see the attached order).
We would appreciate it if you confirmed that the “motorcycle enforcement patrols” will be eliminated from the It’s a Fine Line Program. Please let us know if you anticipate any challenges providing this confirmation by July 30, 2015. Thank you.
WTSC backed down. Here’s the text from its letter of contrition:
We appreciate the Confederation of Clubs’ interest in Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s Motorcycle Safety Program. We believe we share an interest in eliminating traffic related deaths and serious injuries.
Your letter, dated July 28, 2015, refers to a press release from our office on July 24, 2015. The press release you are referring to was a draft that was mistakenly distributed on the It’s a Fine Line website (and no place else.) We had intended for the website contractor to only release the media advisory about the kickoff event.
We regret if this incomplete draft press release made it seem to you as if our intentions were to encourage different treatment for motorcyclists than for drivers. Washington Traffic Safety Commission condemns profiling.
During the It’s a Fine Line campaign (July 31 to August 16), the Washington Traffic Safety Commission is providing over-time funding to trained and commissioned law enforcement officers. These extra patrols will be focused on all motor vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders who commit traffic violations. While on these over-time patrols, it is our understanding that officers will be following applicable traffic enforcement protocols. We have reinforced to participating agencies that a decision to stop and question a driver or a rider or take enforcement action be based on traffic safety violations, not whether a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia.
Jumping in and getting results is what makes Myers & Fox the go-to firm for the Confederation of Clubs and independent riders across the state.