As a way of reducing auto accidents, law enforcement officials utilize checkpoints to catch drunk drivers and those that violate seat-belt laws. Now, checkpoints are being used to ensure that motorcyclists are also obeying safety laws. Specifically, motorcycle-only checkpoints are conducted to make sure a biker is wearing a helmet, holds a valid driver’s license and his or her motorcycles are in safe working condition.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that nearly 4,500 motorcyclists were killed while riding in the United States in 2009. In the state of New York, there were 155 deaths in 2009.

In 2008, New York began conducting motorcycle-only safety stops. During that year officials conducted 17 checkpoints and inspected over 5,300 motorcycles. As a result, 365 tickets and 99 citations for other safety violations were issued to riders.

Pushback Across the County

While officials claim, like drunk driving stops, motorcycle-only checkpoints are designed to improve safety and reduce motorcycle accidents, many within the motorcycle community claim the stops unfairly single out motorcyclists and are just a pretext (or fishing expedition) to find criminal behavior. And, much to the delight of motorcyclists around the country, the use of motorcycle-only safety checkpoints is coming under greater scrutiny.

California, North Carolina and Virginia have passed laws banning motorcycle-only checkpoints. Illinois and New Hampshire have passed laws that prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funding for checkpoints.

And, motorcyclists in New York took their issues with motorcycle-only safety stops to federal court. However, the judge, citing safety statistics and the fact that the stops were “minimally intrusive,” found the stops legal.

Motorcyclists in New York, however, will most likely continue the fight against measures that impede on their freedom to ride. Safety advocates, however, claim that motorcycle-only checkpoints simply help to prevent unnecessary motorcycle accidents and fatalities.

Whether safety stops remain in use in New York or not does not minimize the need for bikers to take safety precautions. Riders should always wear helmets, ride defensively, and never drink and ride.