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Ask Our Lawyer - August 2007

COPS AND THE ROAD

Q:A friend of mine at work was going north on Route 57 from Kankakee, IL. Right before the Manteno exit, a State trooper had someone pulled over. My friend didn't change lanes when approaching the trooper. All of a sudden, the trooper pulled out right in front of him and gave him a citation for violating the "Scott's Law." What is this law, and is there any defense?

A:The law definitely exists, and can be found Illinois at 625 ILCS 5/11-907. Other states have similar provisions. The Illinois statute requires that:

(c) Upon approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall:

  1. proceeding with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or
  2. proceeding with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.

. . .
(d) A person who violates subsection (c) of this Section commits a business offense punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $10,000. (emphasis added) Clearly, this is a serious situation, and the statute is less than clear on when a motorist is required to move over. However, the statute clearly requires that a motorist either change lanes or slow down. It's still up to the officer to decide if the motorist exercised "due caution," but the police officer is only one-half of the story. The charged person may have believed that a lane change is unsafe. A judge or jury would be the final word.

THE CITY OF CHICAGO - AT IT AGAIN!

Q:Today I was told that a city parking lot for the Chicago Transit Authority has banned motorcycles from parking there. What in the world are they doing is Chicago?

A:Sometimes, it's hard to tell what the folks in the City of Chicago government is thinking. The City is clearly wrong in this matter. Our correspondent indicated that the reason he was given for banning motorcycles is that the towing service used by the City doesn't have any easy way to tow bikes and trikes (perhaps the City needs another towing service).

A deficient towing service is not an acceptable reason to discriminate against bikes. I believe that in most states, the right (not privilege) to use the public way includes the right to use publicly owned and operated facilities designed to serve public highway travelers. Parking facilities are clearly intended to accommodate such highway users. I don't think that the use of such facilities can be limited any more than the highways themselves. Vehicles may be restricted because of size, weight, commercial status, or because the highway is too dangerous for that type of vehicle, but not for the silly reason given. I am pretty confident there would be no precedent that would allow a type of vehicle to be prohibited because the highway authority found it inconvenient to handle such vehicles if it became necessary to do so. That would be like prohibiting Corvettes because the police do not have fast enough cars to chase them

TOUGH CASES AND BAD LAW

There's an old lawyer's saying that tough cases make for bad law. Such a case came up recently in southern Indiana. A group of riders were on a charity ride when a young kid, who had only had his license for about 8 months, lost control of his car, crossed the centerline, and plowed into the riders, killing three people and injuring others. The county prosecutor responsible for the area has decided not to file any criminal charges against the driver for the deaths, stating that there was no evidence that the driver was impaired or grossly negligent. Bikers are up in arms about that decision, and we understand that.

I have campaigned vigorously for several years now for stiffer penalties for motorists who kill bikers. I believe that if a driver is impaired while driving (not only with drugs or alcohol, but also by such activities as eating, drinking, or talking on a cell phone), or acting recklessly by running red lights, stop signs, or by running at excessive rates of speed, then the law should consider that a criminal act and the wrong-doer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. It's another question, however, if the collision is the result of mere negligence or a horrible mistake. In that event, civil remedies, such as lawsuits, are the best way to address such a tragedy. Our job, as bikers and as advocates, is to ensure that prosecutors fully investigate accidents to determine whether a collision was the result of more than negligence. If it is, then we need to get involved in the process to ensure that the law is enforced equally and fairly.

TIRE RECALL - THE FRENCH ARE AT IT AGAIN!

France-based tire maker Michelin said Friday it's recalling 19,924 motorcycle tires in the United States and Canada, because of possible tread problems. The recall includes two front tire models, the Michelin Pilot Power 2CT and Michelin Pilot Power. Both are size 120/70 ZR 17 (58W), and labeled "MADE IN FRANCE." The tires also are marked with the Department of Transportation identification numbers DOT 6UCW 980T and DOT 6UCW 979T. The numbers are found on the sidewall of the tire.

Michelin said that at speeds exceeding normal highway riding, the tires in question may exhibit an abnormal deformation in the tread, which may be accompanied by small localized sections of tread separation or loss. In addition, the recalled tires could experience a slight to excessive vibration and create an unstable riding condition, the company said.

Drivers affected by the action are encouraged to schedule an appointment with a Michelin motorcycle tire dealer to have their recalled tire replaced for free.

Remember, there are many tires that could be recalled but aren't because we don't take action.

SENATOR MOVES TO HELP BIKERS

ABATE of Illinois is pleased to announce that Senator Richard Durbin has signed-on as a co-sponsor to S.616, which is "a bill to promote health care coverage parity for individuals participating in legal recreational activities or legal transportation activities."

Senator Durbin and ABATE of Illinois have enjoyed increasingly warm relations in recent years. We would like to thank Senator Durbin for co-sponsoring this bill that our members overwhelmingly wish to see enacted.

Senator Durbin joins Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Senator John Ensign of Nevada in co-sponsoring this important legislation that would close a loophole in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), where motorcyclists could be denied insurance coverage if involved in a motorcycle accident.

For more information, contact Philip Conklin, ABATE of Indiana Legislative Representative.

KEEPING THE BUREAUCRATS IN LINE

Todd Nowlin as the best motorcycle plate in the world - HD1. He has had that place for a zillion years and proudly renews it year after year. Guess what - someone else likes that plate, too (we suspect someone at the BMV) When he went to register his bike this year, he got a notice stating he was able to have his plate this year. Todd is not the kind of guy to back down from a fight, so he contacted various supervisors at the BMV and got in touch with A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services. We put him in touch with State Senator Richard Bray, who was able to get the BMV to issue the HD1 plate to Todd. Thanks to A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services and Sen. Richard Bray, Todd can keep HD1 on his bike.

RIDER ED KEEPS THEM HAPPY

Not all the letters I get are from people who need help. Denise from Plymouth, Indiana recently wrote to thank A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services for supporting the Rider Education program. Her 17 year old son has just passed the course and is a very happy, and safe, rider. A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services is proud to support the Rider Education program, which helps us keep ourselves safe out on the roadways.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

Remember, injured A.B.A.T.E. members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ?%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, A.B.A.T.E. members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

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