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Motorcycle group upset over ‘profiling’

October 25, 2009

Motorcycle group upset over ‘profiling’

LINDELL KAY

A motorcycle checkpoint in Holly Ridge earlier this month has raised the ire of motorcycle rights activists.

Singling out motorcycles on the highway is discriminatory, said Janice MacKay, director of the N.C. chapter of B.O.L.T. (Bikers of Lesser Tolerance). 

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State officials said traffic checkpoints targeting motorcycles help save lives and ensures compliance with the law.

The Holly Ridge checkpoint netted 19 charges against motorcyclists ranging from driving while impaired to non-compliant helmets. The checkpoint was the second statewide and part of a new initiative by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

Onslow County is ranked No. 1 in the state with the number of motor vehicle crashes that involve motorcycle fatalities, said Holly Ridge Police Sgt. Keith Whaley.

MacKay said stopping a motorcycle just because it is a motorcycle is equivalent to pulling over a black man for “driving while black.”

“This is an enforcement operation by cops with guns and tasers who target motorcyclists for unconstitutional harassment, interruption of our right to travel unencumbered, detention, illegal search and seizures, and detention,” MacKay said. “It is blatant discrimination, not against a racial minority but against a societal subculture.”

The Governor’s Highway Safety Program supports impaired driving, seatbelt and motorcycle checkpoints to save lives and to educate drivers, said David Weinstein the program’s director in response to MacKay’s complaints.

“The studies have shown that this method of traffic law enforcement is most effective in encouraging voluntary compliance with highway safety laws,” he said.

Weinstein said a motorcycle checkpoint is not designed to discourage operation of motorcycles but to protect the driver and passenger. He said motorcycles are more difficult to drive than automobiles.

“The General Assembly has recognized this by mandating additional driver training and a motorcycle endorsement to legally operate (a motorcycle),” he said.

Weinstein said the use of checkpoints has been upheld by North Carolina courts. He said it is often impossible for law enforcement to determine whether a helmet complies with state law without taking a close look.

He said motorcyclists who are in compliance with the law are only delayed for a few moments and then allowed to proceed on their way.

“This seems like such a small sacrifice to make to help reduce injuries and fatalities of motorcycle riders,” he said.

MacKay, who recently lost a bid for an N.C. Senate seat, is not satisfied with Weinstein’s answers.

She sent a letter to Gov. Bev Perdue calling for an immediate end to what she calls motorcycle profiling.

“Profiling motorcyclists by having discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints is disturbing,” MacKay said in her letter. She said she would rather see the state spend the money on fixing roads and bridges to alleviate traffic congestion.

Contact Lindell Kay at 910-219-8456. Read his blog at http://onslowcrime.encblogs.com.

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