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Ask Our Lawyer - February 2010

Places to Ride Before You Die

There are two memorials in this great land that I never get tired of looking at when I ride around the country. The first is the Statue of Liberty in NYC. If you are crazy enough to ride/drive through Manhattan down to the tip (Battery Park), you know the view and know that the feeling is wondrous, not least for having survived all the yellow cabs on the way down Broadway. It seems that when I am there I can't get enough of looking at the lady. Over on the New Jersey side of her is an RV park. Before it’s over, I am riding over there and setting up my camp site with a front row seat; getting my jug and looking until my heart is content. I am not sure how long that will take.

The other memorial that I never tire of seeing is the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington D.C. Once, when I was there on a “Run to the Wall,” and while staring up at the memorial it occurred to me that I knew hardly anything about those men – actually boys – that served our country so well. Since then, in my travels around the country, I have looked into what these boys were all about and where they came from. I tried to figure out how they lived and what part of the country built such great human beings. Here is what I discovered: Harlan Block is the guy closest to the end of the pole putting the flag into the ground. He was from around Yorktown, Texas, in the hill country, not far from the Alamo, Austin, Fredricksburg area (Admiral Chester Nimitz hails from there, not to mention Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WWII, was raised nearby). Heroes are plentiful in this part of the country; I have been there and I see why. Harlan, a teenager, died with his intestines blown away. He had been a football star at his high school and probably would have gone on to the University of Texas, but they buried him in Harlingen, Texas, instead.

The next guy on the pole is Rene Gagnon, a Frenchy from New Hampshire (I will never say anything bad about the French again). He was 18. After the war he went back home and promised himself he would live the best quiet life a person can – and he did. Next to Rene is Mike Strank, a Czechoslovakian until he came to this county, where his folks raised him in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He played baseball and knocked a ball clear out of that town’s minor league stadium in 1941. I rode through there once. It is a wonderful part of the country. Mike was the squad leader and the old man at 24. To put his role with these teenagers in perspective, he told his boys “Do what I say and I will get you home to your mothers.” Mike was killed by a mortar while planning an assault, but he got three of his boys back to Mom.

The guy behind Mike is Ira Hays from the Pima Indian Reservation in Arizona. He had never been off the reservation until he joined the Marines. While he survived Iwo Jima, many believe that he died in spirit with his fellow marines. Across from Harlan on the other side of the memorial is Franklin Sousley, a good ole boy from Hilltop Kentucky – my kind of guy. A mortar got him shortly after the famous photo was taken. He was raised by a single mom, so you can imagine how close they were in life. The nearest neighbors were a quarter of a mile away. When the bad telegram came, they could hear Franklin's mom into the night. She couldn't stand the thought of Franklin being buried so far away in Arlington so he is buried down the road in Elizaville Cemetery. When you are on the way to Bike Week in Daytona, Hilltop is off exit 154. If you have time you should stop and say "hey." I think he would like that. The last guy is John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, not far from where Hard Tail, our great leader of the MRF, is from. Bradley survived and raised 8 kids. He only talked about Iwo Jima one time and that was to say the real heroes did not come back. He was a medical corpsman, so you can only imagine what he saw.

Radar Love on a Bike

Q: I have a radar detector mounted in my bike, and I ride through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois a lot. A friend told me that they were illegal. I know that jammers are illegal, but I thought that detectors were ok. What’s the situation?

A: First, let’s define our terms. A radar detector simply alerts you when a radar signal is detected. An active radar jammer sends out its own radar pulses to defeat a radar detector. A lidar or laser jammer emits a light noise signal that confuses the laser gun.

In general, radar detectors are legal across the US, with the exception of Virginia, Washington DC, and on military bases. In Canada, the only three provinces that allow the use of radar detectors are Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. However, radar detectors are illegal in all commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds anywhere in the US. Radar jammers are legal throughout the US. Lidar jammers are legal in most states, except for Nebraska, Minnesota, Utah, California, Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois and Washington, D.C. So watch out in Illinois with your lidar jammer, but its clear riding in Ohio and Indiana.

Putting a Hitch in Things – Even with Motorcycles

Q: We have received a number of calls, including from both Ohio and Illinois, regarding trailer hitches. One writer in Illinois asked for an opinion regarding a police officer who is warning drivers of pickup trucks and SUVs that they need to remove their ball & mounts from their Reese Hitch receivers or he will ticket them for it. I heard from someone else who has a trucking company that McLean County Illinois has a ' County Ordinance' forcing removal of hitches. Is that even possible?

A: We have researched this matter regarding motorcycles and believe the following comments apply only to cars and trucks, and that the hitch concerns do not apply to motorcycles, since bikes aren’t required to have bumpers – at least yet. ABATE Legal star lawyer George Tinkham did some research on this question and found the following:

Section 12-608 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-608) (IVC) reads, in pertinent part:

(a) It shall be unlawful to operate any motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 9,000 pounds or less or any motor vehicle registered as a recreational vehicle under this Code on any highway of this State unless such motor vehicle is equipped with both a front and rear bumper.

Section 1-106.5 of the IVC (625 ILCS 5/1-106.5) defines “bumper” as:

Any device or system of devices protruding from and attached to the front and rear of a motor vehicle that has been designed to be used to absorb the impact of a collision. For the purposes of this Code, a bumper also includes a device or system of devices similar in design to those with which new motor vehicles are equipped.

A protruding hitch bar is clearly not “designed to … absorb the impact of a collision.” In fact, it interferes with the protection a rear bumper might otherwise provide both to the vehicle being struck and the object striking that vehicle. Thus, a court could reasonably find that a vehicle operated with a protruding hitch bar is in violation of §12-608 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

Sections 11-208 & -208.1 of the IVC (625 ILCS 5/11-208 & -208.1) allow units of local government to enact local ordinances that are not inconsistent with the Vehicle Code. It appears that local authorities could ticket drivers of vehicles with a protruding hitch bar based on the Vehicle Code and would not need a local ordinance. If such an ordinance were enacted, however, it does not appear to me to be inconsistent with the Vehicle Code.

Sometimes it Is Not What You Think

It was January and cold, about 4 degrees and I was going with my wife to a movie theatre with a bar – the only way she can get me to a chick flick. As I was making my way into the parking lot, my path was crossed a wonderful site – a biker in full leathers, scarfed and helmeted. The Harley was polished to perfection. This biker was tall and lean and obviously had guts and big ones to be out riding in zero weather. Just the kind of person you like to have near you as a friend when a fight breaks out. The biker parked in front and I was relegated to the back of the parking lot. But I just had to meet this biker with anti freeze for blood. After all I had not been on my bike since November, and I am pretty hard-core, but not that hard core. Who was this biker and where had he been? What possessed him to ride on the coldest day of the year? Was it the Midwest Motorcycle Club's annual New Years Ride? I had to know.

After a dash across the parking lot, I failed to catch this person. Momentarily the biker disappeared, but I persisted. Once in the bar I scanned for this rider I had to meet. There, the biker was standing in the corner of the bar with back to me, shaking off the cold and starting to peel off the layers of leather and Kevlar. As I approached this rider, the helmet was coming off and the hair fell to HER shoulders. She was easy on the eyes. I was fooled or truthfully I had fooled myself. After some stalls and smiles, I introduced myself and complimented her on her ride. I think she was an accountant or some such, but to tell you the truth I was so off the mark my recall has failed me.

Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor
ABATE Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE 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 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE 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, at rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2010, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services