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Ask Our Lawyer - July 2007


I told a friend that he knows more people in the Federal Penitentiary than the Warden. I think he was offended, so he said to me "you know more one-legged people than anyone I know". Sadly, he was right. My one-legged friend list is almost endless and it makes me apprehensive, angry, and joyless. There is Mike, Dale, Jimbo, Roxane, Kathy, Bill, Jim, and Bryan. These are all recent. All were left turned into by a ne'er-do-well, who, in most cases, looked right at us when they turned. Left turns-left turns-left turns-those dreaded left turns in front of us. In most cases, we were only going 30 or so, and we see them, and we think they see us. Yesterday, Mike Sumner was riding his red Yamaha-SHE TURNED IN FRONT OF HIM. He will keep his leg, but with a steel rod. We are not sure about his shoulder at this writing. What do we do? Plan that every vehicle coming towards you is going to turn left in front of you. Sir Isaac Newton said it best. "Whatever you hit, hit it as slow as possible".


You have to love a one-legged guy with a banty chicken named Billy Bad-Ass and a foul duck with a crooked foot named Duggie, and a beautiful wife named Paula. Bryan Lierman lives on seven acres in Sydney, Illinois, and lives a life many of us dream about. He has a wonderful woman, a great house with land, he shoots trap off the back of his riding mower, and is the best cook in Champaign County, Illinois. Barbeque is his specialty-and I have requested a life-time supply. The word is that Bryan's barbeque makes you feel like Elvis-seems you go around saying "oh man" a lot. Did I mention that Bryan lost his leg when he was plowed into by a drunk driver? He says it was like getting it chomped off by an alligator. Details of dealing with his artificial limb are painful, but worth hearing about. He has difficulty with swelling and atrophy. Sockets used by artificial limb manufacturers lose their seal. Dealing with several innovations, Bryan is blessed with one of the best prosthetist around-Bob Devlin. They have become close friends and he is dedicated to resolving Bryan's issues with an artificial limb. At my last meeting with Bryan and Paula, they had me laughing all the way home with their tales of Billy and Duggie. They always thank me at the end of our meetings, but I should thank them for teaching me to look on the brighter side of life.


Q:It seems like every day, there's some new gadget or device you can use while driving. My new cell phone allows me to download music and other audio files and listen to them using a wireless earpiece. Can I use the wireless earpiece to listen to books while I ride my motorcycle? I don't use a helmet, so I would not be able to hide the fact that I have an earpiece on.

A:The first question I always ask when I see someone doing something other that driving is - is it safe, or will this device be a distraction from my driving? As always, commonsense is the best guide. If it requires taking my hands off the handlebars or my eyes off the road, I don't do it. However, once I'm convinced that I can be safe while using the device, then I can ask whether it's legal or not.

It turns out that, like any number of other things, whether it's legal or not depends on where you live or where you ride. I have been unable to find any legislation that specifically deals with wireless (or Bluetooth) earpieces. However, there are existing laws on the books in several states which might bear on the question, so I'll go through some of those.

Some states already regulate the use of headsets in helmets. Alaska, Massachusetts and Rhode Island prohibit the use of headsets entirely, so it would be logical to assume that they would also prohibit the use of single-ear earpieces. California, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York permit single-ear earpieces for motorcyclists, so again, it would be logical to infer that your Bluetooth receiver would also be permitted. Finally, Georgia and Pennsylvania permit earpieces for communications only. Those statutes deal primarily with bike intercom systems, but it may be construed to deal with Bluetooth units as well. However, the specific language of the Georgia statute ("No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing a headset or headphone which would impair such person's ability to hear, nor shall any person while operating a motor vehicle wear any device which impairs such person's vision; provided, however, that a person may wear a headset or headphone for communication purposes only while operating a motorcycle") would seem to allow only on-bike communications, and would therefore not allow earpiece usage for listening to music or making cell phone calls. On the other hand, Pennsylvania specifically allows the use of earpieces for cellular phones, providing the ear piece is only used in one ear.

All of this means that you'll need to check with each state that you plan to ride through to see what the local laws permit. A good starting place is http://www.amadirectlink.com/legisltn/laws.asp.


The fourteenth annual Miracle Ride has come and gone, and with it, another year of hard work, good times, and extraordinary efforts. All of the hard work has gone into a making another huge donation to the Riley Hospital for children. An estimated 8,000 motorcycles participated, raising a record $335,000 this year. Many thanks to all the sponsors, volunteer, and riders who make this event such a huge success and such a good time.


New Denver Noise Law Allows Tickets for Having Aftermarket Exhaust Systems The Denver City Council passed a law recently that essentially requires all riders in the city to use only stock exhaust systems on their motorcycles. The new ordinance, which requires that pipes on bikes have federal Environmental Protection Agency sound-certification label on the exhaust systems, takes effect July 1, and would apply to all motorcycles made since 1982. In practical terms, that means the bike would have to have the original exhaust system installed by the manufacturer. Violators would have two weeks to prove to a judge that they have fixed the problem or would be forced to pay a $500 fine.

The AMA has a decades-long history of opposition to excessive motorcycle sound, and has hosted national summits on the subject that have brought together riders, manufacturers, aftermarket companies, law-enforcement officers and government officials. Those summits have resulted in the development of "Sound Advice," a document that represents the motorcycle community's response to this contentious issue. Among the groups that have supported that effort is A.B.A.T.E. of Colorado, which has issued a position paper warning riders that they could face this kind of discriminatory enforcement because of growing public complaints about traffic sound levels.

Motorcycle Advisory Committee continues work

Jeff Hennie, of the Motorcycle Rights Foundation, reports that the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Motorcycle Advisory Committee (MAC) held its second meeting in Washington DC recently. As outlined in the legislation that the MRF was instrumental in developing and passing through Congress, the MAC's purpose is to provide advice to the Secretary of Transportation, through the FHWA, on all infrastructure issues and how they affect motorcycles. All of the MAC members must be riders. A lot of the meeting was spent on retro-reflectivity of pavement markings, which is essentially the brightness of the markings when headlights light them up. Apparently with materials currently used for pavement markings, when you increase slip resistance you decrease the level of retro-reflectivity. For years, both public and private highway designers have forgotten to consider the small signature of two-wheeled vehicles. MAC was designed to change that mentality, and as a MAC member who has attended both meetings on your behalf, Jeff can tell you with every confidence that is about to change.

Another issue discussed a lot was the cable barriers across the country that are commonly referred to as "bologna slicers" or "cheese slicers." I have to tell you that the state DOT folks and safety engineers do not agree with motorcyclists on this one. Obviously all types of barriers are bad, and when roadside departure occurs, things go from bad to worse in a fraction of second. Anything you strike with your bike, car or body is going to be a serious factor in the crash. Other potential hazards include signposts, telephone and utility poles, fire hydrants, or anything else commonly found occupying space on the side of the road. According to the engineers, there is no proof that concrete barriers are less deadly than cable barriers; in fact, they claim that the opposite is true. With the use of cable barriers in the state of Texas last year, they went from 54 deaths from vehicles crossing the median or double yellow line down to 2. With results like that, motorcyclists will have a tough time declaring cable barriers unsafe at any speed. My brow is wrinkled on that one. As Mark Twain said there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics." I will run the numbers myself. A little old fashioned cross-examination may go a long way. Cable barriers came from Europe, like a lot of things these days, and are undergoing many safety upgrades across the pond. Retrofitting wood, plastic and/or nylon to the cable barriers may decrease the chances of the rider being, for lack of a more glamorous term, sliced in half. We will have more on this one.

Rod Taylor, Charter Member of MRF, Member of A.B.A.T.E. OF OHIO, INDIANA AND ILLINOIS

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