Dixie ABATE’s primary focus is on Awareness (teaching motorists to be aware of motorcycles that share the road with them) and Education (teaching motorists HOW to safely share the road with motorcycles, and stressing to riders how important it is to keep working on their skill set). We also work with our Alabama State Senators and House Representatives on issues that face us in Montgomery. We concentrate first on eliminating rider fatalities and secondly on opposing laws that restrict our freedoms, which are generally imposed by interests who have no idea what riding a motorcycle is all about..
Our main goal in the 2015 legislative session is a good “M” (Motorcycle) endorsement bill. Currently Alabama does not require an M endorsement to operate a motorcycle on the highways. Alabama is the only state in the United States that does not require a skills evaluation or training to earn an M endorsement. There are several issues that this situation contributes to:
- Since a clerical mistake made when Alabama was crafting its graduated drivers license laws, Alabama effectively doesn’t require an M endorsement to ride a motorcycle. More specifically, they DO, but there is no governmental body actually authorized to issue the endorsement. That situation didn’t come about on purpose; someone just failed to put the letter M in a column where it should have been. But there are unintended consequences of that oversight, which include a rider crossing the state line into a neighboring state and being technically illegal to operate a motorcycle in that state. We have heard a few reports of problems with LEO’s in other states that have arisen from this situation.
- Military service members from Alabama do not have an M endorsement that is recognized as valid on base, causing many to have to get a motorcycle license in the state where they are stationed.
- Alabama motorcyclists are often killed or injured due to inexperience or unproven skills. In 2012 (the last year for which we have statistics) there were 1912 accidents involving motorcycles in Alabama. 1307 of those accidents were the fault of the motorcyclist. These accidents resulted in 92 deaths, and of the 92, investigators determined that 66 of those fatalities were due to a mistake made by the motorcycle rider. It is probable that many of these were due to inexperience. If an inexperienced person decides to buy a bike and hit the road, nothing in Alabama’s licensing laws stand in his way. We have all heard anecdotes telling the story of a rider who rode away on a brand new shiny bike, only to wreck it within five miles of the store where he bought it.
- Riders often ride in organized rides, often for charity causes. These rides attract a number of riders that do not know each other’s skill level. All they can do is trust each other to be skilled enough to not threaten the safety of the group. When something goes wrong, these riders can be injured or killed by their inexperienced companions, who too often to run over them because they do not know what to do in an emergency accident avoidance situation.
- If an Alabama rider moves to another state, he has to test for a motorcycle license there when his Alabama license expires. No other state recognizes Alabama’s M endorsement as sufficient for a rider to automatically obtain the endorsement in that state.
Dixie ABATE supports a bill that would require a written test combined with a riding skills test for a valid M endorsement.
Dixie ABATE supports a waiver of those requirements for a rider who has taken a MSF-certified Basic Riders Course within four years of applying for an endorsement.
Dixie ABATE supports a clause allowing all current “M” endorsement holders “grandfathered” status, meaning that they would not have to meet those standards.
Other issues for debate and possible action in the future:
Loosen restrictions on auxiliary motorcycle lighting so that we can be more visible to the driving public.
Support a “Dead Red” law.
Abolish 15″ height restriction on handlebars.
Oppose targeting of motorcyclist at police check points.
Support a required “motorcyclist awareness” module in driver’s education classes.
Dixie ABATE’s stance on issues that matter to riders is not derived from the top down. The Board does not set the agenda for the organization. Instead, our policies are driven by the well-reasoned views and votes of our active and engaged membership. Your voice matters more than you may realize. Join us. Get in touch with us if you have any questions. We have a forum here on this website, and we have a Facebook page. We want to hear from you.
— Gene Powell, Dixie ABATE Legislative Liaison