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Washington, D.C.: President’s Budget Proposal Would Slash Trail Funding. President Obama’s newly submitted proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011 could be disastrous for motorized trail users. Buried in the nearly 200-page document is one paragraph dealing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Capital Improvement and Maintenance (CIM) program. The CIM program funds improvements, maintenance and operations of U.S. Forest Service roads, trails and recreation infrastructure. Under the budget proposal, the CIM program would be cut by $100 million — from a $538 million appropriation in FY 2010 to a proposed $438 million in FY 2011.
The proposed cut is particularly disturbing in light of the Forest Service’s recent work on off-highway vehicle (OHV) travel management. Many National Forests have only recently completed their travel management plans and will need funding for implementation. As these plans were developed, local Forest Service staff repeatedly told OHV enthusiasts that they lacked sufficient funding to maintain existing trails, provide trailhead facilities or to adequately inventory existing trails. Furthermore, funding for good trail design, construction and maintenance is essential to meeting the Administration’s stated goals of erosion control, watershed health and forest restoration.
The AMA urges its members to contact their federal elected officials and request that they oppose any cut in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s CIM budget.
Visit www.amadirectlink.com/legisltn/rapidresponse.asp for more information.
Washington, D.C.: A report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows a continuation in the decline of fatalities and injuries associated with all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use. According to the CPSC, total ATV-related injuries in 2008 decreased 10 percent from 2007, with injuries to children under 16 declining six percent.
The CPSC also reported that the risk of injury per 10,000 four-wheel ATVs in use declined by 15 percent from 2007 to 2008. This is the seventh straight year that injury risk for ATV riders has decreased, and it is now lower than at any time since CPSC began calculating this injury risk in 1985. Four-wheel ATVs have become increasingly popular, with the number of vehicles in use increasing more than 300 percent since 1998.
Washington, DC: Transportation Department bans texting for commercial truck drivers. Following up on last year’s distracted driving summit, in which the AMA was an invited guest, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new federal guidance to expressly prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles. The prohibition is effective immediately and is the latest in an ongoing series of actions taken since the national summit was held.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-distracted drivers. Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is all working on additional regulatory measures that will be in the near future.
To read the AMA’s position statement on distracted and inattentive driving, please go to www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com/legisltn/positions/distracted.asp.
Boston, Mass.: Attorney General recovers $11.1 million in motorcycle insurance overcharges for consumers. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has entered into settlements with Safety Insurance Company (“Safety”), Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (“Liberty”) and Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Company (“Quincy”) resolving allegations that they overcharged consumers for motorcycle insurance by using incorrect motorcycle values to calculate premiums. The settlements, which return $11.1 million to consumers, stem from an investigation that the Attorney General’s Office began over a year ago, after a consumer filed a complaint with the office’s Insurance & Financial Services Division.
The Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA) is spearheading the effort to ensure that all motorcyclists entitled to refunds get them.
“The AGO has reached out to the motorcycling community, through the MMA, out of concern that the insurance companies might not be able to identify and locate the riders,” said MMA Chairman Dave Condon. “All riders are encouraged to contact the MMA directly for assistance in expediting your refund.”
To qualify for a refund, you must answer “yes” to the following questions:
o Did you buy motorcycle insurance from the Safety, Liberty or Quincy insurance company?
o Did your motorcycle insurance policy contain the collision or comprehensive options?
o Did you buy this optional motorcycle insurance at any time during the years 2002 to the present?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then you may be due a refund and are urged to send your contact information via e-mail to: MyRefund@MassMotorcycle.org. Or by mail to the following address: Attn: MA AGO Insurance Settlement, P.O. Box 378, Brimfield, MA 01010.
The contact information will be shared only with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Insurance and Financial Services Division and the named insurance carrier, Condon said. The information should include your name, address (past and present), telephone number, e-mail, and the year, make, model and VIN number of the motorcycle or motorcycles that were insured.
Alternately, the AGO has worked with the three insurance companies to establish the following hotlines: Liberty (800) 569-5411, Quincy (800) 899-1116, and Safety (877) 951-6416.
Auto insurance companies are required to calculate premiums by following the rules in their rating manuals. The settling insurers’ rating manuals required the insurers to use current motorcycle book values to calculate the collision and comprehensive premiums charged to consumers. However, rather than using current book values to calculate premiums, the settling insurers in many cases allegedly used motorcycle values that were inflated and out-of-date.
Under the terms of the settlements filed in Suffolk Superior Court, it is anticipated that Safety will return $7.2 million to policyholders; Liberty will return $3.1 million to policyholders; and Quincy will return $800,000 to policyholders. The three insurance companies will also make payments to the state totaling $510,000. The settlements cover alleged overcharges going back to 2002 and require the insurers to pay six percent interest to consumers on the alleged overcharges. Average refunds to consumers are anticipated to be approximately $300 with some consumers receiving thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands of policies are believed to have been affected.
Lake Elsinore, Calif.: Roadracing World Magazine interviews AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. Roadracing World Magazine’s David Swarts talked with Dingman about professional racing, vintage racing and the current state of the AMA. Broken into three parts, the interview addressed many questions about the AMA’s past and present activities, including how the Association benefits from the sale of AMA Pro Racing assets, the new direction of vintage racing in America, and how the AMA will grow membership moving forward.
– Part 1, AMA Pro Racing: http://roadracingworld.com/news/article/?article=39217
– Part 2, Vintage Racing: http://roadracingworld.com/news/article/?article=39219
– Part 3, The State of the AMA: http://roadracingworld.com/news/article/?article=39218
Ocotillo, Calif: California State Parks recently kicked-off a comprehensive update of the General Plan for the popular Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. A General Plan is a broad-based policy document that establishes a long-range vision and goals. The plan also provides direction on future types of improvements, services, and programs. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be prepared as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The EIR will evaluate potential environmental effects associated with adoption of the General Plan.
A consulting firm is assisting Ocotillo Wells with this process and has a short questionnaire posted.
Visit PlanOcotilloWells.com to help identify key planning issues to be considered.
Washington State: The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released its Draft Reiter Foothills Forest Recreation Plan. While approximately 4,000 acres of the 10,000-acre area being studied have seen off-highway motorcycle use in the past, the new DNR plan proposes limiting motorized use to 1,100 acres. That would represent a 72.5 percent reduction in available riding opportunities despite a DNR survey that showed motorcycling is the most popular use for the area (60 percent of user groups surveyed). The DNR admits that the 1,100 acres proposed is inadequate to accommodate existing use, and their own research has identified additional area suitable for OHV use. Furthermore, because the plan does not explicitly identify motorized single-track motorcycle trails, there is no guarantee that there will be any left open to motorized use.
A “Save Reiter” Facebook page has been created and the Northwest Motorcycle Associations website has the latest information.
Hot Springs, Ark.: Members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation say a U.S. Forest Service plan to close areas of the Ouachita National Forest to OHVs is misguided and have requested a halt to the implementation of the project.
Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and U.S. Representative Mike Ross say any such rule could hurt the economy in western Arkansas. Lincoln cites the Mena area in particular as one that would be hard-hit by any ban in the National Forest. Pryor and Ross also asked officials of the National Forest to “re-engage” with local and state officials to find a commonsense solution. “Reasonable access to our nation’s public lands, for both jobs and recreation, is something many Arkansans depend upon,” Lincoln said in a news release.
Great Falls, Mont.: the National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) is holding another round of Public Land Advocacy webinars soon. These webinars will complement the highly popular Public Land Advocacy DVD series. The webinar series will help participants understand and be effectively involved in OHV management and agency planning processes. Topics such as, writing effective comments, working with land managers, the agency process for designating routes, and so on are intended to help individuals promote and preserve OHV riding opportunities. There will also be information for land managers including getting to know the enthusiasts and how to provide excellent trail systems for riders.
Individuals will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter and to interact with other participants.
Visit www.nohvcc.org/education/webinars.asp for dates and sign up information.
Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina’s highest court has heard arguments over whether a city can require motorcycle riders to wear helmets, despite the lack of a state law requiring them.
In September 2008, the Myrtle Beach City Council voted unanimously to pass 15 ordinances intended to crack down on rallies, including the helmet requirement. Violators of the helmet law face a $100 fine but no jail time. Justices questioned an attorney for the city over what they seemed to view as the intent of the ordinance: which was not to make Myrtle Beach’s roads safer for riders, but instead to discourage attendance at two popular biker rallies.
State Rep. Thad Viers argued that a state law governing traffic ordinances specifically spells out what local governments are allowed to do regarding traffic laws. He also contended that allowing the municipal ordinance to trump existing state law would have serious consequences statewide.