Ride of the 100 Myrtle Beach SC

It’s Not About “Fair”

May 2006

There was quite a bit of hoopla in SMRO circles last year when the State of Florida passed HB1697 [CHAPTER 2005-164] a.k.a. the “Stiffer Penalties Act”. This legislation was supposed to be a deterrent to careless cagers, but this year’s record Daytona BikeWeek Death Toll of 21 proves otherwise.

Why? Most likely because under the law the price to maim a biker is only $500, and the price to kill one is only $500 more. And while a $1,000 fine may be a deterrent for some, for others it’s simply a bargain rate for a “License to Kill”.

“Madd Ray” Henke of Motorcyclists-Against-Dumb-Drivers.com and I (mostly Ray) came up with some suggestions on making the law more effective and coupling it with a public awareness campaign, which we posted here …


… and I summarize here:

With respect to putting teeth into the “Stiffer Penalties” laws, I like your suggestions below regarding

(1) Making the laws specific to “biker” injuries and “biker” deaths;

(2) Increasing the mandatory minimum fines to at least $10,000 (for maiming) and $20,000 (for killing);

(3) Extending the drivers license suspension period to a mandatory minimum of 2 years; and

(4) Combining the laws with, in your words, “… a public relations [and/or awareness] campaign, which would alert the auto driver to a real and substantial penalty, and a penalty which can be most effectively avoided by paying special attention to the protection of the vulnerable motorcyclist.”


My first thought on a PR campaign would be TV ads, billboards, posters, and other visual media associating

(1) a pair of eyes to “Use These”, and

(2) a drivers license and set of car keys to “Lose These”.

The intended message would of course be that if cagers don’t watch for motorcycles, they stand to lose their driving privileges for 2 years.

We sent out a Request for Comments, and the first one we received was from Marc Livesey who wrote:

“Would it not be fair to all affected from a death that the law does not discriminate (think of a reverse prejudice). The laws should not be just for bikers in this instance.”

To this comment, respected motorcyclists’ rights advocate Susan ‘Miss Red’ Huttmann posted the following endorsement …


… and to that posting I take grave exception, as I detail here now:

Miss Red said:

Folks-I agree with Marc about the scope we must consider. While it is paramount that as bikers we pursue and promote our rights, it is just as important that we be realistic. As citizens of this state we must work toward the goal of equitable consideration for ALL citizens on our streets, roads and highways.

IronBoltBruce says:

Life is not about “fair”. Life is about kill or be killed, and survival of the fittest. Likewise, American politics is not about “equity”. Both Democrats and Republicans claim to represent the people, but don’t think for a moment that either party gives a tinker’s damn about being “equitable” with the other.

Miss Red said:

It is by reminding others that bikers are an integral segment of the community that cares about the safety of everyone NOT only riders, we all benefit.

IronBoltBruce says:

The mission of MROs, and the role of bikers’ rights activists, is NOT to worry about the “safety of everyone”. Our job is to protect the rights and promote the interests of bikers and bikers alone. We are a special interest group, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the more we focus on those special interests, the more “all” will benefit.

Miss Red said:

Anyone that uses a vehicle of any type needs to be held accountable for unlawful action. No part of the population is immune from the danger of being injured or killed by someone else and no one is excused from their legal responsibility for inflicting harm on someone else. We need to be willing to recognize and accept our own role in our community’s social welfare.

IronBoltBruce says:

In the context of bikers’ rights activism, philanthropy has no place unless it can be leveraged or exchanged for political capital … and “Kumbaya” makes a pretty lame battle cry. Our role is to make cagers accountable for their actions, NOT to police the actions of our own. We wear patches, not badges.

Miss Red said:

There are ways to let your neighbors, local businesses and law enforcement understand you are fighting for the right of EVERY man, woman and child to be able to move place to place for school, work, personal business and recreation without the constant threat of an assault by a careless motorist OR motorcyclist.

IronBoltBruce says:

Yes, and there are ways to let “… your neighbors, local businesses and law enforcement” know that bikers are no longer going to donate to their charities, buy their products or make their lives easier unless they start respecting our civil rights in rulemaking as well as our right-of-way on the road.

Miss Red said:

It makes no more sense to exclude the majority of the population from any safety campaign as it does for the state of Florida to exclude motorcyclists from theirs.

IronBoltBruce says:

The point is not to exclude any group from safety considerations. The point is to focus attention on the safety of one group, i.e. bikers, i.e. the group bikers’ rights activists are supposed to champion. The point is to decrease the impact of inattentional blindess by increasing the expectation of risk, harm or loss associated with “not seeing” motorcycles and maiming or killing bikers. The safety of cagers should NOT be a major concern of ours, because I can assure you our safety is no major concern of theirs. Besides, enough will be lost in the give and take of political compromise. We don’t need to give it all away up front.

Miss Red said:

Like it or not, we are all in this together. I am NOT suggesting we abandon our passionate commitment to safety awareness related to motorcycles but remember, we are not isolated from the rest of our communities, we are members of them.

IronBoltBruce says:

Yes, we are all in “this” together. But we need to recognize that “this” is a WAR, with battles being fought in Washington, in every state capitol, and on every street and highway. And as it is with all wars, ” … to the victors go the spoils”.

Miss Red said:

We need to look beyond our organizations, clubs and colors and take in the entire view of the road safety landscape. Although, our SMRO leadership may not agree, the landscape also reaches across the border of the sunshine state and into every state in the union.

IronBoltBruce says:

In the current Floridian context, using “SMRO” and “leadership” in the same sentence is an oxymoron. Otherwise yes, it is important that we focus on the big picture, and that we share strategies, information and resources across and beyond state lines. That is a big, big part of what my website, forum and email communications effort is all about.

Miss Red said:

What we accomplish here … as well as what we fail to do defines us like it or not. It’s time to remind ourselves and others of just what we can do when we put our minds to it.

IronBoltBruce says:

I couldn’t agree more with what you say here, Miss Red.

But even if I didn’t, I would “… defend to the death your right to say it!”

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!