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Jun 9, 2010

AMA: Utah Highway Patrol Issues Statement On May 30 Motorcycle-Only Checkpoint Outside Of Miller Motorsports Park

On May 30, starting around 3 p.m., the Utah Highway Patrol conducted a motorcycle-only checkpoint on Interstate 80 near the Miller Motorsports Park. The date and time were such that the checkpoint stopped fan traffic leaving the facility following a U.S. round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship.

The timing of the checkpoint and discriminatory nature of the action -- only motorcyclists were stopped -- were troubling. Indeed, an already difficult traffic situation was made far worse by the checkpoint.

Although cooler heads prevailed, and the checkpoint was called off after approximately two hours, a number of motorcyclists contacted the AMA with questions, and the AMA contacted the Utah Highway Patrol to get answers.

Below is the statement provided by the Utah Highway Patrol on June 9 regarding the incident:

Thank you for your correspondence to the Utah Highway Patrol in reference to our checkpoint in Tooele County during Memorial Weekend. We have been receiving on a daily basis correspondence from our constituents and from people from all over the United States in regards to this checkpoint. Many were upset and others just wanted to know the reason behind our educational checkpoint. We will provide you a copy of the correspondence we have been utilizing to respond to our constituents. Please feel free to forward our response to the motorcyclists who attended the event and are inquiring about it. In our response, we provide an explanation for our actions, our intentions and an apology for our honest intent. Even though we conducted this checkpoint during Memorial Weekend to educate and save lives, we still had only one fatal accident in the entire State of Utah during the holiday and it was a motorcycle rider. Let me know if you need anything else but I think our response answers most of your questions.

Thank you for your correspondence to the Utah Highway Patrol. I've been asked to reply to your concerns regarding the traffic checkpoint on Sunday, May 30th in Tooele County. First let me apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you or anyone attending the racing event on Sunday afternoon. We had targeted Memorial Day Weekend to do our best to keep the number of fatalities in Utah down. We identified three factors which lead to many deaths in Utah and wanted to try and make an impact on these factors. The areas we were focusing on were DUI enforcement, occupant restraint and motorcycle education. On Friday and Saturday night the Highway Safety Office conducted a DUI checkpoint in Utah and Davis Counties with the Utah Highway Patrol participating. On Sunday a motorcycle checkpoint was conducted in Tooele County.

The intent of the checkpoint was to redirect as many motorcycles as there were officers participating (7-10), to the side and have a brief (a few minutes) discussion about motorcycle safety issues such as proper displacement, helmets, equipment, and safety of the motorcycle. If 7-10 motorcycles were pulled over then all other motorcycles and passenger vehicles were allowed to travel through without interruption as well. It appears that many motorcycles did not understand they could travel through and stopped. According to the operations plan this was not suppose to create a burden for motorists and was not to be time consuming for motorcycle operators. The checkpoint started at 3 PM and went well for over an hour until the major event ended and a tremendous volume of traffic hit the checkpoint around 4:30 PM. We obviously underestimated the number of vehicles and created an unexpected large back up for motorists. When it became apparent the checkpoint was creating a large traffic backup it was opened immediately. At 5:12 PM the all signs were pulled out of the road and the checkpoint was in the beginning stages of being taken down. It was then determined that because of the amount of traffic, it would create a burden to the public, and the checkpoint was not re-established and canceled for the remainder of the night.

Please forgive us for our oversight. It was certainly not our intent to bring a negative aspect to the tremendous event being held in Tooele County, or to our state. Our intention was to educate riders on safety issues and try our best to reduce the rising rate of deaths on Utah roadways from motorcycle riders. The rate of deaths of Utah motorcycle riders is the only fatality rate which is increasing while every other category is decreasing. We would never do anything intentionally to put a negative spin on such an event as this. It was an honest attempt to try and focus on motorcycle operator's safety. Please rest assured, this has been a learning experience for our agency and it will not happen again.

Sincerely,

Sgt. David Moreno
Utah Highway Patrol