Do you know your local laws?
Your organization is doing a charity ride of some sort and you have to get 100 motorcycles through town without breaking the pack up. You contacted the local law enforcement agency, but they refused to help out. So you decide to have some road guards stop traffic at intersections to keep everyone moving and together. Is that legal?
Well if you live in Minnesota or Illinois it is. And hopefully Ohio will be added to that select list. Of course there is a condition that goes along with this; you must be a certified motorcycle road guard.
Motorcyclists are some of the most generous people around and often participate in fundraising activities for various community groups, food banks, veteran’s causes and more. Because we ride, our bikes are included in the fund raising activities by means of a group ride. Lately, police have been more reluctant to assist with traffic control, citing manpower and overtime issues. The refusal to help rides is epidemic and nationwide. Being bikers, we just do what we’ve always done and that’s take matters into our own hands. The problem with that is it’s illegal. If a road guard were injured while stopping traffic, he probably wouldn’t be covered by his vehicle insurance either because of the illegal activity. Even with that said, we know the safest and most expeditious way to move a large pack through town is to block the intersections and control traffic.
Minnesota solved this problem, with the help of ABATE of Minnesota, by passing the Motorcycle Road Guard Certificate Program. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=7422
Passed in 2012, this program allows motorcyclists to be certified as traffic controllers, trained in flagging operations, intersection traffic control, the rules of the road and group ride instruction.
There are other requirements, including qualification standards, a clear driving record, valid driver’s license, individual liability insurance and proper high visibility apparel. Classroom study is two hours long followed by one hour of practical training at a live intersection near one of several colleges that offer the course. The cost is $30. Not a bad investment for organizations, motorcycle clubs, riding clubs, etc. At Road Guardians, we feel the basic Accident Scene Management course should be considered as part of the curriculum for traffic controllers also, as part of the certification requirements.
Once certified, a Road Guard Traffic Controller has the same authority to direct traffic as a police officer. Failure to obey a certified traffic controller is a misdemeanor.
Illinois passed HB1539 which became effective on January 1, 2014. It is similar to the Minnesota law and regulations. The implementation of training procedures for road guards is the duty of the Illinois Secretary of State.
These bills are well thought out and provide proper training for prospective certified traffic controllers. An important aspect is a certified motorcycle road guard is not liable for damages in a civil action for injury, death or damage to personal property in a crash during the performance of his duties directing traffic, as long as he complies with all the rules and regulations adopted in the code. The exception is wanton or intentional acts or omissions, or negligent, reckless performance of his duties.
There is a group in Washington state that is seriously looking at proposing a similar bill there and Wisconsin had a powerful state senator author a civilian traffic controller bill even before Minnesota’s bill, but unfortunately, ABATE of Wisconsin did not support the idea at that time. Perhaps after the recent successes of Minnesota and Illinois, Wisconsin will reconsider.
Meanwhile it is hoped Ohio will be the next state to pass legislation enabling us to legally assist motorcycle groups at intersections. With police manpower being stretched to the limit, or excessive service fees of $300 or more making a charity ride unfeasible, it makes sense that road guard certification is the way to go. As bikers we’re going to continue doing it anyway, but besides being illegal, untrained and ill-equipped road guards put everyone at risk.
Written by – Tony “Pan” Sanfelipo
Tony Pan Sanfelipo is a retired investigator for Hupy and Abraham, Sturgis Hall of Fame Freedom Fighter inductee, co-founder of ABATE of Wisconsin (1974) and founder of BOLT (1991)