On December 23, 2013 (then) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 126, which affects Pennsylvania motorcycle riders. The law, known as Act 126 of 2013 (effective February 21, 2014) limits the number of times a motorcycle rider can reapply for a learner’s permit to three times, in a five-year period. The original Bill was sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) who had the overwhelming support of the Alliance of Bikers Toward Education (A.B.A.T.E) and statewide law enforcement. The initial legislation was designed in part to prevent the practice of continually extending the permit without having to retake the motorcycle knowledge test or skills tests. Law enforcement was particularly concerned with the growing number of motorcycle offenses committed by permitted (but unlicensed) riders. Nearly 3,500 crashes involving motorcycles occurred on Pennsylvania roadways in 2013, 500 fewer than in 2012. Those crashes resulted in 181 motorcyclist fatalities, as opposed to 210 deaths in 2012. The number of registered motorcycles in Pennsylvania decreased in 2013 by just over 3,800, while the number of licensed motorcyclists increased by nearly 6,000.

ACT 126 is designed to enable riders to continue to learn to ride a motorcycle properly while encouraging them to get obtain a full motorcycle driver’s license. In addition to limiting the number of times a rider can apply for a permit, ACT 126 requires a rider to successfully pass the motorcycle knowledge test upon each reapplication. It also prohibits PennDOT from renewing a person’s motorcycle learner’s permit. To read the law, click here.

For questions and information on permits, licensing and motorcycle training for Pennsylvania residents, visit the PA Division of Motor Vehicles or Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP).

The warm weather is here and there is an increase in the number of motorcycles on the roads.  Below are ten motorcycle safety tips to keep you save this summer:

  1. Make eye contact with drivers.  Don’t assume the other drivers see you.
  2. Watch “vehicle behavior” as you approach.  Oftentimes, vehicles misjudge speed and distance.
  3. Watch for “left-turn” intersections.  Left turns into the path of a motorcycle are the most frequent accident.  Be extra careful when you see a vehicle in the left turn lane.
  4. Watch when turning left from a highway. 
  5. Watch for hazardous road conditions such as wet roads, fluid spills, sand, gravel and potholes (especially after this winter).
  6. Slow down around curves.
  7. Always wear a helmet.
  8. Always wear riding gear designed for motorcycle riders.
  9. Always protect your eyes and face with a full face helmet or built in face shield.
  10. Wear bright, reflective clothing in order to be clearly seen by others.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Stark & Stark today for your free consultation.

Stark & Stark motorcycle lawyers love to ride motorcycles on the street, but there are many others out there who prefer recreational riding of ATVs and dirt bikes, or even motocross racing with dirt bikes or quads (a/k/a “4 wheelers”).  Anytime you ride there is a known risk of injury or death.  We always want to do what we can to minimize that risk.  As motorcycle rider, a lawyer who sees catastrophic injuries from motorcycles and a mom who has a son who races motocross,  I always stress the importance of safety equipment.

Safety equipment that is available to protect yourself and others when riding include: neck braces full face helmets, goggles, steel tip riding boots, hip pads, knee pads, mouth pieces and Tethers (a  cord connected to the engine that turns the engine off if the rider falls off or the cord is pulled out.)  This equipment should be worn not only when participating in motocross races, but also when riding dirt bikes, ATVs recreationally and even riding a motorcycle on the roadways.

In addition to the above, you always want to follow the manufacturer warnings and the law.  Some people are not aware, especially regarding ATVs, that there are riding laws.  In Pennsylvania for example, these laws include but are not limited to:

  • No ATV shall be operated without a lighted headlight and taillight from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise;
  • All ATVs must be titled and registered, with the owner receiving one numbered plate;
  • Registration is to be renewed once every two years;
  • No one under age 8 shall operate an ATV on state-owned land;
  • No one between 8 and 15 may operate an ATV unless on a parent’s land or in possession of a safety training certificate;
  • No one under 16 may cross a highway or operate an ATV on designated roads unless in possession of a safety certificate and with an adult 18 or older; and
  • ATV use on any street or highway is prohibited, except to cross and except for roads designated as ATV roads.

These laws are designed to keep you and others safe when you ride.  Stark & Stark wants everyone to be safe.   Should an accident occur, please feel free to contact us at 267-907-9600 in PA or 609-896-9060 in NJ.   Please ride safely.

To keep our clients and fellow motorcyclist safe, we want to remind everyone of the “T-CLOCS” inspection checklist.  “T-CLOCS” stands for Tire, Controls, Lights, Oils, Chassis and Stands. These are all things you should inspect at a minimum before you ride your motorcycle. Regarding the tires ("T"), be sure to always check the tread and air pressure. This will help you keep traction to the roadway surfaces.  On the controls ( “C”)  you want to look at the handlebars, levers, pedals cables, hoses and throttle. Things to look for, among other things include fraying, cuts or kinks in the cables or hoses.  Your handle bars should always be straight, turn freely and your grips should be secure.  Checking all of these allows your motorcycle to operate in the safest manner.

Oils (“O”) should be inspected next.  You want to not only make sure nothing is leaking but also make sure you have enough fluids including hydraulics, coolants and don’t forget the fuel! You do not want to find yourself without gas, sitting on the side of the road.   The Chassis ("C") is the next part of the inspection before you begin on your ride.   Things you want to look out for are the front forks, shocks and the swingarm bushing/ bearings. You want to make sure all have proper pressure for the smoothest ride possible. Finally you want to check the Stands (“S”).   You want to make sure there are not cracks and that the springs are in place. 

We at Stark and Stark hope you have are safe each time you ride your motorcycle.

For most motorcycle rides, the fall means a few final weeks of the riding season before the weather changes. During this transition in the season, most riders choose to pack extra clothing or supplies for their trip.

For those of you who have saddle bags or top boxes, keep in mind that you will want to keep the load on your bike evenly distributed on both sides of the bike, and keep the weight as low as possible. Carrying heavy items in your top box only, for example, can lighten the front end causing handling instability. 

As a precaution, take a look at the recommendations in your motorcycle owner’s manual for placement of items and proper weight limits.

Carin O’Donnell is a member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Ms. O’Donnell.

Although highway safety has improved in recent years, the number of fatal motorcycle crashes is on the rise. According to this recent article, approximately 4,550 people were killed in motorcycle accidents last year. 

This is more than twice the number of fatalities that occurred during the mid-1990’s. This increase may be due to the fact that only 19 states currently have laws which require all riders to wear a helmet, although 47 states used to have such requirements.
 

I can not stress enough the importance of motorcyclists wearing a helmet. There is nothing more devastating than knowing an injury could have been prevented before an accident occurs. If you, or someone you know rides, please wear a helmet!

One of the biggest shifts taking place in the motorcycle world is the amount of women who are riding. Statistics report that approximately 25% of all riders are women. As more women, like myself are riding, I want to point out a couple important things if you are looking for a motorcycle.

Obviously safety is the most important thing to consider when riding a bike. This begins, however, with being able to control your bike. When you are shopping for a motorcycle, make sure your seat is low enough that your feet can touch the ground. This may seem obvious, but I have seen many women not be able to do this, lean to one side and dump a bike.

Second, make sure that you can reach the handle bars. Again, if it is too much of a stretch you will not be able to maneuver certain situations, and therefore you could cause an accident which could end in serious injuries for you and other riders.

The next thing you should consider is your ability to pull in the levers, such as the clutch and brake. Different bikes have different tensions, so make sure the tension is not so tight that when you are pulling these levers repeatedly, your hands fatigue.

Finally, make sure your bike is a cool color… just kidding. Although, for me, I did chose red.  On a serious note, it doesn’t matter the color when it comes to safety and your ability to control your bike. Just make sure when you ride you wear clothing that is visible so other drivers can see you, and buy a bike that you can control given your size.

Here are a few upcoming events just for women:

  • The International “Women and Motorcycling Conference” is scheduled for July 26-29th in Carson City, NV. If you are interested in going you can register online here.
  • Biker Belles 2012 ride will take place at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 8, 2012

Carin O’Donnell is a member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Ms. O’Donnell.

Before the weather gets too cold, why not brush up on your driving skills. Pennsylvania residents with a motorcycle license or learners permits are able to take free courses through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program. There are approximately 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania.

The course consists of 5-hour in class instructions and 10 hours of practical riding. For new riders, this is a chance to have a hands-on learning experience to feel confident and safe on the roadways. For experience riders, it is an opportunity to correct any unsafe riding habits. 

If you have already completed the first  basic course, there is a second course you can take. This second course allows the driver of the motorcycle to carry a passenger and learn steering techniques.

Finally, a three-wheeled motorcycle course is also being given. If you take the three wheeled course and pass, you will be issued a license with a “9" restriction, meaning you are not permitted to operate a two wheeled motorcycle.

Regardless of the course you enroll in, you must have either a motorcycle license or permit. If you don’t have all the equipment, don’t worry, riders will be provided with a helmet and a motorcycle but you must bring all other protective gear such as glasses, gloves, boots and a jacket. 

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently decided a case involving the issue of whether a motorcyclist, who has a motorcycle insurance policy, can collect under-insured (this would also apply to uninsured) motorist coverage from his automobile insurance policy if he is involved in an accident while riding his motorcycle. The insurance policy provision that was at issue is known as the “household exclusion.” This exclusion, which is routinely part of an automobile insurance policy,  prohibits the insured from making a claim under his automobile insurance policy when he is injured while operating a vehicle (in this case, a motorcycle) which is insured under a different policy.

In the case before the Court, the insured was injured in an accident on his motorcycle. He had insurance coverage on the motorcycle and also had insurance coverage on other automobiles in his household. Both policies had uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage. The insured attempted to collect on the auto policy (after he collected on the motorcycle under-insured coverage) because the person who caused the accident did not have enough coverage to cover the injuries which he sustained (the person who caused the accident was under-insured). The insurance company denied the claim, citing the following clause in the policy:

“This coverage does not apply to bodily injury while occupying or from being struck by a vehicle owned or leased by you or a relative that is not insured for under-insured motorist coverage under this policy”

The basis of the Supreme Court opinion was linked to public policy arguments. On the one hand, it was argued that the insurance clause at issue was clear and unambiguous and therefore should be enforced as written. The Court found that to allow the type of recovery requested by the injured motorcyclist would result in an increase in insurance premiums generally, because the insurance company issuing the automobile insurance policy theoretically would not have any way to know what other vehicles their insured might own and insure under different policies.

On the other hand, the insurance company in this case knew that the insured owned a motorcycle because the insurance company also insured the motorcycle, but on a separate policy. The Court enforced the household exclusion clause in the automobile insurance policy and found that the insured could not seek under-insured motorist coverage from that policy.

The bottom line for motorcycle owners is to buy adequate uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage on your motorcycle. You cannot look to your automobile coverage for a recovery for injuries caused while on your motorcycle. 

In this video, Christopher M. Pyne, Chair of Stark & Stark’s Motorcycle Group,discusses the need for motorcyclists to carry their own health insurance. Mr. Pyne warns that should you or a loved on be involved in a motorcycle accident, do not expect the other driver’s insurance to protect you. More often than not, automobile insurance does not protect motorcyclists.

Motorcycle Law – Part 2 from Stark & Stark on Vimeo.