I work on a daily basis to not only handle my motorcycle cases in litigation, but to do something to further protect motorcyclists in Louisiana. Every week my legal teams have an incident we run across where there is something done that is so wrong to a motorcyclist that it is a shock to my conscious.
That’s the bad part.
The good part is when I see such things happening that are so unjust to a motorcyclist it gets me really upset and motivates me to do something to make it right so it does not happen to others. That’s why I end up working every week to do some actions to stem the tides of the blatant prejudice by law enforcement officers and defense attorneys who deal with motorcycle crashes. (I do not call them motorcycle “accidents” as they are always preventable and not accidents but are “crashes.”)
EXAMPLE #1-THE DRUG IMPAIRED DRIVER WHO IS NOT URINE AND BLOOD TESTED FOR DRUGS AND ALCOHOL AS REQUIRED BY LAW-BUT THE DEAD MOTORCYCLIST IS ALWAYS TESTED.
I had a fatal motorcycle crash case of a motorists handled by the City of Kenner Police. The drug impaired driver failed to yield, killing the motorcyclist. The police did not download the data from the driver’s car computer system. The police did not do any blood or alcohol test on the driver or even do a field sobriety test on the driver of the vehicle.
Yet the driver made a radically lane change into the motorcyclist killing him instantly.
The car driver admitted to taking oxycodone. The driver admitted to chronic low back pain and taking oxycodone one hour before the fatal crash! The driver told officers he took a large dose of oxycodone an hour before the crash in a time release pill. If you crush such a time release pill, then take it, you get a much bigger rush quickly. Despite all this, the driver of the vehicle that killed my client was not urine, breath or blood tested as required by Louisiana law. Yet, my dead motorcyclists was tested for all drugs of any nature and kind and alcohol! This is due to the gross incompetence of most policeman who are biased against motorcyclist and scooter operators. I see this in most motorcycle and scooter crash cases. It drives me nuts! But it motivates me to fight for changes in our laws.
The law is clear on required drug testing of urine and blood of drivers in fatal and serious collisions as follows:
La. Rev. Statue La. R.S. 32:681
PART XVI. POSTACCIDENT DRUG TESTING
- 681. Postaccident drug testing; accidents involving fatalities, required
- The operator of any motor vehicle which is involved in a collision or the operator of any watercraft involved in a collision, crash, or other casualty in which a fatality occurs shall be deemed to have given consent to, and shall be administered, a chemical test or tests of his blood, urine, or other bodily substance for the purpose of determining the presence of any abused substance or controlled dangerous substance as set forth in R.S. 40:964 or any other impairing substance.
The law is clear. It says “SHALL BE ADMINISTERED”! There is no wiggle room! Yet police violate this every day. But the corpses of my dead motorcyclists are always tested!
EXAMPLE #2-THE STATE OF LOUISIANA DOES NOT SCREEN FOR ALL COMMON SYNTHETIC DRUGS.
The drugs that are tested for do not include many common synthetic drugs. Dilaudid is a synthetic morphine yet is not tested for is one example. Oxycodone is another synthetic opiate that the widespread addiction by drivers and abuse in its distribution is an epidemic. Both drugs are known to affect motor control. There are also many anti-depressants that are known to adversely affect motor vehicle drivers. The list of drugs tested for in Louisiana is outdated and does not include this new synthetic drugs. A 2017 NHTSA study found 20% of the drivers in fatal accidents surveyed were impaired by drugs. This is up from a 2014 NHTSA study that found 14% of the drivers in fatal crashes were impaired by drugs. This is getting to be a bigger and bigger problem. The drugs tested for is an administrative regulation and is not kept current. Every time I have a fatal crash with a synthetic drug impaired driver I write to the State Police Lab and complain. They have made some changes ,but not quick enough.
EXAMPLE #3-THE POLICE ARE BIASED AGAINST MOTORCYCLISTS EITHER INTENTIONALLY OR THRU IGNORANCE.
Body cams are used by many police departments. They are a valuable contemporaneous recordings of what happened in an investigation. But in a recent case I was so mad at what State Police did. (I am not just singling out La. State Police to criticize—most police departments in Louisiana are biased in handling motorcycle cases.)
In this case the State Police were heard talking on their body cams that a cell phone download of the car driver’s cell phone is needed. But this is never done.
The State Police were talking that the driver was not drinking alcohol—but the State Police never do a field sobriety test nor even interview the driver regarding whether the driver was drinking alcohol or on medications, even though the driver had a history with alcohol.
Also the driver’s windows are illegally obscured. The driver states at first the driver never saw the motorcyclist. Then the driver fabricates two different stories on video and in writing the driver’s statement.
The officer discusses in a chatty fashion the things they have in common and is looking at the driver’s picture on his computer from the driver’s website. Then the officer apologizes for having to write the driver, that killed my client, two misdemeanor traffic tickets and is seen on video apologizing since this is “just an accident and not a criminal matter”. Then the officer states he is sure the District Attorney will not take any action against the driver. This still upsets me that the criminal justice system is not working for motorcyclists, even in a clear cut case with clear liability. Here is a case where the driver was distracted and failed to yield killing the motorcyclist.
To add further insult to injury, the State Police did the speed computations of the motorcycle incorrectly and used wrong measurements of the roadway friction levels. The State Police made false statements in the videos about the top speed capabilities of this motorcycle being able to go over 220 mph. (They found in using Google so it must be accurate right!) This is impossible for a stock 1000 c.c. motorcycle with stock gearing! The motorcyclists was not speeding as shown by the physical skid marks from braking. The motorcyclists did maximum braking and did everything right before he was hit by the car pulling a high G turn across his path. The car motorists did everything wrong but the car driver’s gross recklessness is approved by the officers in the video. They are apologetic for the driver killing my dead client. I wanted to throw up I am so disappointed in these officers after watching all the body cam video and audio footage!
I always try to give police the benefit of the doubt. Some are good and not biased no doubt but most are biased against motorcyclists. This body cam video proves it is worse than I ever thought. This reckless, grossly negligent criminal conduct was condoned on the video by the clearly biased ignorant officers.
Conduct condoned is conduct that will be repeated.
WHAT WE ARE DOING TO STEM THE TIDE OF PREJUDICE AGAINST MOTORCYCLISTS
I am currently working on educating police and district attorneys on motorcycles and their operation. They don’t understand basic physics. They don’t understand the gaps in drug testing. I am also working on a project to erect the dead motorcycle site crosses shown at every fatal motorcycle crash site in Louisiana in 2019. I have a group of 340 advocates from around the State to help me get these erected and photographed. I got 100 signs made at my costs. I hope to get the 1500 Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. members to help in reporting and erecting the crosses all over the state. The crosses are a dramatic symbol with the cross in yellow to match the Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. motorcycle awareness yellow signs with a red motorcycle with no rider onboard.
HOW YOU CAN HELP TODAY
I am also working to get a list of persons to help contact legislators to pass the Right-of-Way Bill to protect all motorcyclists and scooter road users in Louisiana. Email to me at GLENN@GLENNMCGOVERN.COM or call me at 504-456-3610 if you would be interested in helping. Also consider joining a local chapter of A.B.A.T.E. whose sole dual mission is to educate motorists and lobby for motorcyclists rights. I got 100 crosses ready. 96 motorcyclists were killed in Louisiana last year.
I hope and pray I do not run out of fatal motorcyclists crosses this year.
BY GLENN C. McGOVERN, MOTORCYCLE ATTORNEY AND MSF BASIC INSTRUCTOR