The following is reproduced from Thunder Roads Magazine
Do you know how many motorcycle organizations fight for motorcyclist’s rights in Louisiana? (Hint: There is only one!) The American Bikers Active Toward Education (A.B.A.T.E) is the only motorcycle group in the State of Louisiana that actively lobbies for motorcyclist’s rights. A.B.A.T.E. also has volunteer instructors that educates new drivers in a two-hour educational presentation given to new drivers in motorcycle awareness.
Most motorcyclists have never heard of A.B.A.T.E. It is a national organization with state and Louisiana chapters. It is a non-profit organization that lobbies and educates. It is not a riding club. It advocates and fights for motorcyclist’s rights.
Let me tell you the story of how I got involved with A.B.A.T.E. I was really upset with a motorcycle case. The motorcyclist was hit by a 4-time convicted drunk driver with a suspended driver’s license. The motorcyclists lost a leg above the knee when the drunk car driver pulled out in front of him from a bar in Pearl River, La. The car driver literally amputated the rider’s leg and only got a ticket for no seat belt. The car driver ran to court the next day and paid a small fine.
I contacted the District Attorney to insist negligent injury and failure to yield charges be filed. The District Attorney told me because the drunk driver pled guilty and paid a fine to the no seatbelt charge, there would be no further criminal prosecution citing the double-jeopardy criminal defense. A person can only be tried one time for the same criminal incident.
That case still bothers me. I filed suit and won a 2.4-million-dollar judgment against the driver who died shortly thereafter. I knew I needed to join forces with a motorcycle group who would fight for motorcyclist’s rights to get changes in the laws. I looked for months until I met members of Greater New Orleans A.B.A.T.E. Chapter and joined.
Amazingly, there are over 200 motorcycle groups in Louisiana, but none of them do lobbying for motorcyclist’s rights. Even the Confederation of Clubs does not do any lobbying whatsoever. They all depend on Louisiana A.B.A.T.E to do the work of lobbying.
A.B.A.T.E. of Louisiana is very active in lobbying the Legislators in Louisiana. There are about 1700 Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. members, many of whom are life members. The state meeting is held every two months in Alexandria at the V.F.W. hall in Alexandria.
The group has a legislative committee which studies Louisiana law and proposes legislation to its members at the state meeting each year. Then after proposed bills are approved by the membership, the proposed bills are drafted. Then the group meets with legislators to find sponsors for its proposed bills. Many times, other motorcycle organizations ask for help from Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. for specific problems. Last year there was a problem with profiling of motorcyclists and motorcycle roadblocks just for motorcycles. Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. went to work and obtain new laws prohibiting motorcycle road blocks and the unconstitutional profiling of motorcyclists.
Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. is still working on many areas this legislative session. This work is year-round with meetings by the legislative committee composed of Cecil Crawford, Donnie Brown, Glenn McGovern and “Trouble” Lori Splawn who meet with legislators year-round to prepare for each legislative session months in advance.
Currently the legislative lobbying is in three areas: 1.) A Freedom of the Road Bill to allow motorcyclists over 21 years of age who carry health insurance to ride any motorcycle without a helmet, 2.) an All Road Users Act to protect motorcyclists from drivers who fail to yield to motorcyclists with enhanced car driver penalties to deter bad driver conduct and 3.) An anti-profiling motorcyclists bill to provide for additional training for police officers to prevent unconstitutional profiling of motorcyclists and stopping them without probable cause.
The work of the legislative committee never ends. Members testify at various
committee hearings during each legislative session. Every first day of a regular legislative session, members show up in force with their distinctive lime green “Vote Like a Biker” T shirts to lobby legislators and educate them on motorcycle legislative and safety issues. The organization has been very successful. While there is the A.M.A. (American Motorcycle Association) and M.R.F. (Motorcycle Riders Foundation) national organizations, those groups do not lobby in Louisiana at all to help Louisiana motorcyclists. Only Louisiana A.B.A.T.E fights for motorcyclists in Louisiana.
A.B.A.T.E. also has an Advocate that members report motorcycle crashes to. (Contact Glenn C. McGovern, Head of Advocacy A.B.A.T.E. at [email protected]
1-800-721-3992). The A.B.A.T.E. Advocate meets with local District Attorneys and Assistant District Attorneys to secure justice in criminal cases for injured motorcyclists. The group also offers $3500 disability benefits for its members for joining Louisiana A.B.A.T.E.
Louisiana A.B.A.T.E. needs more members to protect motorcyclist’s rights. Consider checking out its website and Facebook pages. Then consider joining a local Chapter of A.B.A.T.E.
FIGHTING FOR MOTORCYCLISTS RIGHTS
AMERICAN BIKERS ACTIVE TOWARD EDUCATION AT THE CAPITOL
BY GLENN C. MCGOVERN
MOTORCYCLE TRIAL ATTORNEY
AND MSF BASIC INSTRUCTOR