Saratoga Springs motorcycle checkpoint nets numerous violations
SARATOGA SPRINGS Police wrote 27 tickets during a motorcycle checkpoint over the weekend as part of a statewide effort that police said has helped reduce biker fatalities.
Motorcycle rider fatalities decreased by 17 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to preliminary numbers released within the last week by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said Sgt. Daniel Larkin, state police Troop G traffic supervisor.
State police requested the motorcycle safety inspection program near Congress Park, which four city police officers and six state troopers operated from 2 to 8 p.m. last Friday.
Fifty-five motorcycle riders were brought through the checkpoint at the entrance to Congress Park off Broadway, Larkin said.
Of those, five were ticketed for having an illegal helmet, 11 for illegal exhaust and eight for other safety violations.
Three other tickets also were issued.
“We’ve done this before,” said city police Capt. Michael Chowske. “I think we did it last year.” State police also do the checkpoint near big motorcycle events such as Americade in Lake George, Larkin said.
Bikers often congregate on Broadway on summer evenings, especially on the weekends. Some residents have complained about the noise, asking that city police better enforce exhaust system laws.
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco attempted to give bikers their own space to park, suggesting they could use the parking lot on Broadway next to Lillian’s Restaurant and post it for motorcycles only.
But then authorities decided to reopen it for general vehicle use instead.
The effort by state police to conduct safety inspections started in late 2007 after statistics showed overall motor vehicle fatalities decreasing over the years while motorcycle fatalities increased steadily.
So the most recent figures look promising, Larkin said.
Motorcycle fatalities statewide decreased from 188 in 2008 to 155 in 2009, Larkin said.
At the same time, overall traffic fatalities fell 6 percent in New York state, from 1,224 to 1,146.
“That is an all-time low, so it’s great news to all New Yorkers,” he said.
In addition to writing tickets, police also seek to educate bikers about proper and legal safety equipment. For example, so-called “novelty” helmets that are not a full helmet with face shield are illegal, as are exhaust systems that are louder than the original ones that came on the bike, Larkin said.
The illegal helmets also “offer virtually no protection in a crash,” he said. “We spend a fair amount of time at motorcycle events like Americade,” he said. “We’ll have our motorcycle unit members there talking to people about their motorcycles, handing out educational literature.”
Bikers also are encouraged to increase their own visibility by wearing bright colors, but that’s a tough trend to start, Larkin admitted.
“It’s contrary to the motorcycle culture, really, which tends to like the brown and the black leather. That’s going to be a tough nut to crack there.”