Legislative Update

LEGISLATIVE WATCH
Hot Issues for 2005 Session
by Winn Peeples, FMDA Lobbyist

Safety. It’s something everyone “believes in,” but it also causes controversy whenever discussions begin on how to ensure it.

If the motorcycle industry wants to avoid a backlash similar to the three-wheeler fiasco in the 1980s, the dealer body needs to work with state lawmakers during the 2005 legislative session to address safety issues. Twenty years ago, the production of three-wheelers was banned due to the high number of accidents. So manufacturers developed the four-wheel all terrain vehicles and developed guidelines for their safe use.

While we do not want to legislate parental responsibility, we must give park rangers more authority over off-highway riders on public land and ensure the state law includes some provisions consistent with the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding operator age and safety equipment. It is also important to stress that all terrain vehicles are for off-road use only.

We’ve all heard the stories ... a 12-year-old kid driving an ATV loses control and flips the vehicle, causing severe injuries and even death ... an adult operator who has been drinking decides to skip wearing his helmet and takes his vehicle wide open the wrong way on a trail, running into someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If operators followed the manufacturers’ recommendations, we would stop hearing stories like these. Putting the manufacturers’ recommendations into Florida law would give the rangers in our public off highway vehicle parks the authority to stop unsafe ATV operation. As we work to create more OHV parks, new laws are necessary to proactively address unsafe practices before accidents happen. Otherwise, the industry may see the government step in with a ban on ATVs, something no one wants to see happen.

ATV Sticker Program

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles plans to bring back the ATV sticker program. By Florida law, an ATV purchased after July 1, 2002, is required to be titled. When a machine is properly titled, the operator will receive a one-time sticker to display on the vehicle. There will be provisions for obtaining a replacement sticker if the original becomes damaged. We expect the department’s provisions to streamline the titling process for dealers.

Dealer Licensure and Motorized Scooters

Another issue important to the industry is the sale of motorized scooters by unlicensed dealers. When an auto supply store or discount department store sells a scooter to a consumer, it isn’t required to follow the same safety regulations as a dealer licensed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This creates safety issues for the consumer as well as a competitive disadvantage to licensed dealers.

This issue goes beyond our state’s borders. In Texas, the state’s Motor Vehicle Board voted on December 9 to categorize some motorized scooters as motor vehicles, thus requiring anyone selling those scooters to be licensed. The Vehicles, Titles and Registration Division does not agree with the Motor Vehicle Board and generally believes that very few of these vehicles should be issued titles. We are following the debate in Texas as we prepare our arguments for titling motorized scooters and off-highway vehicles in our state.

Noise Restrictions

There has been some talk about legislation to restrict motorcycle noise. It stems from environmental groups and a federal movement to restrict noise around racing facilities. For example, a motocross racetrack that has been in Washington State for 30 years is now dealing with neighbors who are bothered by noise. For years the track was in a low population density area. With more people moving to areas near the track, noise has become an issue. Unfortunately, noise restriction tends to be popular with members of the Legislature. Now is the time for manufacturers, dealers and after-market companies to be proactive about managing the decibel level of machines so it does not become a safety issue for the Legislature to address.

OHV Parks

The motorcycle dealer industry has an interest in seeing more parks developed for off-highway vehicle use. The biggest obstacle to developing new parks is liability insurance for the landowner. The FMDA plans to support any efforts to solve this issue by David Gluckman, CEO of Florida Mining Recreation Inc. and chief lobbyist for the phosphate mining industry. Several areas throughout Florida are being looked at for new OHV parks, including Polk County, Bienville Plantation (Hamilton County) and Liberty County.