BC’s New Motorcycle Laws: Diminishing Civil Liberties Rather than Improving Safety
It’s after June 1st, 2012, and that strange nagging feeling you’re getting is the erosion of common sense from motorcycle laws here in BC. A re-emphasis of “The operator of a motorcycle must be seated astride the driver’s seat.” [see: Standing Illegal] comes packed with a $121.00 fine and the potential unconstitutional seizing of your motorcycle.
Why unconstitutional? There is no road side defense against a police officer simply saying he saw you standing on the pegs. There is no codified law to ensure that this portion of the Motor Vehicle Act is only used in cases of stunting or dangerous behavior. That’s fine, if you can trust the judgment of the constabulary.
The common sense judgment of police is in question. Case in point:
- Cpl. Benjamin Robinson who killed a motorcyclist and obstructed justice along with participated in Robert Dziekanski Tasering Death)
- Const. Lee Chipperfield (who delivered eight shots into a crawling Paul Boyd), only having responsibility potentially forced upon him when video of the act surfaced.
- Sgt. Donald Ray an Alberta RCMP officer who disgraced himself and the force through repeated sexual harassment of female underlings.
Indeed B.C. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond herself has spoken out against the transfer of the latter officer to BC. If not all police can be trusted with the big issues, say human lives, then how do we trust the police with the relatively trivial, like the impoundment of an individual’s sole transport? From that question, it follows that the law needs to protect citizens from abuse of near indefensible road side impoundments. These recent Motor Vehicle Act revisions completely fail BC voters in that respect.
The argument will come back from the BC Government that “you may request a review of a vehicle impoundment from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles within 15 days of the date of the impoundment.” Cold comfort for those whose vehicles have been seized roadside on the word of police. Even more chilling considering the conflict of interest of appealing to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles who as part of the legal process can’t be considered arm’s length, third party or even impartial. Brace yourselves, because come 2014 rather than streamlining the legal system for processing challenges to other tickets, you’ll be phoning in and attempting to defend yourself without the issuing officer present for cross examination. Adjudicators in this instance according to Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, will be members appointed by cabinet and have expertise in administrative justice, road safety and traffic law. Though appointed by cabinet and qualified can be two quite different things — it comes down to good judgment.
There is an equally big question to the constitutional fairness of balancing the livelihood of operators, whose vehicles may be their only means of transport to from work, on the word of a police officer’s judgment without checks and balances. No, the question isn’t if this is an erosion of civil liberties. It’s this, are harsher laws and more extreme punishments the right approach?
The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles has the following laudable and darkly laughable vision:
As a leader in road safety our vision is to have the safest roads in North America and work toward an ultimate goal of zero traffic fatalities.
Laughable, because vehicles kill, there is no legal immunity from this reality. Roads can be made safer, but stricter and stricter laws can only have diminishing results.
There will always be drivers and riders who break the law. Unfortunately many will be young, many will have suitable rider or driver training, and as a consequence some will die. Often when grieving families are trotted out backing the latest round of motorcycle safety laws, there is no acknowledgment of the fact that the victims were the ones were breaking existing and relatively reasonable laws.
You can’t outlaw the tragic consequences of breaking the law through increasingly harsh penalties and blatantly stupid laws. You can prevent deaths by educating young riders and drivers regarding reasonable laws and their consequences, responsible vehicle usage, obstacle avoidance (see standing on the pegs), emergency handling and prophylactic prevention of injury. On that note, I leave you with one of the best Motorcycle Safety videos we’ve encountered in ages, it is truly more daring and innovative than any draconian enforcement and under thought erosion of civil liberties. Education will win the day and save lives, eroding peoples rights won’t.