Your organization is conducting a charity ride and you have to get 100 motorcycles through town without breaking up the pack. You've contacted the local law enforcement agency, but they refused to help out. So you decide to have some road guards stop traffic at intersections to keep everyone moving. Is that legal?
Well if you live in Minnesota or Illinois it is. And hopefully Ohio will be added to that select list. Of course there is a condition that goes along with this; you must be a certified motorcycle road guard.
Motorcyclists are some of the most generous people around and often participate in fund raising activities for various community groups, food banks, veteran’s causes and more. Lately, police have been more reluctant to assist with traffic control for large groups of motorcycles citing manpower and overtime issues. The refusal to help rides is epidemic and nationwide. Being riders, we just do what we’ve always done and that’s take matters into our own hands. The problem with that is it’s illegal. Still, we know the safest and most expeditious way to move a large pack of bikes through town is to block the intersections and control traffic.
Minnesota solved this problem, with the help of ABATE of Minnesota, by passing the Motorcycle Road Guard Certificate Program.
Passed in 2012, this program allows motorcyclists to be certified as traffic controllers, after training in flagging operations, intersection traffic control, the rules of the road and group ride instruction has been completed.
There are other requirements, including qualification standards, a clear driving record, valid driver’s license, individual liability insurance and proper high visibility apparel. Classroom study is two hours long followed by one hour of practical training at a live intersection near one of several colleges that offer the course. The cost is $30. Not a bad investment for organizations, motorcycle clubs, riding clubs, etc.
Once certified, a Road Guard Traffic Controller has the same authority to direct traffic as a police officer. Failure to obey a certified traffic controller is a misdemeanor.
Illinois passed HB1539 which became effective on January 1, 2014. It is similar to the Minnesota law and regulations. The implementation of training procedures for road guards is the duty of the Illinois Secretary of State.
Most recently, ABATE of Ohio has joined the push for certification of motorcycle road guard traffic controllers. ABATE was joined by the American Motorcyclist Association’s government affairs manager, Imre Szauter, in urging passage of H.B. 406, introduced January 21, 2014.
These bills are well thought out and provide proper training for prospective certified traffic controllers. An important aspect is a certified motorcycle road guard is not liable for damages in a civil action for injury, death or damage to personal property in a crash while performing Road Guard duties directing traffic, as long as all the rules and regulations adopted in the code are followed. The exception is wanton or intentional acts or omissions, or negligent, reckless performance of Road Guard duties.
It is hoped Ohio will be the next state to pass legislation enabling civilians to legally assist motorcycle groups at intersections. With police manpower being stretched to the limit, or excessive service fees of $300 or more making a charity ride unfeasible, it makes sense that road guard certification is an option to consider. As riders, we’re going to continue doing it anyway, but besides being illegal, untrained and ill-equipped road guards put everyone at risk.