- March 05, 2015
- By Raine Devries
- Motorcycle Accident Info
After six incredibly long weeks of submitting media requests to the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide clarification on 10 questions raised by the January 1 implementation of Malorie’s Law, the responses finally arrived. It’s worth noting, that these replies only arrived once an absolute fire-storm erupted online…when several high profile motorcycle publications began sharing the information about this law on their social media pages.
The Texas Department of Public Safety volunteered the following information that wasn’t originally requested: “DPS allows for a 90-day grace period, during which Texas Highway Patrol will warn offenders about the new requirements.” For the record, this 90-day window will elapse on March 30, 2015.
When asked what precisely defines a “handhold” and a “footrest”, Texas DPS replied with the following: “Whether a motorcycle’s specific features constitute a handhold or footrest is determined by the manufacturer’s owner’s manual.” For those that are riding custom or vintage motorcycles and don’t have an owner’s manual, there is no clear understanding on how this law will be interpreted or if they are within legal confines.
Texas DPS was also asked which agency is designated as interpreting the law and the vague response was: “DPS’ enforcement guidelines are not binding on other Texas law enforcement agencies.” In other words, a police officer in Houston may interpret it differently than a Texas Highway Patrol officer, and in Dallas the officers there might not even know about the law at all. This later point was cleared up for certain last week when Gene Slater, General Manager of Rick Fairless’ Strokers Dallas, asked several Dallas cops their opinion of Malorie’s Law and none of them had ever heard of it. When Slater explained the new law to them, the officers were shocked that verbiage so vague had been voted on and approved.
“Sadly, the only people that Malorie’s Law helps is the family of Malorie so perhaps they and Rep. Phillips have achieved some level of personal closure,” shared Slater. “However, to the tens of thousands of Texas motorcyclists, this law is so vague that it causes an undue hardship for both law enforcement and riders.”
For the balance of the questions that were repeatedly submitted for clarification, the official response is: “please contact the authors of the bill.” In this case, that would be Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) and he can be reached at this link: http://tinyurl.com/District62
For those readers that are keeping track, below is the listing of the original ten questions submitted to the Texas DPS and Rep. Phillips:
1. Was H.B. 3838 (Malorie’s Law) passed independently or as part of a package with other laws? No reply.
2. What precisely defines a “handhold” and a “footrests”? Refer to owner’s manual.
3. Will there be exceptions for antique or custom motorcycles? Per Rep. Phillips, this law applies to ALL motorcycles registered in Texas.
4. What year models forward will this law pertain to (2015 forward or back-dated to a certain year)? Per Rep. Phillips, this law applies to ALL motorcycles registered in Texas.
5. Many new model motorcycles come from the factory with a seat strap; is this considered a “handhold”? Refer to owner’s manual.
6. Which agency is designated as interpreting the law? The law is open to interpretation by every individual law enforcement agency.
7. Is this law allowed to be interpreted differently based upon law enforcement agencies? Yes.
8. Provided a motorcycle meets with all criteria of a to be determined “handhold” and “footrests”, and a passenger is riding on the back of the bike, should the passenger opt to not make use of the “handhold”, which person is held legally liable to be ticketed/fined? The operator of the motorcycle or the passenger? No reply.
9. If a motorcycle is technically designed by the manufacturer to hold two people (operator and passenger), but the bike owner opts to ride with a “one up” seat (for only the operator), will the bike still be required to be outfitted with a “handhold”? No reply.
10. If a motorcycle traveler rides through Texas, and their home state does not require a “handhold”, how will this law be interpreted for them? Will they be legally liable for modifying their motorcycle just to ride through Texas or will they be exempt?
The law is open to interpretation by every individual law enforcement agency.
“The best -and really only-effective way to force a change to this legislation is to apply public pressure to our elected officials, says Chuck Koro of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys. “The more motorcyclists who contact those like Representative Larry Philips the better off Texas riders will be.”