Thursday, June 10, 2010

Utah World Superbike Motorcycle Checkpoint Controversy: Utah Responds

Cycle Guide Magazine reader Paul Peloquin attended the Utah round of the World Superbike series and witnessed the now-infamous motorcycle checkpoint in action. He wrote the following email to several Utah state officials. Below it is the response from Sergeant David Moreno of the Utah Highway Patrol.

At about 4:30 PM on Sunday, May 30th, several Utah State Police were engaged in the unlawful detention of motorcyclists departing Miller Motorsports Park. A "check point" was established on Hwy. 36 where the officers stopped and detained only motorcyclists. Drivers of automobiles and other vehicles were allowed to pass through without being stopped. While I appreciate the need to maintain safety on the roads, profiling motorcyclists is not the appropriate means to that end.

When I made the decision to travel 800 miles from my home in Oregon and spend about $1,000 of my money in Utah, I didn't consider my constitutional rights would be violated.

I asked that you hold every officer accountable for their misjudgment and abuse of their authority. This includes the supervisor of the operation and the officers involved. Even the newest law enforcement officer has the obligation to refuse an unlawful directive. Even the newest of officers should have recognized that singling out motorcyclists violates equal protection under the law.

Your action in this matter will figure significantly in my future travel plans to your state.

Paul Peloquin

Dear Paul Peloquin,

Thank you for your correspondence to the Governor's Office. I’ve been asked to reply to your concerns regarding the traffic checkpoint on Sunday, May 30 in Tooele County.  First let me apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you or anyone attending the racing event on Sunday afternoon.  We had targeted Memorial Day Weekend to do our best to keep the number of fatalities in Utah down.  We identified three factors which lead to many deaths in Utah and wanted to try and make an impact on these factors.  The areas we were focusing on were DUI enforcement, occupant restraint and motorcycle education.  On Friday and Saturday night the Highway Safety Office conducted a DUI checkpoint in Utah and Davis Counties with the Utah Highway Patrol participating.  On Sunday a motorcycle checkpoint was conducted in Tooele County .  

The intent of the checkpoint was to redirect as many motorcycles as there were officers participating (7-10), to the side and have a brief (a few minutes) discussion about motorcycle safety issues such as proper displacement, helmets, equipment, and safety of the motorcycle.  If 7-10 motorcycles were pulled over then all other motorcycles and passenger vehicles were allowed to travel through without interruption as well.  It appears that many motorcycles did not understand they could travel through and stopped.  According to the operations plan this was not suppose to create a burden for motorists and was not to be time consuming for motorcycle operators.  The checkpoint started at 3 PM and went well for over an hour until the major event ended and a tremendous volume of traffic hit the checkpoint around 4:30 PM.  We obviously underestimated the number of vehicles and created an unexpected large back up for motorists. When it became apparent the checkpoint was creating a large traffic backup it was opened immediately.  At 5:12 PM the all signs were pulled out of the road and the checkpoint was in the beginning stages of being taken down.  It was then determined that because of the amount of traffic, it would create a burden to the public, and the checkpoint was not re-established and canceled for the remainder of the night. 

Please forgive us for our oversight.  It was certainly not our intent to bring a negative aspect to the tremendous event being held in Tooele County , or to our state.  Our intention was to educate riders on safety issues and try our best to reduce the rising rate of deaths on Utah roadways from motorcycle riders.  The rate of deaths of Utah motorcycle riders is the only fatality rate which is increasing while every other category is decreasing.  We would never do anything intentionally to put a negative spin on such an event as this.  It was an honest attempt to try and focus on motorcycle operator’s safety. Please rest assured, this has been a learning experience for our agency and it will not happen again.


 Sergeant David Moreno
Utah Highway Patrol HQ


  1. A few minutes' research online shows that the UHP is organized along quasi-military lines, meaning that Mr. Peloquin's letter was passed down the chain of command and responsibility to a sergeant for reply, when the significant issues involved seeem clearly to have demanded a response from one of the UHP's commissioners, or its Superintendent, Colonel Daniel Fuhr.

    Thinking about this in the context of Cycle Guide's history, I recall that, in CG's print heyday, we benefited from the active contributions of Thomas A. Lankard, who was not only a motorcyclist and motorcycle racer, but also chief of California's Office of Traffic Safety, and who would never, I think, countenance such a plan as that enacted by the UHP. Even if we concede that the situation behind the detentions of the motorcyclists was precisely as Sgt. Moreno depicts it, we're left with the key question of why somebody with the power to persuade (or simply to command) in the UHP thought that detaining "7-10" riders would somehow mitigate the Utah motorcycle crash and fatality rates.

    That question alone would have been enough for me, as editorial director Back in the Day, to ask Tom Lankard investigate further. I'd hope that Dain and Jerry, as keepers of the CGM flame, so to speak, could also investigate further, even though I suspect that the current CGM doesn't have even the modest editorial resources that the old CGM had. Doing this kind of investigation and reporting, after all, is partly what set Cycle Guide apart from its competitors.
    --Steve Thompson, former Editorial Director, CGM

  2. I believe that if, as Sergeant Moreno's letter states, "[t]he rate of deaths of Utah motorcycle riders is the only fatality rate which is increasing while every other category is decreasing," then it is incumbent upon the Utah Highway Patrol to pull over drivers of four-wheeled vehicles to educate them about not turning left into motorcycles. Not to imply that all accidents are the fault of car/truck drivers, of course, but motorcycle safety wear/gear is generally not being used when the motorcycle is upright.

    And, what in the world is "proper displacement"?!

    --Mary, former paste-up artist extraordinaire and freelance writer, CGM and other SoCal m/c titles

  3. "It appears that many motorcycles did not understand they could travel through and stopped." -- per the Governor's response, quoted in the article. This is total bullshit, as the officer who pulled me over stepped out into the road and pointed directly at me, and then pointed to the side of the road, checked for insurance and registration, and then "let" me leave.