A number of you Colorado Rider News readers are all-season riders but not everyone rides in through the winter season. For those that put the bike away for several of the winter months, the warming weather really creates an itch to hit the road.[Read more…] about Prepping for the Riding Season
In February of 2016, Brian and Jacquie Lehner were riding their Harley-Davidson on Highway 83 near Franktown when an oncoming driver crossed the double-yellow line and hit them head-on. Both of the Lehners were killed. The driver, Athina Munoz, was found by police to be texting while driving, and she was also high on multiple substances.
Susan Dane was friends with the Lehners, having met them through her Harley-Davidson Chapter in Parker.
“The summer after they died, I told our Chapter members, ‘Something good has to come out of this!’” says Susan. “I looked up the penalties for texting and driving in Colorado and discovered that it was only $50 and one point. We were all shocked and realized we had to get that changed.”
Dane understood that Colorado’s laws were not strict enough to make anyone change their habits, meaning more people could die due to texting and driving. But she didn’t know how to change laws. She had never been involved in any legislative efforts in her life.
Therefore, Susan and a few of the Lehners’ other friends requested a meeting with George Brauchler, the district attorney who had prosecuted Athina Munoz.
“He said we had two options to change the law,” says Susan. “Either we could create legislation and try to get it passed through the Colorado legislature, or we could try to get signatures on a petition and get it on the ballot. He told us legislation would probably easier.”
CORD was Born
Knowing this would take an organized, grassroots effort, Susan and several other motorcycle riders founded CORD: Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving.
“My role was to go out and find bills that had been introduced or laws that had passed in other states,” says Susan. “I discovered that there was a bill moving forward in Colorado that year! Senator Lois Court had introduced the bill, so I gathered a bunch of bikers to show up and testify on behalf of the bill.”
Susan laughs a bit when she thinks of that day. “When Senator Court saw us all walk in the room – all these motorcycle riders – she was afraid we’d be against the legislation because bikers are typically against more restrictive laws, such as helmet laws. But then we all started telling our stories and she realized we were on her side.”
CORD and Senator Court worked together to cross party lines and get a bill passed that year. It was a victory but, according to Susan, still not enough.
“It was a small victory,” says Susan. “We got the fines increased but it was a very hard law to enforce. Basically, the only way to get pulled over and ticketed is if you’re texting while driving, and you’re driving carelessly, and a police officer sees you.”
(I also testified at that first public hearing and have been working with CORD and Senator Court to pass stricter texting-while-driving laws.)
Sadly, a stricter bill was quickly killed in 2018. But everyone involved agreed that they had to keep trying in 2019. Their first goal was to expand awareness and support of their efforts.
“We got insurance companies, AAA, C-DOT, the bicycle communities and so many others involved,” says Susan. “So many people want safer roads!”
The 2019 bill made it through the Colorado Senate but was killed in the first House committee it faced.
“The opposition seems to come from a perceived profiling concern, and because not everybody can afford a Bluetooth-enabled car,” says Susan, who explains that she has hard data refuting the profiling concern, and that there are many ways to go hands-free in any car.
“We aren’t going away!” she proclaims, insisting that CORD and many others will be back for the next legislative session to get an impactful, habit-changing law passed.
“In my perfect world, I would like to see a fine of $500 and 4 points for the first offense, escalating from there for each additional offense,” she says. “This is just as bad as drunk driving! As a comparison, we have a $1,000 fine for littering!”
Want Safer Roads? Get Involved!
Susan would love to hear from anyone interested in supporting CORD’s efforts, and she understands how intimidating it can be to join the legislative process.
“It’s an eye opener,” she says. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Social studies was not my cup of tea in school so I’m making up for it now. Honestly, it’s very interesting and I have seen how average people can make a difference.”
If you’d like to follow CORD’s work, visit them on Facebook. You can also email Susan directly: email@example.com
As a Denver motorcycle attorney, I have seen some very scary, tragic outcomes after motorcycle accidents. These outcomes, which generally involve serious injuries or fatalities, leave victims and their family members completely overwhelmed by grief, pain and financial fears.
Recently, I met with the girlfriend of a biker who was hit by a car. She was on the back of his bike and she was seriously injured, as was he. Because they weren’t married, they had a lot of confusion about what they could expect from insurance. The truth is this: insurance is ALWAYS confusing, but in the case of unmarried couples, it can get even murkier.
Therefore, I thought I’d share some typical scenarios involving couples on motorcycles, as well as some real-life stories below. Always remember: It is free to speak with a personal injury attorney about your accident to see if you can make an insurance claim.
Couples on Motorcyclists: What Are Your Rights?
There are three typical scenarios involving couples and motorcycle accidents. (Generally, the man is driving the motorcycle with his wife/girlfriend riding in back, so that is how I’ve written these scenarios. I am fully aware that there are many female bikers who are also victims of motorcycle accidents.)
- The accident is his fault and you’re not married: If you’re not married and you are riding on the back of your boyfriend’s bike and he causes an accident, you have a right to make a claim against him for liability. I am NOT suggesting that this motorcycle accident is the end of your relationship because you’re suing him… you’re actually making a claim against his insurance company. (Make sure he has the right insurancebefore you ever get on his bike!)
- The accident is his fault and you are married: If you are married, riding on the back of your husband’s bike, and he causes a motorcycle accident, you both better have great healthcare coverage and disability insurance because you cannot sue a spouse for insurance coverage.
- The accident is someone else’s fault and you’re not married: If you’re on the back of your boyfriend’s bike and someone else causes an accident that injures you, you have three “buckets” to make claims against, in this order: a) the at-fault driver, b) your boyfriend’s Uninsured Motorist coverage (UIM), and c) your own UIM.
Here is a perfect example of that third scenario and why you should always carry Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM):
Last year, an unmarried couple was riding on a motorcycle when they were hit by an oncoming vehicle. Both of them ended up in the hospital with injuries. Here are the ways that the couple is covered after this accident:
- Both of the victims can make separate claims against the at-fault driver. He had policy limits of $100,000.
- The boyfriend can also make a claim against his UIM. He had policy limits of $50,000.
- The girlfriend can also make a claim against the boyfriend’s UIM as well as her own. She had policy limits of $250,000.
This means the boyfriend will receive $150,000 and the girlfriend will receive $400,000! This case proves the value of getting as much UIM coverage as you can afford. (I recommend a minimum of $250,000.)
Again, I am not suggesting that you and your boyfriend get into a legal fight with each other. Not at all! This is about insurance claims; not about taking money away from someone you love. The whole reason we buy insurance is to protect ourselves when something goes wrong and motorcycle accidents can cause a lot of financial hardship. You should use all of the insurance available to you. Consult with a Denver motorcycle lawyer to find out exactly where those “buckets” exist.
Unmarried Couples on Motorcycles: True Stories
A couple of summers ago, I had two cases that broke my heart. In both cases, a woman who had just met a man with a motorcycle, got on the back of his bike and they ended up in accidents caused by the biker. In both cases, the women were wearing shorts and the accidents degloved their legs and arms. (That is as gruesome as it sounds.) Because the bikers caused the accidents, the women made claims against the bikers’ insurance companies. Sadly, the women did not also have their own UIM insurance, which would have provided them with significant financial support as they healed from their injuries.
Never, ever get on the back of a motorcycle without checking the biker’s insurance and making sure you’re covered with UIM!
In another case, a friend of mine and her common-law husband got on their motorcycle to watch the 2017 eclipse in Wyoming. He ended up getting killed in an accident that wasn’t his fault; she was not on the bike at the time, thank goodness. Because we could prove that they were common-law married, she was able to use her UIM coverage to help cover costs from the accident, as well as the pain, financial loss and suffering she experienced after his death.
If you frequently ride on the back of a motorcycle, contact me for a free insurance review! I can quickly make sure that you are covered properly. Call or text me at 303-388-5304.
Motorcyclists who have faced the frustration of sitting at “dead red” lights in Colorado have reason to celebrate! The Colorado State Legislature has passed a bill allowing bikers to proceed through malfunctioning lights. The law takes effect on August 2, 2019. However, as with all laws, there are important details that bikers should be aware of in order to take advantage of this new law properly.
I spoke with Bruce Downs, State Coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, about this new law. Bruce has been an advocate and champion for new red light laws in Colorado and he has many insights about this new legislation.
Why Are Dead Red Laws Necessary?
Because today’s streets are so “smart,” sensors are now in charge of when traffic lights change. Today, there are two kinds of sensors that alert traffic lights when someone has stopped at an intersection. Unfortunately, they don’t always pick up light-weight vehicles.
How Do Traffic Lights Know to Change?
- Over-the-Pavement Sensors: These sensors include motion-sensing cameras, lasers and infrared fields. Over-the-pavement sensors are designed to “see” vehicles that reach a certain point in the intersection and they are often very good at picking up small vehicles, like motorcycles, bicycles and scooters.
- In-Pavement Sensors: These sensors are typically the culprit when it comes to dead red lights for motorcycles. In-pavement sensors usually rely on a vehicle’s weight or metal mass to trigger a scale or magnet. You can sometimes tell if an in-pavement sensor has been added to a road because the asphalt has been cut into a circle or square. Beneath that slab of asphalt lies the sensor.
Not only is it annoying for bikers to wait at dead red lights, according to Bruce, it can also be dangerous.
“As we pointed out in testimony, if you’re stuck at a left-hand turn lane and you finally go ahead and make the turn, you’ve made an illegal turn. The other option can be even worse. Sometimes, we have to take a right-hand turn, go down that road and make a U-turn where it’s legal, then go back the other way to cross the intersection. This exposes us to much more danger.”
Bruce says he is aware of many lights that literally never change when a motorcycle is waiting to make a left-hand turn because there’s no oncoming cross traffic.
“A prime example is a light at Highway 83 and Douglas County Line Road,” says Bruce. “There is a light there, and if nobody comes to cross the traffic, it will stay green forever. There are no turn arrows, no crosswalk, nothing.”
New Law Allows CO Motorcyclists to Proceed Through Malfunctioning Light
Senate Bill 19-144, titled “Concerning Allowing a Driver of a Motorcycle to Proceed Past a Malfunctioning Traffic Control Signal,” was sponsored by Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D) and states:
“(1)(a)When a driver approaches an intersection and faces a traffic control signal that is inoperative, that remains on steady red or steady yellow during several time cycles, or that does not recognize a motorcycle that is operated by the driver, the provisions controlling entrance to a through street or highway from a stop sign or highway, as provided under section 42-4-703, apply until a police officer assumes control of traffic or until the traffic control signal resumes normal operation.
“(b)If a traffic control signal at a place other than an intersection ceases to operate or malfunctions as specified in subsection (1)(a) of this section, drivers may proceed past the signal only with caution, as if the signal were flashing yellow.”
In plain English, Bruce restates the law like this: “If a light doesn’t recognize a motorcycle, the driver may proceed as though it is a four-way stop or a blinking yellow.”
However, the law does not require that motorcyclists wait a specified period of time before making this decision, as Bruce had hoped.
“We had requested a two-minute timeframe,” explains Bruce. “If the light didn’t change after two minutes, then the biker would have the legal right to proceed with caution. The new law doesn’t require a specific time limit. It’s just up to the biker to say, ‘The light didn’t recognize me.’”
Clearly, this law leaves a lot of room for interpretation by both motorcyclists and law enforcement, which Bruce was trying to avoid.
Interpreting the New Colorado Dead Red Law
This new law allowing bikers to proceed through red lights could be abused by bikers. For example, a biker might ride up to a red light, wait 15 seconds, and make a left-hand turn. If he says, “It didn’t recognize me,” can he be ticketed for violating the law?
Bruce encourages bikers to follow the intention of the law and not to abuse it.
“I live near the intersection at Iliff and Havana and it’s a longer turn signal than I’d like but I know it works,” says Bruce. “I’ve only seen it malfunction twice in 18 years, but I know it works. I’m not going to abuse this new law and run that light just because I have to wait longer than I want.”
On the flip side, as Bruce makes clear, this law will make bikers safer.
“We can stop at a light and, if it does not recognize us, we do have a legal option to treat it as a four-way stop and go on our way,” he says. “This makes us safer because we don’t have to look for right turns on red or make dangerous U-turns. It’s little things like this that prevent frustration which leads to dangerous choices on a motorcycle.”
There are also concerns that law enforcement may not honor or properly enforce this new law.
For example, if a motorcycle pulls up to a light and it doesn’t recognize him, he may proceed through the light. If law enforcement is coming from another direction and doesn’t see the malfunctioning signal, or if he sees a car recognized and believes the light is not malfunctioning, then the biker may get a ticket.
Time will tell how well this law works.
Turning Left Across a Dead Red Intersection
Because I have seen so many bikers hurt and killed when making left-hand turns, I strongly caution you to wait as long as possible before turning left across oncoming traffic when you’re sitting at a dead red light. If you get hit, it will be your fault because you shouldn’t have turned in the first place. (That’s why nearly every state with dead red laws requires motorcyclists to come to a complete stop and proceed only when it’s safe: the onus is on the motorcyclists to assure his or her own safety.)
As a Denver personal injury attorney, I am very curious to hear from bikers who receive tickets for proceeding through malfunctioning signals. I want to know if this new law is properly understood by both bikers and police. Call or text me if you receive a ticket for proceeding through a dead red light after August 2, 2019. (303-388-5304)
For over three years, I have been working with Colorado Senator Lois Court to make Colorado’s roads safer through legislation to reduce distracted driving. Thankfully, we’re making tremendous progress and 2019 could be an important year in our fight to end texting-while-driving in Colorado. [Read more…] about Preventing Distracted Driving Accidents: I Am the Only Personal Injury Attorney in The Room
By: Susan Dane, Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving (CORD)
Senate Bill 19-012 (SB19-012), Use of Electronic Mobile Devices While Driving, passed the Senate & Energy Committee on February 14 with a unanimous “Yes” vote. [Read more…] about SB19-012 Passes the first round
For several years now, I have been working with Susan Dane of CORD
and with Colorado Senator Lois Court to end distracted driving in Colorado. We’ve had some successes: it is now illegal to text while driving in Colorado and we were able to increase the fines last year to levels that should change behaviors. [Read more…] about Distracted Driving in Colorado: I’m Still Fighting the Good Fight
Sitting in a somber federal courthouse in Santa Ana, California, a jury box is full of curious and pensitive faces. US Attorney Steve Welk speaks to them forcefully. Welk is going well beyond any legal argument. He is attacking the very soul of motorcycle culture and using every scare tactic that he could possibly think of. Welk is on a mission… a mission to ban symbolic speech… at least the symbolic speech that he finds objectionable… for now.
US Attorney Welk could have put on a clean case. He could have presented fair evidence, applied it clearly to the law from the government’s perspective, and used logic and reason to make his case. Then, a dispassionate jury could weigh that evidence and come to a well-reasoned decision. US Attorney Welk could have acted honorably. US Attorney Welk didn’t. Instead, Welk tried to enflame the jury with the testimony of secret confidential informants, given through undercover officers, and shamefully attack anyone or anything that doesn’t bow down to the all-powerful government. Going back to 1969, Welk spun his tale of deceit.
The truth is that Ruben “Doc” Cavazos was a former President of the Mongols Motorcycle Club that used his position dishonorably. Doc secretly engaged in illegal activities that will ever tarnish any legacy that he might have earned. While carefully hiding his crimes from the vast majority of his club, Doc enriched himself and set himself up for a massive payday by way of a book deals and movie rights. All the while, his Mongol brothers were left in the dark, and only a select few took part- all hiding their activities from the Mongol membership as a whole. However, the government doesn’t care. The government simply ignores the fact that Doc and his goons were put out bad in August of 2008, four months before any Mongol knew that there were undercover officers in the club conducting Operation Black Rain. Four Months before the raids. Four months before the government went on TV to gloat about the infiltration. The Mongols acted swiftly to cut out the cancer that is Doc Cavazos as soon as they learned of his sins, without having the slightest clue what was going to happen. Still, the government will do anything, ethical or not, to steal the holy grail of the Mongols identity- the Mongols Patch.
During the trial, undercover officer after undercover officer sat on the witness stand to tell a twisted story. You see, if you are a fault finder, and look for the bad in anything, everything will look bad. Without honor, these officers painted a very dark picture of property patches and anything that they thought would offend the citizens in the jury box. You might ask yourself what a property patch has to do with the trial…and the answer is: nothing. Women that freely choose to wear a property patch have nothing to do with racketeering laws, nor any of the alleged acts of racketeering. This testimony was meant to corrupt the minds of the jury and portray the Mongols as bad people, tipping the scales of justice in the government’s favor. In his closing arguments, Welk called the Mongols “infantile”. Instead of arguing the law, US Attorney Welk called the Mongols names, mocked them, mocked motorcycle culture, called anyone who doesn’t trust police “criminals”, and even tried to paint the Mongols as “vicious animals”. Welk knew exactly what he was doing. He was inflaming the jury, and it worked.
The most offensive of Welk’s tactics from a legal perspective came from secretive confidential informant testimony. Undercover officers testified at trial, over and over again, of things that the undercover officers claimed that confidential informants told them. Confidential informants that the government never disclosed the identity of. So, because the government did not disclose the identities of the confidential informants, the Mongols could not call them as witnesses to refute the undercover officers’ testimony. The Mongols were left without a reasonable way to challenge that testimony. US Attorney Welk danced around the hearsay rules of evidence, exploited loopholes, and the testimony was heard by the jury. Damning testimony that the Mongols were helpless to watch unfold. Damning testimony of things the undercover officers say that someone else told them over a decade ago. Would police lie? The jury didn’t think so. The jury took the undercovers’ testimony of what these undisclosed confidential informants allegedly told them as gospel truth. As a result, the government has been successful thus far in this endeavor.
In order to take the Mongols Patch, the government has to win three separate phases. If the government loses even one, they lose the entire case, and the Mongols Patch cannot be taken. Phase One is the guilt phase, Phase Two is the forfeiture phase, and Phase Three is the 1st Amendment Phase.
In Phase One, on December 10, 2018, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for both substantive RICO and Conspiracy to Commit RICO. For the first time in American history, without even one individual person included in the indictment, the US Government found an organization guilty of a crime. However, all of the underlying RICO allegations that were deemed “proven” by the jury were crimes done by Doc Cavazos and his crew during Doc’s leadership. Likewise, the Mongols were acquitted of all alleged underlying RICO acts that were outside of Doc’s presidency, showing that there is a large difference between Doc’s perverted and dishonorable term and the club as a whole. Still, the government won Phase One of the three phase process, and we moved on to Phase Two, where the government would try to hold all Mongols responsible for the bad acts of a few, just like a school teacher denying all kids recess because one kid didn’t turn in his homework.
In Phase Two, on January 11, 2019, after a one-day hearing and 3 days of deliberations, the jury’s verdict declared the collective membership trademarks “Mongols” and the Mongols’ center patch image subject to forfeit. However, it was done in the most peculiar way, as the jury specifically decided that the marks were not subject to forfeit on the most serious conviction (substantive RICO), but the marks were subject to forfeiture on the much less serious conviction (Conspiracy to Commit RICO). While what occurred in the jury’s deliberations will likely remain a secret forever, this strange outcome points to the conclusion that the jury reached a compromise verdict- striking a deal so that they could all go home. Still, this does not automatically forfeit the collective membership marks. It simply declares them subject to forfeit. Federal Court Judge Carter will make the ultimate decision on whether the government can seize the Mongols’ symbols and ban their use, which brings us to Phase Three.
For Phase Three, on February 28, 2019, a hearing is set for the Honorable Federal Judge Carter to decide a number of legal issues, the principal being whether the government’s seizing and banning the Mongols’ symbols (their collective membership marks) violates the 1st Amendment. In the meantime, scholars all over the country have been invited to submit amicus (friend of the court) briefs, as this is a case of first impression. No matter the outcome, an appeal will certainly happen on either side. This case will be decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and will likely go up to the United States Supreme Court. For the Mongols? They will continue to fight so that Americans can’t be banned by the government from wearing symbols. They will continue to stand toe-to-toe with the government, defend the 1st Amendment, and never back down. After all, if the government is successful here, whose symbol is next?
Here we are in the dead of winter and even the most die-hard riders are having to crawl into their cages to get from Point A to Point B. I thought I’d share some advice about calling police after an accident because the decision is often less obvious when you’re in a car. Typically, if a motorcycle is involved in an accident, there’s no question whether you need to call police; the damages and injuries are usually significant. But what about car accidents? [Read more…] about Should I Call the Police After an Accident?
By: Scott O’Sullivan, The O’Sullivan Law Firm
In the immediate minutes, hours and days after a motorcycle accident, people do the strangest things. Sometimes they act irrationally due to the burst of adrenaline in their bodies. Other times, they are simply naïve about their own injuries, or they innocently trust the other driver to take responsibility for the damages they caused. [Read more…] about Top 8 Dos and Don’ts in the First 24 Hours After a Motorcycle Accident