Ask Our Lawyer – June 2018

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


As the old saying goes, never confuse fear with respect for your motorcycle. Some have said to me, “Rod, I am wondering if I should continue to ride? I am getting older and have had some good times. Is riding over for me”? I know they have heard the mantra that riding will make you feel more alive that a car etc. But in the corner of their mind are statistics. Here is what I say back to them and Mark Twain said it best. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Statistics don’t take into account careless riding and/or not riding within the legal limit of alcohol (don’t). And those same statistics don’t look hard at day versus night riding, riding in adverse weather, perfect tire maintenance and exacting adherence to speed limits. I have a saying that riding in Florida at night when the elders are out may be hazardous to your health, so ride after they go to bed as many of them can’t see or hear. And statistics don’t list those motorcyclists that always

1. Assume the car coming toward them will fail to yield and turn left in front of them.

2. Assume that the car at the stop sign to his right is going fail to yield when he has the right of way. I say that if you load the stats with the above, you are as safe as in a car.

Those are my statistics and I am sticking to them. So, get your nerve back and ride.


Q: How can you go from a motorcycle tire tread depth of 2/32″ (a supposedly safe motorcycle tire) to paper thin in less than 500 miles? I thought the tires were made better today. The tire was absolutely paper thin when it was replaced. If that tire had deflated while I was traveling down the interstate, would the manufacturer have any liability for personal injuries that I may have had because of the sudden wear of that tire? ABATE OF INDIANA MEMBER.

A: According to Rick, the minimum safe tire tread is 2/32″ (or one millimeter for you metric guys). An easy rule of thumb is to take a penny and place it in a tire groove. If the tread is deep enough to reach the top of Lincoln’s head, you have approximately 2/32″. Another trick is to measure the wear bars with a ballpoint pen by running the pen through a groove until you hit the wear bar. (They are hard to see, hence the ballpoint pen.) If the tread is even with the wear mark–park it unless you are going to a shop to replace it, and then don’t ride any faster than you are comfortable with in sliding down the road on your hide. As to the question on how the tire wore so quickly in the last 500 miles, Rick Chupp of Cycle Outfitters (one of the best motorcycle tire suppliers in the country), provides an answer. He believes that the tire grooves provide significant cooling, hence, as the tire wears, less cooling. Remember, the hotter the tire–the faster the wear.

We know of numerous cases of our fellow motorcyclists unknowingly riding on paper-thin tires only to incur a blowout at interstate speeds. The result can be devastating. You don’t just pull over on the side of the road and get off. It does not work that way. A deflation on a rear tire at 70 mph goes approximately as follows:

You could get lucky and get to the shoulder without any problems. Unfortunately, you could notice a mushy handling characteristic, indicating a developing problem. By the time you have figured out what has happened, you are trying to slow from 70 mph, but the bike is becoming increasingly unstable. The rear end does not want to cooperate. If you have a passenger, that problem is tripled. If you are lucky/skilled, you may be able to maintain control and somehow get you and your passenger to the side of the road without catastrophe. In many cases, the motorcyclist loses control in the process of slowing the bike. That control loss is occasioned by known and unknown gyroscopic forces that are forcing the bike into odd aerodynamic postures and increasing forces from wind resistance. When these forces, including gravity and friction, are competing for control of your bike, you lose. The point is don’t even consider less than perfect tires and interstate speeds. While tires are more reliable today than ever, tire manufacturers demand air pressures be kept as specified and that the tire is not used beyond the wear specified for that tire. Do not be fooled by the wonderful tire experience you have on your automobile. Those tires may very well last 60,000 miles. Because of the nature of the manufacturer’s compounds of the motorcycle tire, and because of the extraordinary demand of a motorcycle tire, namely that it be flexible in almost all axis, rear motorcycle tires routinely need replaced at 10,000 miles. Again, use the Lincoln head penny or the wear marks as your guide. If your motorcycle is a Garage Queen (has not been ridden 10,000 miles in a 4 – 5 year period), I would replace the tires.

As a final answer to your question, relating to facts that you pose, I find it hard to imagine that any jury would find fault with the tire manufacturer if the motorcyclist did not comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations on inflation and wear. Clearly, they could conclude that you misused the product in question, despite your claim that there was excessive and sudden wear the last 500 miles of the tire.

Getting Stopped on the Road

Q: Recently, I was pulled over by the state patrol, and was ticketed for not having a motorcycle endorsement. I asked the patrolman why he stopped me, and if I was doing something wrong. He said no, he was stopping motorcycles, checking for licenses. He said that he didn’t see anything wrong with my riding. My question is, can he pull me over for no reason?

A: No. This kind of selective violation of our Fourth Amendment rights is why we need lawyers. In general, in order to stop a motor vehicle, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a public offense is occurring or has occurred. There are many legitimate reasons for such a stop which include, but are not limited to suspicious activity, traffic violations, and equipment violations. Although it may surprise some of our more confused public safety officers, riding a motorcycle does NOT constitute a reasonable suspicion that a public offense is occurring. I believe that the officer overstepped his bounds in stopping you, and had you been ticketed, that you would have had a legitimate chance to have the case dismissed. ABATE OF ILLINOIS MEMBER

Celebrating the Founding Members of ABATE by Featuring Their Lives

This Month: When “Big Chuck” Williams Speaks…

Charles “Big Chuck” is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for over three decades. “Big Chuck” has been a member of the MRF for over four decades and owns ABATE OF INDIANA number 11. He has held just about every job that you can have in ABATE. He loves to tell the story of being signed up in ABATE by Jim Humphries, a bouncer in a bar when the membership application was done on the back of a napkin. Chuck is in the plumbing, sewer, and septic business and has been for a while. He is also the best friend that any could have. He has experienced life to the fullest. During one of his sojourns around the country Big Chuck wound up in Nashville as a wanna-be country music star, Los Angeles as a bouncer, Montana as a cook. He tells the story of him and his girlfriend being stranded in Helena Montana without money or jobs. He signed her up for a waitress job, but part of the deal was she had to wash the dishes of her customers. She objected to the dishwashing part so Big Chuck was her new dishwashing co-pilot. Then one day the cook failed to show up. It is what he calls working your way up in life. Guess who the new cook was? Ever since I have branded him as a world class chef. Along the way, he has been a carpenter, security guard, dry cleaner, hog farmer, band member, and singer. On that note he reminds me of Mel Tillis in that he sings like Pavarotti, but like Mel, speaks in labored sentences. Some say that he has a speech difficulty; I don’t notice anymore.

The point of my telling you all of this is the following: I saw him rise to speak at the MRFMeeting of the Minds in Lancaster, Pennsylvania a few decades back. The previous speaker had been rambling on about something that none of us remember, but when “Big Chuck rose to the occasion by giving us his thoughts, we heard every word that he had to say that day.

One final comment. At an ABATE meeting one Saturday, we all rose to pledge allegiance. I stood near “Big Chuck.” He pledged his allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America in perfect prose – near perfect iambic pentameter and never missed a beat. I had never heard “Big Chuck” speak so perfectly before, but he did so on that Saturday. Many of us just go through the motions, but not “Big Chuck.” Every word means something to him. That was the most memorable Pledge of Allegiance I ever heard.

Harassing Witness in Divorce Case

Q: I have been the subject of false 911 calls alleging erratic driving and saying that I may beintoxicated. I believe the root of the problem is that I am a witness in favor of the husband in a

divorce case. The wife is the caller. What can I do?

A: Immediately report this occurrence to the court. All states have laws prohibiting witness harassment. This activity clearly fits within that category. Always get the name and badge number of the police officer and make book on the false stops with a simple email detailing the false stop. If the wife can be identified through records, she can be prosecuted. ABATE OF OHIO MEMBER


Q. I see that the U.S. Senate failed to pass the bill to make English our official language many times. Why can’t Congress pass a law making English our official language? ABATE OF ILLINOIS MEMBER

A. As you may know, many bills have been introduced to do just that. All have failed to pass. Interestingly, Illinois and Indiana have passed state laws making English its official language. Your question centers on a fear in this country that English is losing ground here and around the world. There are those who fear that Chinese will dominate the internet or that this country will become bilingual like Canada – kinda-sorta.With that in mind, I did research. Here is what I found. The fastest Chinese-language typist in the world can only muster about 10 words per minute on a keyboard. They use symbols so the keyboard has to be the width of two ping pong tables and their language can not be alphabetized (there has been some attempt to computerize the problem). Computers have helped the Chinese sum. Try Googling with Chinese. The Japanese fair little better. They have the same symbol limitation, but their keyboard is only the width of one ping pong table. Score one for English. Get this: one the most recognized faces in China is a British lady that teaches English to an estimated 60 million Chinese on a television learning channel. While I am sure there are many, I do not know a single American that is learning Chinese, certainly not 60 million of us. It is estimated that less than half of the Americans are learning to speak German today than in my generation. Why? It is not needed anymore. Almost everyone speaks English, and more of the world is learning it every day. It is truly the language of the world. Guess what language is used by air traffic controllers in all countries [even though the French controllers gripe about it and favor French speaking pilots]? Pilot speak is pure American. And motorcycle hand signals are universal around the world. These were developed at the turn of the last century by American motorcyclists. And no country has challenged motorcycle hand signalsstarted in the U.S.

As to the French, they have an entire clearing board of language purists to make sure that French stays French – no foreign words allowed. It is working. And soon French will be for the French only. No wonder fewer students are taking French in this country than ever. I took four years of it in college – waste of time for me. And even if you do, here is what you get: the French have only one word for hide and skin. Try going home tonight and telling your significant other that she has lovely hide, and if you do say it in French.

Unlike French, English has no one to guard the entry of new words into our language. For example, it is estimated that English has pirated over ten thousand Spanish words and made them English. The Rand Corporation did a study a few years back about our Spanish speaking residents in this country. In the first generation, their children spoke English and Spanish. In the next generation only half were bilingual, the rest spoke only English. The same can be said for the Vietnamese and other southeast Asians coming to and thriving in this country. Whether the world likes it or not, English has become the language of the world. While language differences are interesting, it is the perfection of communication that is occurring. I say let us relax and enjoy our cultural and language differences while they last. Mark it down: English has won the war of language competition and our motorcycle hand signals are here to stay.

Dead man talking?

Q: My father just died, and as personal representative, I have been working on collecting all of the estate assets – death benefits, retirement accounts and the like. It turns out that my dad, who was divorced 10 years ago, had never changed the beneficiary of his retirement plan at work. Now, his ex-wife is going to get all of his retirement benefits. Is there anything I can do?  ABATE OF INDIANA MEMBER

A: Only the employee can make changes to the retirement plan (including death benefits, investment accounts and pensions), so once the employee passes away, there is no way to make changes to those designations. Further, if your father was covered under a type of plan called an ERISA plan (named after the federal law that regulates those plans) only a specific type of order (called a QDRO) can automatically change the beneficiary upon entry of the divorce order. If such an order was not entered and he took no steps to change the beneficiary, the retirement plan will pay the named beneficiary, even if it was obvious that your father did not want that to happen. Some states, including Indiana, have statutes which will by operation of law revoke all provisions in the will in favor of the spouse, but you should consult with a lawyer to see what the law provides in your jurisdiction or whether the divorce order was sufficient to change the beneficiary. Also, remember that other assets like life insurance, motor vehicle titles and bank accounts can have survivor rights attached to them, and they will also need to be reviewed to make sure that proper steps have been taken to change the beneficiaries.

Ride Safe & Free,

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 .% of total recovery, and expenses as approved by client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them © 2018.

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