Ask Our Lawyer – October 2020

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services


Please be advised our law firm has been contacted regarding a dangerous roadway in your area.  It has been brought to our attention that 400 West nearest S.R. 10 is covered with loose gravel, presumably from chip sealing.   Chip Seal can be a nightmare for motorists and motorcyclists alike; slick conditions, tar on vehicles, vehicle damage, etc.  Please see that any areas that are scheduled for Chip Seal are swept of any excess rock in an expeditious manner.  


A bad day starts with reading a sign that says “fresh chip seal ahead”. You have two choices- maybe. Turn around or see how lucky you are, and head into asphalt hell.  As we know, chip seal is a bituminous treatment that is a coating of liquified asphalt (let’s call it oil) covered with sharp rock that can bust windshields, cut tires, puncture eye protection and cause hours of cleanup. No one likes chip seal other than the bureaucrats who seek re-election/reappointment. 

What about the dangers of loose chips which you cannot see that take you by surprise, especially on the curves.  Road rash due to chip seal is the worst. Besides flat tires and the balls of asphalt that spit up into your face on a hot day, what is there not to like about chip seal?  At least you can see potholes and maneuver around them. 

So do we vote for roads screwed up with total coverage of oil and rock, or go for a few potholes that we can deal with?  I know what works for most of us. In 2020 there has to be a better and safer way.  


Q.      Hi Rod and Brian, I have some questions on behalf of the Blackhawk chapter of ABATE of Illinois.  When a chapter has an event and other organized riding clubs join the ride and they decide to provide road guarding without our solicitation could our chapter be held responsible?

Could our chapter add a clause to the event release stating that all riders are to follow the traffic laws and posted traffic signals and we do not permit road guards and road blocking?

            This scenario recently happened on a ride that we hosted.  We received a letter from the city of Moline informing us that we must complete an application if we want to ride in a parade style.  I thank you for your consideration on this matter. – Carla Enburg, Newsletter Coordinator

A.     Carla, your Chapter and ride organization are in harms way if you allow/acquiesce in others  violating the law.  Your idea of adding a clause to the event release is a good one.  And I like your idea of advising that all ride attendees are to follow the traffic laws.  I would go so far as to post this information at the registration facility and at the beginning of the ride.

            While I appreciate that these errant participants were just trying to help, many do not recognize that vigilante road guards are illegal in most states – even if they are trying to do the right thing – in their mind. A common misconception is that the leaders of any motorcycle ride have the authority to stop traffic in the interest of safety.  The law prohibits this do-it-yourself ride control.

The reason for the draconian rules against vigilante road guards is that horrific crashes have been caused by well-meaning volunteers, who in most cases, have had no or inadequate training to perform such duties.

            A few years back at the Miracle Ride, we had an off duty, out of city, out of uniform police officer attempt to control traffic on a U.S. highway in Indianapolis.  A disgruntled person objecting to the off-duty and out of uniform officer’s attempt at traffic control, proceeded thru the intersection injuring two participants.  Certainly a showstopper for them, and the rest of the five thousand riders.

            Moral of the story?  Let the local police officers do what they are trained to do and leave the rest of the riding to us.  P.S.  We can help you with the language in your ride waiver.


Sean McDonald was having a wonderful day on his bike until he reached the intersection of Bronk and Caton Farms Roads.  There he was confronted with a notorious traffic signal device from hell – well known around the Joliet area.  This type of signal delay problem is the reason a state law allowing bikers to proceed through a red signal after waiting a specified time, was passed.

            So much time elapsed for Sean, that he had time to get off his bike to adjust his saddle bags.  After he complied with state law, he proceeded as the red light still glared.  About the time he got into 3rd gear, he noticed one of Joliet’s finest in the rear-view mirror.  He had an inkling of the problem he was about to confront.

            The conversation went like this.  Officer. “May I see your driver’s license”.  Sean. “No, because I did nothing wrong”.  Officer.  “Are you resisting”.  Sean, (humorously) “Are you calling for backup”.  Sean knew she was stopping him for proceeding through the red light.  And he knew that he had waited the legally required amount of time, so he was like the Christian with four aces.  In defense of the officer, she was not a rider and had not been informed of the state law allowing a bike to proceed through a traffic signal under specified conditions.  Still, Sean couldn’t believe that the officer was citing him, despite his protests. And he couldn’t believe she was unaware of the law allowing him to “run the red”. He invited her to look up the statute on her computer.  Neither could find it (more on that later), so Sean was cited for running the red light.  He couldn’t believe it.

            At home that evening, he was surprised to see Officer Maureen drive up to his garage and exit her squad car – smiling.  Her first words were magnanimous, “ Sean, I am here to let you know that I am big enough to admit I was wrong and that you were right.  Give me the citation that I issued today as I have notified the department that the citation was incorrectly written”.  She had found the law authorizing Sean’s actions.

            I salute both of these citizens; Sean for sticking up for his rights and Officer Maureen for admitting a mistake.  And I predict that Maureen will be running the department one of these days, and Sean will still be sticking up for what is right – the epitome of the perfect ABATE member.

            Since this statute is so hard to find, I have provided the citation and summary of the Illinois law.  Clip this article and carry it with you as you may run into other non-riding officers that are unaware of the change.  Same goes for many other states that have a similar law.  And follow Maureen’s and Sean’s lead – keep it light and smile.  In short this law allows motorcyclists to proceed through a red light after waiting the required time.

(625 ILCS 5/11-306) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-306)

3.5. In municipalities with less than 2,000,000 inhabitants, after stopping as required by paragraph 1 or 2 of this subsection, the driver of a motorcycle or bicycle, facing a steady red signal which fails to change to a green signal within a reasonable period of time not less than 120 seconds because of a signal malfunction or because the signal has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle or bicycle due to the vehicle’s size or weight, shall have the right to proceed, after yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic facing a green signal, subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as required by Section 11-1204 of this Code.


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 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 all of

these forces, including gravity and friction, are competing for control of your bike, you lose.

The point of this story is that 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 to 5 year period), I would replace the tire.

            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.

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 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: © 2020.

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