Publisher: Motorbooks; First edition (January 14, 2012)
Paperback: 240 pages
By Thomas Day
This was a particularly fun book for me to read and review because Pat is a good friend and someone who’s opinion and research I trust, almost without question. The book arrived on a Monday and I came home about 9PM to discover it in my mailbox. On the way from the mailbox to the kitchen, I learned something from skimming through its pages. Did you know that the speed “limit” below yellow curve warnings are “advisory” and don’t carry the weight of law? Yeah? Well I didn’t and either did at least one cop who gave me a warning for blowing off those idiotic, overly paranoid “suggestions’ on an Idaho mountain road.
Pat takes us through the laws and rules states and individual police apply to riders, most of which are actual laws and some of which are made up on the scene (the “one or both feet down” for a full stop rule, for instance). I’d recommend this as a reference manual for all you Iron Butt’ers.
There are some statistical anomalies, such as “In the city, the ratio of drivers to law enforcement officers than it is in the sticks.” He means in small towns vs. big cities, but when you are really “in the sticks” the ratio is a divide-by-zero equation. In a couple hundred thousand miles of off-pavement road travel, I have yet to see a single law enforcement vehicle doing anything. The “Staying Under the Radar” chapter has excellent information regarding required equipment from state-to-state. The list of things to do to avoid collecting officialdom’s interest and things to do when you have attracted their attention is practical, concise, and entertaining. Pat takes us through the whole process of getting a ticket dismissed, reduced, or tossed out of court for a variety of technical and legal reasons. For a guy who has made a lot of his career in government service, Pat is very clear on the court’s real purpose, to take your money. This section, “Fighting A Ticket,” includes a terrific assortment of phrases and detailed arguments you might use with a cop, a prosecutor, or in court to save your money and driving record. This section, alone, justifies the book’s $22 list price.
The last 115 pages of this 237-page book contains a state-by-state detailed analysis of the states’ motorcycle laws, the overall “rideability,” and a comprehensive list of the pertinent motorcycle issues for the states (helmet laws, eye protection, insurance, traffic situation rules, etc.). A lot of useful state-specific data is contained in this concise and detailed section. If you consider wearing a head-napkin and ass-less chaps AGAT, it would be valuable to know which states are going to be less impressed with your pancake-lady impersonation. Some states have laws outlawing reasonable experienced motorcyclists’ regular practices.
The Legal Handbook book cleverly points out inconsistencies in state law and downright insanities (called “erratics”) that are obvious things to watch out for as a visitor. Wisconsin law, for example, states that exhaust noise can not be louder than OEM equipment. Wisconsin does not honor state reciprocity, which means the state does not guarantee equal treatment of residents and non-residents. Anyone who has been to Wisconsin knows that the percentage of local riders with OEM-quiet exhaust systems is well-under 1%. If Wisconsin ever enforces the exhaust noise law, it will be enforced on non-residents. Colorado, Denver in particular, is downright hostile toward the loud pipes crowd. Colorado also has an assortment of laws punishing coasting (I didn’t know that and I lived in Denver for 5 years.). The Legal Handbook gives you a head’s up on who is who in the crazy motorcycle law department.
The Motorcyclists Legal Handbook is a quick read. I went from cover-to-cover in a short afternoon, including reading all of the state analysis. It is both entertaining and enlightening, but its real value is as a part of interstate travel planning. When you are crossing several state borders, a quick look through these 237 pages could save you time and money. If you happen to be tangled up in the legal system, Motorcyclists Legal Handbook could be the best investment you can make to untangle yourself..