March 11, 2007
Highway Patrol using old law to catch sportbike speeders
By SETH ROBBINS
It happens so fast. A sportbike hurtles past a trooper waiting along the interstate. The trooper flicks on his lights, but before the first whine of the siren the motorcyclist has hit the throttle and sped away.
Troopers have strict laws governing when they can chase, and sportbike riders who know this and have bikes that can reach speeds of 170 mph try to avoid speeding tickets by taking off. Now, however, troopers are using an old law to stop this new breed of motorcyclist.
"We had to get creative to stop these motorcyclists from being so dangerous on our roadways," said Trooper Kim Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol.
"Once a trooper turns the lights on and the motorcyclist accelerates, we can seize their vehicle because it's being used in the commission of a felony," she said.
Using information from the license plate, the trooper rides to the house or apartment where the bike is stashed and takes the vehicle. The FHP has seized about six to 10 bikes in Volusia County, Miller said. And troopers do not need to identify the driver to seize the bike, because under Florida forfeiture law all that is necessary to take the bike is for the trooper to prove that it was used in a felony, in this case aggravated fleeing and eluding.
"Don't put your life at risk," Miller said. "And risk your bike being seized all for a speeding ticket. Stop and take your medicine and go on."
But some bike enthusiasts say they are not being reckless when they race through traffic on the interstate.
"My bike's traveling so fast that by the time they see me, I'm just a distant memory to them," said Jason Tassinari, owner of Speedfreakinc.com, a Web site that provides a window into the underground scene of sportbikes. "Anybody doing 195 mph," he said, "knows what they're doing or they're a mental patient."
Still, troopers are going to continue to crack down on the sportbikers until they slow down.
"We might not get you that day," Miller said. "But we'll get you down the road and, hopefully, we'll get you before you kill yourself or someone else."