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Rider courses aimed at making motorcyclists safer

March 31, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Each spring as the temperature rises, so does the number of motorcycles on roads.

This year, the State Highway Administration and Motor Vehicle Administration are trying to make conditions safer for motorcyclists and other motorists through new programs, including an intermediate motorcyclist course.

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the agency was targeting motorcycle safety as part of its "12 Months of Safety Campaign."

Buck said the SHA and MVA want motorists to be aware that classes and tips on riding are available through both agencies.

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The concern for motorcycle operators and motorists around them is growing because of the increasing popularity of motorcycle riding and the likelihood of accidents, Buck said.

There were 48 motorcycle-related fatalities in Maryland in 2003 and 52 in 2002, said Philip Sause, coordinator of the MVA's motorcycle safety program. He said at least half of those involved riders who did not have proper training on a motorcycle.

Sause said many riders either were too experienced or not experienced enough for the two courses run by the MVA - the Basic Rider Course and the Experienced Rider Course. He said having only two options also led to a lack of seats in those classes

"Last year, about 1,000 people were shut out of classes because of a lack of availability," he said.

Sause said a new six-hour course for intermediate riders, which began last week, is more appropriate for the average rider.

He said the basic course was designed to give people with no experience an opportunity to discover if riding a motorcycle is right for them.

"The intent is to provide training to those folks who can already ride a motorcycle," Sause said.

He said the more customized approach likely will draw more people to courses and help decrease accidents.

"A trained rider is much less at risk to be involved in a crash than an untrained or improperly trained rider," he said.

All three courses are taught at three MVA locations, including one in Hagerstown, and at some community colleges in the state.

Buck said he believes owning a motorcycle, especially among middle-class residents, has become fashionable in recent years.

"It's becoming a trendy thing to have a Harley," Buck said. "But with that status symbol in your driveway, you also have to know how to drive it."

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