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Motorcyclists try to get on fast track to licenses

Event coincides with National Motorcycle Awareness Month

May 05, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Instructor Dawn Douglas gives directions to Tim Cool during a fast-track licensing program held Wednesday at the Motor Vehicle Administration south of Hagerstown. The program helps unlicensed motorcyclists get their license in one day.
Yvette May, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- A state official said Wednesday that a fast-track licensing program created to help motorcyclists get their license in one day won't lead to more inexperienced riders on the roadways.

On Wednesday, more than two dozen people participated in the program at the Motor Vehicle Administration south of Hagerstown. An MVA spokeswoman said 18 riders received motorcycle licenses. Three people failed the test, she said.

Thomas Bachur, an instructor with the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program, said the road portion of the test was designed to be far too complicated for novice riders to handle.

"This is really geared toward experienced riders," he said. "You have to be able to manipulate the motorcycle to get through this test ... No one in the safety program wants to see an unsafe rider."

The fast-track licensing program was held to coincide with National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As riders took their tests, about 50 people, including politicians, motorcycle enthusiasts and law-enforcement officials, gathered outside the MVA to attend a brief ceremony.

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Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, whose son, Ryan, died in a motorcycle accident last year, reminded the crowd to watch out for motorcycle riders.

"We, as motorists, need to take that extra look for the motorcyclists," he said.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said the fast-track licensing program, which was created two years ago, was designed to make things easier for experienced, unlicensed riders to get their motorcycle license in one day by skipping the normal process.

People typically have to maintain a learner's permit for at least 14 days to get a motorcycle license in Maryland, according to the MVA website.

The fast-track program waives that period. Participants also have the rare opportunity to retake a failed portion of the test on the same day.

"If they don't pass the practical test as well as the written test, they're not going to get their license," Mullendore said.

Hagerstown resident Greg Freeman, 39, received his motorcycle license Wednesday by participating in the fast-track program.

"Today was a good day to come out," he said. "It gets it all done in one shot ... It's the way to go, I think."

Philip Sause, coordinator of the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program, said the fast-track program will be held this year at several MVAs across the state.

"We just want to encourage them to get licensed," he said. "We want to remove some administrative barriers that riders see as inconvenient."

Sause said he didn't know how many people in Maryland ride motorcycles without a license, but about one-third of all motorcycle accidents in the state involve riders who don't "have a license or are improperly licensed," Sause said.

Smithsburg resident Paul Davidson, 20, said he started riding dirt bikes about 10 years ago.

"I think (the program) is great," Davidson said as he waited in line to take his road test. "It gives people a chance to get a license quicker than spending hundreds of dollars."

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