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35 motorcyclists cited in safety check Sunday

May 27, 2009

35 motorcyclists cited in safety check Sunday

Illinois State Police issued 35 citations Sunday during a safety check that focused on motorcycle riders.  

The check, conducted on Sangamon Avenue, was timed to coincide with the Springfield Mile motorcycle race. Of the 35 citations, seven were issued to motorcycle riders who did not have motorcycle classifications on their driver’s licenses.

Capt. James Wolf, commander of State Police District 9 in Springfield, said people riding motorcycles without the proper license classification is a problem throughout the state.

“Looking at 2008, there were 135 fatal crashes in Illinois involving motorcycles. Of those 135, 26 percent were not licensed properly. They didn’t have the motorcycle classification or they didn’t have a license,” Wolf said.

Last year, state police conducted five safety checks aimed at motorcycles. Sunday’s check was the first time one was conducted in the Springfield area.

Wolf said police checked 399 motorcycles and discovered 96 violations. Not all of the violations resulted in a citation.

In addition to the seven citations for improper license classification, troopers issued 19 citations for no insurance and a variety of citations for equipment violations, such as no eye protection. One citation was issued for a suspended driver’s license, another for no driver’s license, and one person was discovered to be wanted on a warrant.

No arrests were made for driving under the influence.

The check was conducted between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the 2700 block of Sangamon Avenue, which is between Dirksen Parkway and the fairgrounds.

Jay Hall, vice president of Hall’s Harley-Davidson and manager of Hall’s Cycles in Springfield, agrees that it is important for motorcycle riders to have the proper classification on their licenses.

In Illinois, motorcycle riders can get an “L” classification that allows them to ride a bike with an engine up to 150 cubic centimeters or an “M” classification for larger bikes.

“It’s much easier to pass the test on the L, so that’s why some people get the L and ride the bigger bikes,” Hall said.

When people do this, they may not have the necessary experience and skill to ride a larger bike.

“The larger bikes require more knowledge of road safety, and being aware of how your equipment works,” Hall said.

Hall said he has nothing against police checking to make sure riders are properly licensed, but he didn’t like the way motorcyclists were singled out Sunday.

“I’m sure there were plenty of automobile operators who went through that check who didn’t have insurance. They were just waving them through,” Hall said.

Wolf said when officers found someone who didn’t have the proper license classification, they were allowed to call someone who could legally drive the motorcycle from the scene.

“Towing the bikes was a last resort,” Wolf said.

John Reynolds can be reached at 788-1524.

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