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Mandatory Training for New OR Motorcyclists

September 8, 2009

Mandatory Training for New OR Motorcyclists

Team Oregon trainer Christopher Malloy gives instructions to a group of beginning riders at a class in Salem. Posted: Friday, September 4, 2009 

SALEM, OR – Motorcyclists are far more likely to be involved in fatal accidents in Oregon than people behind the wheel of a car. A new law will require all new motorcyclists in the state to pass a rigorous training course, in hopes of reducing deadly wrecks. Correspondent Chris Lehman reports, Oregon will become the third state in the country to mandate this.

The scene? A community college parking lot in Salem.

The cast? More than a dozen novice motorcyclists.

The director? Christopher Malloy, an instructor with the motorcycle training outfit Team Oregon.

Christopher Malloy: “As you approach each turn, apply both brakes to slow. Then turn your head and look to the exit of the turn. When directed, stop and return to staging…”

Malloy’s colleague demonstrates soon, bikers are making loops around the lot. Team Oregon student Kathy Barber takes a break from the action. She says she’s aware of the potential hazards that await her on a motorcycle . The 51-year-old from Coos Bay says she wiped out while practicing on a gravel driveway. So she was glad to sign up for the course.

Kathy Barber: “I think it’s the best idea ever, because it’s not a joke when you fall, or when you end up in a bunch of blackberry bushes. It’s just your skin against the world. And when I fell, I was probably going three miles an hour but still, the bike ended up on my ankle. You really do get hurt.”

Barber isn’t just here to learn how to ride. At the end of the three-day course, she and the other students are hoping to pass a skills test. The prize? An Oregon motorcycle license. Right now you have to take this training course if you’re a prospective rider under age 21. A new law passed by the Legislature this year will phase in the requirement for all first-time bikers over the next six years.

Team Oregon spokesman Bob Reichenberg says trainers don’t shy away from telling interested riders about the dangers of getting behind the handlebars.

Bob Reichenberg: “We don’t have the kind of protection that you do on your car. For instance, we don’t have airbags, seat belts, crumple zones, roll cages, all of that. There’s no such thing as a fender bender on a motorcycle.”

Reichenberg says first time riders have a lot to learn, and much of it is what he calls mental skills.

Bob Reichenberg: “Staying out of driver’s blind spots, avoiding surface hazards, making sure you can see, making sure you’re in a position where others can see you.”

Team Oregon trained about 10,000 riders last year. The majority of them were older than 21. More than 4,400 people bypassed the class in favor of a free skills test at the DMV. Soon, first-time riders will have to shell out about $150 to take the Team Oregon course, which is administered by Oregon State University.

The change in the law was supported by one of the state’s chief motorcycle lobbies, BikePAC. Executive director Nic Oliver says he’s been riding for 35 years and he thinks the new requirement will save lives.

Nic Oliver: “A trained rider is a safe rider. And we’re trying to cut down the deaths, especially the unnecessary deaths of people that are making stupid mistakes because they don’t know what to do.”

According to Oregon Department of Transportation statistics, most fatal motorcycle accidents in the state do not involve other vehicles. In other words, somebody goes off the road and hits say a tree or a concrete median. Team Oregon’s Bob Reichenberg says that’s often due to lack of experience.

Bob Reichenberg: “I’m continually appalled at the crashes we have in curves: one rider on one motorcycle with no outside factors involved, simply riding over their head, not having proper technique and going off the road and getting injured or killed.”

The mandatory training bill wasn’t the only new motorcycle-related law passed this year in Oregon. Lawmakers also voted to double the fine for riders caught without the proper license. It jumps to $720 starting in January.

Copyright 2009 OPB

On the Web:

Team Oregon

Oregon Senate Bill 546

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