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Ryan’s Bill gets positive recommendation at Statehouse

February 2, 2010

Ryan’s Bill gets positive recommendation at Statehouse

Southeastern students learn progress of motorcycle safety bill named for classmate

By Vicki-Ann Downing

Fifty students at Southeastern Regional Technical Vocational High School were among the first in the state to learn Monday that a bill in memory of their late classmate, Ryan P. Orcutt, has rounded a corner in the state Legislature.

State Rep. Christine Canavan, D-Brockton, told a classroom of students studying criminal justice and plumbing that Ryan’s Bill received a favorable recommendation last week from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

“You made one bill out of 5,000 stand out,” Canavan told the students. “So now your bill has life. You gave it life.”

Senate Bill 1894 would require teens ages 16 to 18 to take a safety course in motorcycle riding before obtaining a junior operator’s license. They now must pass only a written exam and vision test.

The bill is named for Orcutt, a plumbing student who was 16 when he was
killed March 20 while riding his brother’s motorcycle on East Street in Brockton.

Ryan knew how to ride through the woods, said his father, Brockton Fire Lt. Roger Orcutt, but “the one thing he didn’t know was how to ride on streets. He didn’t understand that people go through red lights.”

Drivers of cars are protected by the vehicle around them and wear seatbelts, Orcutt said, “But with a motorcycle, there’s nothing else you can do with it. We can’t put you in body armor.”

Southeastern students traveled to the Statehouse in October to testify in favor of Ryan’s Bill. They brought 500 letters written by classmates urging that the legislation be approved to spare other young lives.

The new law “will help a lot of people,” said Kelsey Rattigan, 16, of East Bridgewater. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what we went through with Ryan.”

Rick Gleason, legislative director for the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association, gave the students a framed photo of themselves on the Statehouse steps and urged them to stay involved with the bill through e-mails to their legislators.

Gleason said that when he was learning to ride a motorcycle, “I hurt myself a couple of times. I was just lucky that it wasn’t very bad.”

“There is no guarantee (the bill) will pass, but it is a huge endorsement (from the committee),” said Gleason.

Doc D’Errico, safety and education director for the motorcycle association, said eight sites in Massachusetts now offer rider training that follows the guidelines of the Massachusetts Rider Education Program. Young riders learn “how to look and observe what is going on around them,” he said.

Canavan said the bill may now be sent to the Senate Ways and Means Committee to determine whether it will cost the state any money to implement. A motorcycle rider herself, she pledged to stay involved with the legislation.

Pamela Foster, a criminal justice teacher at Southeastern, and Easton Patrolwoman Calley Gurney, the school’s resource officer, said they will add motorcycle training to the topics to be covered at the school’s annual safety day on May 15.

Orcutt acknowledged that legislation moves slowly, but added, “If it wasn’t for these kids, it never would have got there.”

“It will save at least one life, I guarantee it,” said Orcutt. “It affects a lot of people for a long time.”
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at vdowning@enterprisenews.com

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