Officer advocates adherence to licensing requirements for motorcycles due to recent accidents

UPDATED / CLARIFICATION Nov. 8, 2011 – Sgt. Harding, quoted in this story, clarifies that he is not advocating stricter licensing requirements but is urging awareness that licensing requirements exist for any user of any motorized cycle that is not propelled solely by pedalling.  If it has a motor and is not propelled only by pedalling, a license is required – and the licensing process has considerable benefit.

SOUTHERN UTAH – Sgt. Craig Harding, of the St. George Police Department’s traffic control division, has a lot to say about the amount of motorcycles and scooters involved in vehicle accidents lately.

“The crime is the fact that we’re having about one or two motorcycle or scooter crashes here in the city each week; I’m telling you last week there was another one, we had the one up by Chili’s a month or so ago that died,” said Harding in an interview a few weeks ago.

Within a week and a half of that interview, three or more “motorcycle meets vehicle” accidents occurred in St. George, and they are unlikely to be the last.

“Why are people not seeing the motorcycles?” Harding said.

Harding suggested that “many times it’s the motorcycle not setting himself to be seen. There was one on South Bluff Street and the motorcycle was coming up slowly behind the back bumper of the pick-up truck. When you’re on a motorcycle, you have to get out of the blind spots, he should see you in a rear view mirror.”

If you can’t see him  – he can’t see you,” he said.

“Another thing I’m seeing is people are buying these little 49 cc scooters from China. (Under 50cc does not require a motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license.) “They haven’t taken the skills course, they haven’t been trained, they drive it like it’s a bicycle – if they would get the motorcycle license they’d be more knowledgeable,” he said. “People are calling those under 50 cc [mechanisms] mopeds – the definition of a moped is that it is human powered, it has pedals.  But we have very few mopeds in this city … everyone’s calling them mopeds and they believe they don’t need a motorcycle license.”

“These people are getting in crashes because they haven’t taken the classes, haven’t taken the tests and ‘these’ people are getting in crashes,” said Harding.

Harding said motorcycle drivers are failing to protect themselves, while vehicle drivers are failing to see them.

“Motorists are in too much a hurry and are failing to see the two and three wheel vehicles on the streets – meanwhile those [the various motorcycle type transports] are failing to take the precautions; as a group they’re failing to take precautions, [they need to] be defensive and drive better as a group.”

It used to be that when you go out to the drivers license division of the motor vehicle department you could take a small motorcycle and take the road course, he said. Now the division has a four-tiered drivers license system for motorcycles; these include licenses for “cycles” (1) Under 90 cc, (2) 249 and under, (3) 649 and under, and (4)  650 and above.

“So now you’re licensed and endorsed with a motorcycle endorsement for the type of cycle you’re going to be driving,” said Harding.

Harding said that licensing is required for all motorized cycles because of the benefit to the operator of learning skills and road protocols. Any motorized cycle that is not propelled by pedals is subject to licensing requirements for its user.

“You become more educated on the laws, how to ride it on the street, what lane to ride in, some safety tips, you show proficiency,” said Harding. “It’s minimal, but it’s a lot more than what people are getting now when they think they’re jumping on a scooter.”

“When you go out there [to the licensing division], [say] ‘I’m gonna get a motorcycle’ you get a handbook, you study, you pass a written test, you get a temporary permit, 90 days or six months, you get used to it, then you have to go out and pass the skills course, once you show you can pass you get a full fledged motorcycle endorsement.”

Perhaps the most chilling support for Harding’s propositions was his closing statement in the interview on his additional plea – that people wear helmets: “I can give you names of 16 people that would still be alive if they had had helmets on – 16 people dead – and their only injuries were head injuries.  They would have walked away if they had had a helmet on.”

jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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8 Comments

  • Shawn November 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Here is an idea Assult with a Deadly Weapon when a car hits someone on a Motorcycle. Do something to convence people they need to pay attention. To many people just don’t even look for other cars yet a little motorcycle.

  • LaMarcus November 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Officer Harding makes some good points, but I would place a large percentage of the blame on the drivers of the vehicles and not the motorcycles. Yes there is a bunch of inexperienced motorcyclists out there, but cars are running into each other all over the place and once in a while they take out a motorcycle while they are at it. Vehicle drivers either don’t see motorcycles or just don’t care.

  • Shinko Jinko November 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    How old is that picture? WTH?

  • Oldtimer November 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    On the left of the photo is the Yellow Front sign and the Exxon sign. This photo was from 1979 or the early 80’s. Yes, there were cars running into motorcycles way back then. Nothing’s changed.

  • -Mike- November 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    @Shinko Jinko – I noticed the same thing and was looking for a photo credit to get the date. Funny stuff. WTF is “Yellow Front”? I’ve lived here most of my life and don’t recognize that place. Maybe they chose this photo just to show that St George has had bad drivers since the 80s.

  • Shizzah November 3, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    The last thing we need is more government like this officer is advocating. This safety mantra has been used so many times. He says “safety, safety safety”, and all I hear is, “less freedom.” We are adults. Yes, it is tragic when someone loses their life. It is still should be their choice whether or not they wear a helmet, a seat belt, or obtain a motorcycle endorsement. Should rock climbing, hunting, diving, hiking, and racing be illegal? Of course not. But I can use the same logic the officer is using to ban each and every one of these activities.

  • Michael November 5, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Just when you thought it was safe to enter the water, a new old jeopardy raises its ugly head.
    Is there a solution? Probably not. I remember that the first year or so of a new rider was fraught with danger as an inexperience rider is both learning how to control his bike and look out for idiots in four wheel vehicles. It takes a while to realize that a two wheel vehicle is almost the same as a moving target. And at the other end of the scale you have the long time rider that gradually becomes complacent because nothing bad has ever happened to him. You also have the blind driving cars now as in the past.
    My brother John was riding on the freeway when a car rammed him from behind. You have cars that pull out in front of an oncoming bike and it is no contest. More times than not, the biker will lose.
    So I wonder who needs the extra training. The victim or the car driver?

  • Dawn November 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Both my husband and I ride motorcycles here in S.G. He is a long time rider ( 30+ years) and I’ve only
    been riding a couple years. My first point…take the MC safety course at Dixie College. The instructor is
    great, the course is inexpensive and it will SAVE YOUR LIFE! Emergency techniques, evasive maneuvers, panic stops and general ridership are stressed. The classroom portion shows how vulnerable riders are and gives great information on how to be seen by drivers when you are on the road.
    My second point…wear a helmet. You just never know when your time will come and a helmet can be the difference between life and death, or worse yet…being a vegetable for the rest of your life. If you choose not to wear a helmet, be sure you fill our your organ donor card.
    I am shocked by the sheer numbers of young kids riding scooters on the street – many times riding double with their friends. Besides not wearing helmets, they are riding in shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops. These young riders are also riding unsafely – sitting in driver’s blind spots, riding along the gutter, and even sometimes on their cell phones!
    Where are their parents? Do they know? Do they care?

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