Motorcycle skills program aimed at making Missouri highways safer

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Loretta Dodson of Cape Girardeau gets instruction from Buddy Davis during a motorcycle rider class June 2 on the parking lot at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. (Fred Lynch)

They may be a little shaky at first, but the students who attend the three-day motorcycle safety course at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center are building confidence on motorcycles that could save their lives.

The Missouri Motorcycle Safety Program provides basic riding skills to people who have either never ridden before or people who need a refresher on how to interact with drivers on the road, said Kathleen Clayton, the supervisor of business and industry training at the center.

The goal of the program is to make Missouri's highways safer for motorcyclists and motorists by reducing motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities through rider education and public information.

A preliminary report released in late May by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows Missouri was one of 16 states in which the number of fatalities from motorcycle crashes declined last year. In 23 states, the number increased.

The not-for-profit association, representing the highway safety offices of states, territories and the District of Columbia, compared data from the first nine months of 2010 and 2011. Over that period, there were 3,641 fatal motorcycle crashes in 2010 and 3,580 in 2011. In Missouri, there were 76 in 2010 and 68 in 2011.

Johnny Hill of Fredericktown, Mo., takes a lap during a motorcycle rider class June 2. (Fred Lynch)

"States with fewer motorcyclist fatalities attributed the decrease to poor cycling weather, reduced motorcycle registrations and motorcycle travel and increased law enforcement, rider training and motorcycle-safety education," the report said.

A recent class at the Career and Technology Center included young, first-time riders, a U.S. Army veteran who wants to take motorcycle road trips across the country in his retirement and people who wanted to save money on fuel.

"We get a lot of inexperienced or first-time riders -- the gamut in terms of experience," Clayton said.

The six-student class costs $200 and is conducted over three days. On Friday evenings, students are taught in the classroom. Saturdays begin by letting the students familiarize themselves with the motorcycles used in the class, then they hop on the vehicles and begin maneuvering them through a course set up on a parking lot. Students ride again on Sunday.

Students are required to wear long-sleeve shirts, jeans, boots and gloves.

"We encourage people to wear extra protective clothing. We can provide helmets," Clayton said.

A scholarship is offered through the Missouri Department of Transportation for some who might not be able to afford the tuition, she said.

All the bikes used in the course are 500-cc or less, Clayton said. The program in Cape Girardeau instructs about 100 students each year. Students who complete the course can waive the riding portion of the motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license, Clayton said. She said some insurance providers give students who have completed the class a discount on their premiums.

Cape Girardeau police Lt. John "Buddy" Davis, a former motorcycle officer, said he took the class before he started teaching it.

"I've been riding motorcycles for the major part of my life. I still learned things in that class," Davis said. "The class teaches you the basics. You don't come out of it being an expert rider. You take the lessons with you the rest of your life. I give people lifetime homework assignments."

Bryan Schott, 24, of Cape Girardeau said he always wanted a motorcycle.

"I figured this was the safest way to go about doing it," he said. "I'm taking the course so I don't kill myself. I'm getting familiar with the controls."

Johnny Hill, 69, of Fredericktown, Mo., said he last rode when he "was a pup back in the Army."

"But that was 40 years ago. If I make it through this, I'll get a motorcycle," Hill said. "My wife's for it ... and she's against it. She ain't sure about it. She's wanting to take some trips. I think it will be fun."

Classes were filled up in St. Charles County, so Amanda Nuyt, 28, came to Cape Girardeau and stayed with family while she took the course.

"I'm trying to get a fuel-efficient vehicle," she said. "I've never ridden, but want to learn."

Nuyt and Loretta Dodson, 51, of Cape Girardeau said they had already bought motorcycles and wanted to be comfortable when they begin to ride them.

"Whether it's a novice or a 30-year veteran," Davis said, "they will always learn something out of this class."

Classes are held every weekend until October. Information on the classes is available by calling the Career and Technology Center at 334-0826.

jgamm@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

1080 Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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