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 This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.