Cycle course focuses on basics

MARIETTA – The total of motorcycle accidents dropped in 2012 compare to 2008, according to the state of Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety logged 162 fatalities in 2012 and 200 in 2008, according to the latest figures from the department.

That decrease is likely due in part to stepped-up efforts to educate motorcyclists about safe operation of their two-wheeled vehicles through the state’s Motorcycle Ohio Program.

“People have a misunderstanding that all we talk about is wearing helmets and don’t drink and ride. But this is a full three-day how to ride a motorcycle class that provides all the basic skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle,” said Gil Moore, certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor for the program.

Moore was wrapping up a three-day Basic Rider Course with six students in the Marietta High School parking lot Sunday. The courses are provided through a partnership with Washington State Community College.

Moore was putting the class through a curvy course laid out on the MHS parking lot designed to teach some turning skills.

“An estimated 37 percent of motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle accidents that occur because the driver lost control in a curve,” he said. “So we try to hammer in the proper turning techniques as part of this course.”

Moore said anyone who can ride a bicycle can learn to ride a motorcycle.

“Motorcycle Ohio provides the motorcycles and helmets for the course,” he said. “Students must be able to ride a bicycle and have a Temporary Instruction Permit Identification Card.”

The temporary card, good for one year, is obtained by taking a knowledge exam through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, then paying a $22 fee for the permit. The Basic Rider Course costs $50, but it’s well worth it, according to the students with whom Moore was working this weekend.

“I wanted to buy a motorcycle, but needed to learn the right way to ride first-in addition your insurance cost goes down by taking this course,” said Larry Proctor, 67, of Marietta.

Fellow student Pam Sciance, 30, of Marietta brought her Honda scooter to the weekend class.

“I’ve been riding for 11 months now, but have always been interested in riding motorcycles,” she said. “I wanted to take this class to maintain my license and to learn new skills. And I was kind of nervous about taking the state skills test.”

As an incentive to new riders, the state will waive a mandatory skills exam for those who pass the Basic Rider Course before applying for a motorcycle endorsement on their vehicle operators licenses.

The course is not only for new riders, though. Jeremy Howell, 39, of Marietta said he’s ridden motorcycles in the past.

“I’ve had bikes before, but haven’t ridden for about 10 years or more now, so I wanted to brush up on my skills, too,” he said. “And this course makes me feel more comfortable getting back on a motorcycle.”

Shane Crum, 20, of Caldwell was the youngest of the group who took the basic course over the weekend.

“I’ve been riding my dad’s bike some around home, but he wanted me to learn the basics before allowing me to take it out on the highways,” he said.

Moore, who’s been riding motorcycles for 30 years and teaching the courses for the last nine years, has seen all age groups taking the riding classes.

“I’ve taught an 87-year-old man and a 78-year-old woman to ride, and both passed the final exam,” he said.

Although the Basic Rider Course is available most weekends through the warmer months, other advanced motorcycle riding courses will also be taught after July 1, according to John Burdette, director of public safety training at Washington State and an instructor for the Basic Rider Course.

A Basic Riding Course 2 and an Advanced Rider Course will be added. Burdette said those classes for will start July 20 for the basic course and Aug. 9 for the advanced course.

Moore said most classes have two instructors and about 12 students. But he noted instructors are needed by Motorcycle Ohio, especially in the southeast area of the state.

Instructors should have at least three years riding experience and are required to take classes for four weekends in Columbus to become certified. He said anyone interested can find more information on the website.

The Motorcycle Ohio Program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013.