The state of Florida is proposing a bill that mandates motorcyclists to take a driver safety course before they can lawfully ride. 47 states have this course but only six require that motorcyclists take it as a condition to get a license.
State officials are moving to pass these measures to increase safety on the motorways and limit the number of motorcycle related accidents.
This move follows a rise in motorcycle related deaths after the Florida legislature discontinued making helmets mandatory for all motorcycle drivers in 2000.
Florida exempted adult motorcyclists and moped riders from wearing helmets provided they have medical insurance of $10 000, according to the American Journal of Public Health. A 48.6 percent increase in motorcycle occupant deaths occurred the year after the law changed, said the American Journal of Public Health.
Jason Montgomery, 25, a self taught rider, believes the mandatory course is a positive move. “It’s not a bad thing because actually, you have the choice of taking the course or taking a driving test. You also get an insurance break from your policy provider by taking the course,” said the graduate software engineering student from Dallas. Joseph Jevanni, 23, disagrees.
“I don’t think it should be required,” said Jevanni, a business administration student from Birmingham, Ala. “People on four-wheels should take a driver safety course. You won’t learn to ride in the course and you won’t become a good motorcyclist because of the course.”
Over the past couple of years there has been a large increase in the number of motorcyclists on the road, and that number is growing rapidly due to the rising gas prices and the large congestion of state highways.
“I actually have an SUV, but using the bike is cheaper. It only costs like $10 a week for gas,” Montgomery said.
Another number that’s increasing is the number of people killed or injured on motorcycles in the state. 92 percent of these accidents involve motorcyclists who are self taught.
In response to the statistics, Jevanni said, “That might be true, but they might not be at fault in most cases and you also have to take into account the increasing number of riders. If 100 percent of motorcyclists took the course that still would not limit accidents.”
At this time there are no standardized fees and course content for the classes. The prices range from $190-$300 throughout the state and the course is only available in certain cities, and on particular days every month.
“It is expensive, but in comparison to your life, it is worth it,” Montgomery said.
“It’s not badly priced because they demonstrate on someone else’s bike. But if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. And people who want to ride and don’t have the money will continue to ride illegally,” Jevanni added.
On campus, motorcycles are treated the same way as cars. They are also issued decals from the parking service department.
The paperwork needed to register a motorcycle is proof of registration for both school and the motorcycle, and a license with the motorcycle endorsement. Motorcyclists can park anywhere students are authorized to park.
Motorcyclists have to make sure they park in a vehicle parking space because they can also be towed.
The FAMU Police Department does not have knowledge of any new bill, but they said that the state has made it mandatory for new motorcyclists to take the safety course for a while.
“This is not a new requirement. This has been in the books for a while,” said James Lockley, FAMU assistant police chief. For the time being FAMU PD will not change the way they treat motorcyclists.
Montgomery and Jevanni had some advice for beginning bikers: “Get with someone who is experienced, pay attention to the weather, don’t ‘stunt’ while there is traffic, maintain a safe distance between yourself and any car in front of you, don’t overreact on the bike, always maintain control and the cars dictate to you where they are going before you make your moves.”
Contact Damion Warren at Damion1.Warren@famu.edu