Labor Day, you’re more than likely to see your fair share of motorcycles.
“Next month we’re gonna take a trip up to the Smokey Mountains. You see things from a different level,” says David Hodges, who has been riding for years.
More people are turning to motorcycles nowadays, given the fuel efficiency and the fact you can put thousands more miles on a bike than you can a car.
But some are taking issue with the fact that you’re not required to take a skills test before jumping on a motorcycle. All you have to do is take a written test, pass it, and you’re good to go.
Riders agree, it’s more complicated driving a motorbike.
“Because you’re using both feet. You have to develop those skills over time that they can be able to use them in the correct way,” says Fred Wheeler, instructor with the Alabama Motorcycle Safety Program.
Riding is in Fred Wheeler’s bones. He’s been riding since he was 15. He’s now a rider coach with the Alabama Motorcycle Safety Program. Motorcycle riders account for a higher percentage of fatalities and injuries per 100,000 miles than do car drivers. Many chalk this up to the fact some riders simply don’t understand the logistics.
“The fact that it doesn’t require a skills test makes it easier for me to get my license, but safety-wise, it’s probably better for all riders to have proven that they can handle the bike,” says Michael Zambrano, a first time rider.
But experts say first time riders aren’t the only ones you should look out for. Motorcycles have gone through many changes since the 60’s and 70’s. Veteran riders who are picking back up the hobby have a lot to re-learn these days.
“Well, it’s been about 30-35 years since I rode one and I bought one in June, rode it around the neighborhood, and I noticed it’s kind of dangerous out there!”says Bill Vines.
“The horsepower to weight ratio has risen tremendously so the bikes are a lot more powerful and can do a lot more things and people can actually out-ride their abilities before they out-ride the abilities of the motorcycle,” adds Wheeler.
From January to September 2011, Alabama saw 76 motorcycle fatalities. That’s an increase of three from the same time frame the year before. A study conducted in 2006 determined that 8% of all motorcycle accidents were fatal.
Classes that Fred Wheeler teaches run from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. Motorcycles and helmets are provided. Classes cost $200 per person. For more, call the Alabama Traffic Safety Center at 205-665-6740.