Motorcycle riders take course in safety - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Motorcycle riders take course in safety

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GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

Motorcyclists ride out of the Gastonia Police Department with a pair of trained eyes on their every move.

It's part of a relatively new safety program the department joined called BikeSafe North Carolina.

"Across the state there have been 783 motorcycle fatalities from 2007-2011, with 15 of those in Gaston County," said Sgt. Chad Hawkins, GPD's Traffic Enforcement supervisor and Gaston County's coordinator for the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program.

Trained police motorcyclists evaluate a rider, make them aware of bad habits and help them change their behavior.

"What we do is hone the skills they already have," Officer Keith Quinn said.

According to the BikeSafe-NC website in 2009 North Carolina saw its first decrease in motorcycle fatalities in 5 years.

They credit this program, other educational programs and a change in the helmet law.

The mandatory helmet law could be repealed though. A bill is making its way through the legislature. Rep. John Torbett, a motorcyclist himself, says wearing a helmet should be a choice.

House bill 109 would require only those younger than 18 to wear head gear.

Opponents say the change would only lead to more brain injuries and cost the state more in health care.

But that debate isn't slowing down law enforcement as they try to prevent deaths with classes like the one held Saturday. In fact, they say attendance is on the rise.

According to a release: "In joining BikeSafe NC, the GPD received a $71,800 non-matching BikeSafe NC grant, which pays for two fully equipped BMW police motorcycles, riding gear for two officers, a motorcycle trailer, and funding for training at the NC State Highway Patrol motor officer school as well as in-state travel. GPD has five certified BikeSafe assessors."

Anyone interested in taking the BikeSafe training can register online at bikesafe.com or call (704) 854-6665.

A class will be offered in Charlotte April 5.

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