OKLAHOMA CITY -- Motorcyclists from across the state converged on the Capitol Tuesday (February 24), to meet with legislators and discuss various public issues.
In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, John Pierce, government liaison for ABATE (A Brotherhood Aiming Toward Education) Oklahoma, said the organization supports two pieces of legislation in particular this year:
• House Bill 1965, which would make it illegal to send or receive data on an electronic communication device – i.e., texting, emailing or instant messaging – while operating a motor vehicle. The measure cleared the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee and is on the House calendar, awaiting a vote by the full House.
“The significance is that it’s the first anti-texting bill to be heard and passed by a legislative committee that has a real chance of becoming law,” Pierce contended in ABATE OK’s latest newsletter.
• Senate Bill 372, which pertains to motorcycle operator licenses. Existing state law requires anyone driving a cycle to have a valid A, B, C (commercial) or D (operator’s) license with a cycle endorsement.
Approximately 25 percent of Oklahoma’s motorcycle riders operate their bikes without an “M” endorsement, ABATE OK claims.
Under S.B. 372, anyone operating a motorcycle on any public roadway in Oklahoma without first obtaining “the proper endorsement on a current state-issued” driver’s license would be guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
S.B. 372 would also require any motorcycle operator under the age of 18 to complete a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation course to receive an “M” endorsement.
“Oklahoma statistics show that non-endorsed riders are more likely to have injury and fatality accidents than endorsed riders,” Pierce said. “With this bill, we are trying to increase the percentage of endorsed riders in order to lower the overall injury and fatality rates.”
ABATE OK supports S.B. 372 but objects to requiring minors to complete an MSF course in order to receive an “M” endorsement.
“The locations where those courses are offered are not convenient for many Oklahomans,” Pierce said. “For example, if you live in Woodward you typically have to drive to Oklahoma City to take an MSF course – which is a two-day class that can cost $200 to $300. Not everybody can afford the cost of a motel room plus the registration fee for that course.”
S.B. 372 passed the Public Safety Committee and is on general order, awaiting a vote by the entire Senate.
Data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System showed that motorcycle fatalities nationwide fell from 4,986 in 2012 to 4,668 in 2013, and the number of injured cyclists declined by 5.4 percent during that same period, from 93,000 to 88,000, the release anticipating the Capitol Day said.
In Oklahoma, the number of motorcycle fatalities plunged by 41.66 percent in one year, from 96 in 2013 to 56 in 2014, according to Justin HySmith of the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.
“We’d like to think our awareness and safety programs had something to do with that,” Pierce said.
A little over 224,850 active driver’s licenses with the “M” endorsement were on file with the state Department of Public Safety at the end of November. Paula Ross, communications director for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said 129,404 motorcycles were registered in this state last year.
Motorcyclists “suffer disproportionately at the hands of distracted drivers,” Pierce said. “What is a minor fender-bender for a couple of SUVs could, and often does, have fatal consequences for motorcyclists. Additionally, in traffic we get a bird’s-eye view of just how many drivers are distracted by things such as texting or gabbing on a cell ’phone.”
Oklahoma says its mission is “to promote and defend motorcyclists' freedom, safety, and awareness through education and legislation to make Oklahoma the best place to ride.”
ABATE OK assembles at the Capitol each year for a ‘legislative day’. “As citizens, it is our responsibility, right and privilege to express our concerns and make ourselves heard by those whom we elect to this important office,” Pierce wrote in the group’s latest newsletter.
The group has approximately 890 members who reside in the legislative districts of all 149 state lawmakers, Pierce said.