Motorcycle fatalities rising in Mississippi

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The motorcycle facility rate in Mississippi is rising at an alarming rate and safety instructors are looking at ways to lure motorists to certified motorcyle safety classes as a way to help reduce the number of deaths each year.

With 55 motorcycle fatalities in 2006, Mississippi led the nation in motorcycle-related deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles. The state had just 39 deaths in 2005.

Mississippi is one of two states without safety training requirements, merely requiring riders to pass a 25-question written exam and 15-20 minute driving exam administered by the Department of Public Safety in order to get a license.

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For people who equate the revving of a motorcycle with the sound of blissful, uninhibited freedom, safety instructor Floyd Netterville of Smithdale presents a sobering visual.

“There are two things right off the bat when you look at a motorcycle,” he said. “You have an issue with stability, because you have two wheels, and you also have the issue of vulnerability because you have no air bag, no seat belt and no cage around you.”

Netterville teaches at the Mississippi Motorcycle Academy.

“It’s a high risk activity that rates right up there with skydiving, bungee jumping and deep sea diving,” Netterville said. “And, you see, people don’t realize that. Whether you are trained or untrained, you are going to be responsible for your safety out there.”

Sgt. Steve Sledge of Flora recently completed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation certified course in Jackson. Sledge, who trains at Camp Shelby, said he took the course not only out of personal interest, but because active duty members are required to complete a motorcycle training course. He signed up with MoToSteps in Jackson, which he said offered comprehensive training over a weekend.

“The first thing they did with the motorcycle was show you ’this is the clutch,’ ’this is the brake,’ first gear and so on,” he said.

The course also employed a search, evaluate, execute strategy called “SEE” that helped riders evaluate risk factors in traffic and make sound decisions.

“I think everyone should have this type of training,” he said.

Vice president of MoToSteps Kim Catchings says MSF-certified courses like hers gives beginning and even experienced riders a chance to get professional instruction.

Without mandated certified training in place, motorcycle riders run the risk of the blind leading the blind when it comes to learning how to operate their vehicles, she said.

“Don’t learn from just anybody, because they learn bad habits and they pass those bad habits on to you,” she said.