Tennessee motorcycle dealership urges lawmakers to consider graduated licensing

Publish Date: 
Apr 30, 2012

A Tennessee dealer is working with state legislators on the possibility of creating graduated motorcycle licenses.

State Rep. Joe Pitts and state Sen. Tim Barnes have teamed up with Appleton Harley-Davidson of Clarksville to look into the possibility of additional requirements for motorcycle riders under the age of 18, particularly some kind of mandatory training for beginners. Toward that end, the lawmakers are sponsoring House Bill 2729 and Senate Bill 2529.

“We initially sought to require those under the age of 18 to take a mandatory safety course prior to being licensed, but wanted to gather data on accident and fatality rates among that age group first. Sen. Barnes and I sponsored legislation, and it passed early in this session, to ask the Department of Safety to study accident and fatality rates for operators 18 and under,” Pitts told the Leaf Chronicle.

The ladies at Appleton H-D brought the matter to the legislators’ attention. When the state granted the dealership licensing power in 2007, Mary Rose, Deb Saunders and Tia Suiter found out that riders as young as 14 could be licensed on a motorcycle without formal training. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Rose. “I thought, ‘Mother of God.’ I read it two or three times. Up until 2008, you could have been 14 and been on the road.” Partly because of their efforts, the law was changed ito increase the age for motorcycle riders to 15. Appleton started offering free safety courses to riders under 18, but they were not legally required to take them.

“Not everybody knows that we’re putting these kids on the road with no training, no fundamental skills, no reaction skills, not having had any training scenarios put in front of them,” Suiter says. Whenever possible, they urge young riders to take a course from MSF-trained volunteers at the dealership.

“All we’re asking in return is that the teens sign a letter saying they’ll pay it forward and help someone else someday,” says Saunders. “We’re good with that.”

Posted by Holly Wagner

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