Teaching Motorcycle Safety to Riders and Drivers

By Erin Delmore

“We always try to tell people, it’s not if you’re going to have an accident, it’s when you’re going to have an accident,” said Motorcycle Mall General Manager Richard Gonnello.

Gonnello is the general manager of the largest motorcycle dealership on the East Coast. Around 100 people visit Motorcycle Mall every day. He encourages new riders — and experienced riders buying bigger bikes — to take training courses.

“They teach you in the class to always scan. So you’re always scanning through your two mirrors, you’re always looking to make sure that you know kind of five steps ahead of what that next person in front of you or the people in terms of on the right and left of you are going to do. So you’re always anticipating,” Gonnello said.

Classes offer the basics: swerve, quick stop. But only about 20 percent of riders take them.

“When something happens on the road, you’re going to react with what you’ve practiced. And what we try to do is build muscle memory so that what when that ‘uh-oh’ moment happens, they’re going to do what they’ve practiced,” said Central Jersey Rider Training President Tom Wright.

The number of registered motorcycles in the state has held steady for the last six years at around 150,000. Fatalities are down. There were 50 in 2015.

“That is a significant decrease, 18 percent decrease from last year, the previous year. However one fatality is one too many,” said New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez.

In honor of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the Motor Vehicle Commission is making a donation to state-approved training course providers: 300 new helmets. New Jersey is one of only 19 states that requires riders to wear them. Mike Granda’s helmet saved his life.

“A car was zigzagging through traffic doing about 120 and I always look in my mirrors, that’s one of the things you do when you ride a motorcycle, and he wasn’t there. Then the next second, he was there, and I gunned it. I got up to about 94 miles per hour before he hit me.” Granda said. “He was going so fast that he bent my bike into a V, it was sticking out of his Volvo like a hood ornament. He was going so fast that I actually launched off the back of the bike, went over his car, landed on the highway, rag dolled across both lanes and then slid into a ditch.”

Granda actually walked away from that collision with only minor injuries thanks to his safety gear. The MVC is launching a public awareness campaign called “Share the Road” — showing residents that drivers on four wheels are responsible for motorcycle safety, too.

“It’s important to do that to make sure if this person to the right of you is on a cell phone, you can kind of understand and be aware that he might be drifting over to the left of you and be ready for it,” Gonnello said.

Now that the weather’s getting warmer, we’ll be seeing more motorcyclists on the street, so it’s a good time to remember no matter what you’re driving, safety is a two-way street.