New emphasis on motorcycle safety after a record number of fatalities

Shannon Rovelstad
Shannon Rovelstad
Bill Labby
Bill Labby

By Leland Kim - bio | email

PEARL CITY (KHNL) - It's been a deadly year so far for motorcycle riders. A third of the 31 fatal accidents on Oahu involved bikers. The 11 deaths so far, quadruple the number of motorcycle riders killed at this time last year.

On a warm sunny weekend day like today, people are out, out in their cars, on their bikes. That's why a state-sponsored motorcycle safety course makes sure new riders know exactly what to expect when they're out on a busy road like Nimitz Highway.

Shannon Rovelstad loves the feeling of getting on a motorcycle.

"First of all, it's a thrill. I'm in the military, so that in itself is a thrill," said the 22-year-old U.S. Army specialist stationed at Schofield Barracks. "So riding a motorcycle is just one added thing, done safely which is a lot of fun."

She is one of a dozen students taking a motorcycle safety course at Leeward Community College Sunday morning.

There's been a increased focus on safety since 21 riders statewide have died in motorcycle accidents so far this year, a jump of several hundred percent.

"And you have to wonder as a rider yourself," said Rovelstad. "Are you going to be that fatality?"

Motorcycle safety coach Bill Labby says Hawaii presents some unique geographic challenges for riders.

"On the mainland, they tend to have a little bit more of an ability to look a bit further ahead," he said. "We're an island. We don't have a lot of straight-aways."

Wearing a helmet is optional for licensed adult riders in Hawaii, but this course makes it mandatory. The logic is it could help save your life if you get into an accident.

More than half of the riders killed this year were not wearing helmets.

"For me, the helmet is just a part of the gear," said Labby. "I think if and when someone falls, if they hit their head, that's the end."

"I definitely think you should wear a helmet at all times whether you're going five minutes to the grocery store or if you're going around the island," added Rovelstad.

Rovelstad and her classmates will soon be able to ride on their own. They recommend new riders give this course a try.

"When you get into the seat, you think you know everything," she said. "But taking these course, they point out safety mechanisms that you just don't notice when you teach yourself."

An education that could potentially be life saving.

The take away message is to remind drivers that they share the road with motorcycle riders and bicyclists and for two-wheeled folks to not assume drivers can see you.

For more information on the motorcycle safety course, go here or click the link on this page.