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New rules for motorcyclists

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
A new law that went into effect Saturday requires anyone under 18 who applies for a motorcycle license in North Carolina to pass a safety class.
The course, which is also required for those seeking a learner’s permit or motorcycle endorsement, must be taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or the N.C. Motorcycle Safety Education Program.
Brendan Byrnes, spokesperson for AAA Carolinas, said the organization would be in favor of requiring such a class for all motorcyclists.
“Motorcycles are not something you get better at as you get older,” Byrnes said.
According to a press release from AAA Carolinas, motorcycle fatalities were 20 percent higher in the state in September 2010 than they were the year before.
Motorcycle deaths totaled 82 for all of 2009. There were 78 motorcycle fatalities as of Sept. 9, 2010, compared to 65 one year before. As of that date, traffic deaths in general were down 6.5 percent, from 704 to 658.
The new law also says that a person less than 18 years of age may not ride a motorcycle with a passenger.
In addition, the law closes a loophole that allowed motorcyclists to receive an 18-month permit and renew it indefinitely. This allowed them to hit the road after simply passing a vision test, a highway sign test and a written motorcycle knowledge test, Byrnes said.
“They have not learned the incredibly important safety functions on a motorcycle or the rules of the road unique to motorcycles,” he said.
Now, motorcycle learners’ permits will be limited to 12 months plus one renewal of six months. After that, riders must pass a written or oral test and a road test for a motorcycle license or endorsement.
Other new state laws that went into effect Saturday:
• Increase the age, from 54 to 66, that an adult’s driver’s license must be renewed every five years instead of eight.
• Prohibit foreclosure sale of property while the mortgagor, debtor or trustor is on active military duty.
• Require health benefit plans and the state health plan to cover hearing aids and replacement hearing aids.
State laws that went into effect Dec. 1:
• Prohibit license plate frames or covers that make a number or letter, the state name, or a number or month on the registration renewal sticker unreadable. Offenders can be fined $100.
• Increase the penalty for the malicious abuse, torture, or killing of an animal under “Suzie’s Law.” A judge can now sentence first offenders to up to eight months in jail.
• Make it a felony for a person named in a protective order to trespass at a domestic violence shelter or safe house where the protected person resides.
• End a $1 postage fee that vehicle owners pay to renew their annual registration by mail.
• Make it a felony to give $10,000 or more in illegal campaign contributions in a single election.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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