Motorcycle-involved crashes resulted in more than 4,000 injuries across the state of Georgia last year. This is why the requirements to drive one are tougher than you think. In fact, to be a part of the motorcycle unit at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office it takes more than 140 hours of training.
Riding a motorcycle for entertainment and riding for work are different things. Deputy Keith Warner, who has been riding a motorcycle for years, says he was surprised by the difficulty of the department's training session.
Warner explains, “Columbia County Deputies go to a two week school, it's in cooperation with North Western University and Harley Davidson. After that, they have an assigned shift and they have an FTO that they ride along with for a while. That way we can watch their skills on the motorcycle, make sure they can handle it.”
Seven deputies qualify for the motorcycle division in Columbia County. They operate on a 12 hour shift. Officer Warner says it takes a unique mentality to operate a motorcycle. The engine, handling, and preparation are opposite of an enclosed vehicle. For them, the training launches on back roads before they can zoom on the highways.
“On a motorcycle there really is no protection for the rider, other than your helmet, and just being aware of your situation. Where you're at, the road way you're on, and the time of day,” says Warner.
Officers say patrolling the streets on a motorcycle has its advantages. Deputies are used for their ability to maneuver through tight spots and crowds, especially during Masters Week or other large events. Before patrolling, deputies have prove they're ready.
Warner says, “It is a skill thing, it's not something where anybody can just jump on and go down the road. You have know what you're doing. You have to know which equipment is approved. A Department of Transportation helmet. Flip flops on a motorcycle going down the road doesn't offer any protection.”
Before the hitting the streets each shift, deputies must do a multi-point inspection each morning. Starting with the tire pressure, to the oil gage, nothing can be abnormal. Columbia County Deputies also add extra auxiliary lighting to make sure they're seen. They do this to keep you and the community safe.