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Jarrad Cole | Jarrad's Law

One of the last bills signed by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was Jarrad's Law in memory of Sacramento-area teen Jarrad Cole, who died tragically the summer of 2007 in a motorcycle accident.

On the day that 18-year-old Jarrad got his new Suzuki motorcycle, his father wanted to create a learning course on their quiet suburban cul-de-sac, so he entered the garage to fetch orange cones. Meanwhile, Jarrad, who was driving with only a motorcycle learner's permit that he received after passing a written examination, somehow lost control of the bike, flew off and landed in a neighbor's yard with fatal injuries.

Trying to make sense of and bring purpose to the loss of his brother - who had been poised to study international business as a new college student at California Maritime Academy - younger brother Sawyer Cole and his best friend Michael Kelleher created an ambitious high-school senior project to improve California motorcycle safety laws for young, new riders like Jarrad.

Because they thought it was too easy for novice riders to get a motorcycle learner's permit without sufficient safety instruction, Sawyer Cole and Michael Kelleher sought to increase the training requirements for young motorcyclists. With the help of lobbyist Michael Hawkins, and lots of time at the state capital promoting their cause, the two students were successful.

Prior Law Applicable to Jarrad

According to the California Legislative Counsel's Digest of Jarrad's Law, under the previous law, anyone over 17 and one-half years old could drive a motorcycle with only an instruction permit, except under any of these conditions:

  • At night
  • With a passenger
  • On freeways

Disturbingly, this meant that Jarred and other motorcyclists under age 21 could get instructional permits to operate motorcycles without successfully completing the substantial state motorcycle safety course that was otherwise required to receive actual motorcycle licenses.

Fixing the Loophole

In response, Jarrad's Law was passed in the summer of 2010 and took effect statewide in California on January 1, 2011. Now anyone from age 15 and one-half to age 21 who wants to obtain a motorcycle license must first complete a 15-hour safety course given by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for $150. (From 15 and one-half to under 18, they must also either have class C licenses or complete regular drivers education and training classes.)

After the motorcycle safety course, they must pass a written test to receive a permit. The learner's permit must be held at least six months to become eligible for an actual motorcycle license.

Some have apparently opposed the new legislation as allowing too much governmental intrusion, like similar arguments people commonly make against helmets and seat belts. However, bill sponsor former Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, disagrees and feels there should be "a standard of competency on the public roads."

Indeed, taking chances on motorcycle safety with young, inexperienced riders is especially unwise considering the vulnerability of unprotected human bodies on two-wheeled, fast, small, light vehicles in traffic with cars, trucks and buses. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, motorcycle accidents cause 11 percent of traffic deaths annually, but motorcycles are only three percent of registered vehicles nationally.

Jarrad and Sawyer's parents, Lauren Forcella and Evan Cole, are publicly proud and impressed by the work of the two teens in Jarrad's memory and to protect future young riders. Forcella hopes the idea spreads to other states.

If you are in the unfortunate position of being involved in a motorcycle accident, be sure to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your rights and obligations.
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