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10,000th enrollee in UI Motorcycle Rider program to be recognized

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor
(217) 333-2894;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois Motorcycle Rider Program, now in its 24th year, will recognize its 10,000th enrollee Saturday.

George Vermillion, 64, of Newman, will be recognized as the landmark student in a informal presentation at 1:30 p.m., at the start of the day's riding class, at a parking lot training site at the northeast corner of St. Mary's Road and Oak Street in Champaign.

The goal of the program has been to reduce motorcycle-related accidents and help save lives, says John Sudlow, the program's coordinator.

"The more people we can get into the training program, the statistics show, the less likely they are to be involved in serious accidents or have injuries."

The training covers riding skills, equipment, and a lot of defensive driving strategies, Sudlow said. "About two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, and typically the driver of the other vehicle says they didn't see the motorcyclist until it was too late."

Instructors also try to change riders' misconceptions about risk, Sudlow said.

"So many people say 'Well, I don't wear my helmet around town, but I always wear it on the highway.' But statistically highways aren't the places they're most likely to be involved in an accident; it's in town, at low speeds, close to home, where their perception of safety is the greatest, when it fact it's the lowest."

The UI program serves as a regional training center for the Cycle Rider Safety Training Program, administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation and one of the first such programs in the nation, Sudlow said.

The UI program is run by the department of community health in the College of Applied Life Studies, and conducts training at sites in Champaign, Cook, Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee, Vermilion and Will counties.

The rest of the state is covered by training centers at Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Southern Illinois universities.

The 20-hour training is free to participants, thanks to fees collected through the sale of motorcycle license plates. All training sites in the UI's region are full through this year, but additional funding will expand the program next year, Sudlow said.

As for Vermillion, the 10,000th student, he's taking the course because he's back on a motorcycle for the first time in years, said his sister-in-law Marie Vermillion, also of Newman.

"He just decided he wanted a motorcycle," she said. "I told him he just wanted to be a kid again."

For additional information about the program, contact Sudlow or Ken Taylor at (217) 333-7856.