By: Jarid Munsch
Frank Glunz has been riding motorcycles for 50 years. He also works on bikes at a motorcycle repair shop in Lexington and teaches a motorcycle safety course at Midlands Technical College. Glunz says it's a labor of love.
"The trials of the day just melt away when I'm out there riding," says Glunz.
But tragedy struck when a friend died in a motorcycle accident last year.
"When I heard about it, I was just flabbergasted," said Glunz. "Toby was a good rider and he had all his equipment on."
Protective equipment has been a big topic of debate for years. South Carolina requires a helmet only for bikers under 21. But should it be mandatory for all riders?
"At some point in time, somebody has to take responsibility, and I see the motorcyclist has to do that," says Glunz.
ABATE of South Carolina is a motorcycle rights organization. Midlands Area Assistant Coordinator Austin Coates says it should be up to the biker to decide what to wear.
"We're not anti-helmet. We're more for freedom of choice," says Coates.
He says helmets limit a motorcyclist's vision and hearing.
"As a motorcyclist, we need to have all our senses out there on the highway," says Coates. "In my opinion, helmets impede those additional senses."
Glunz disagrees. He believes helmets can save lives.
"It's ‘Well, I can't see. Well, I can't hear.' But the modern helmet is so well designed you have as much peripheral vision as you do without a helmet," he says.
There's more to motorcycle safety than whether to wear a helmet. In 2009, South Carolina was granted $100,000 to be used specifically for motorcycle safety and awareness. So, how is that money being used?
"We received a grant application from the South Carolina technical college system to increase their training opportunities for motorcycle safety," explains Ed Harmon of the SC Department of Public Safety. "That's how a portion of the money is being used."
The SC Department of Public Safety says initial data from 2010 shows motorcycle deaths have dropped by roughly 30 percent since 2007. They credit the drop in deaths to the safety campaign.
Harmon says the goal is to establish motorcycle training courses at all 16 technical colleges in South Carolina. So far, 11 of the 16 have motorcycle training programs in place.
So what do motorcyclists do until all people on the road are more aware of them?
"I guess you hope and pray the good Lord will take care of you," says Glunz.
Frank knows all too well the dangers of riding motorcycles after losing his good friend last year.
So, the debate on biker safety rides on. Frank Glunz and other bikers can only hope South Carolina does everything it can to keep engines revved and motorcycle enthusiasts rolling.