Lax young-biker law is slammed in wake of teen's death

Maria Papadopoulos

In Massachusetts, teens who turn 16 can take a written test, pass it and jump on a motorcycle to ride during daylight hours, with a permit and no supervision.

That’s not true for a car driver’s permit, which requires 16-year-olds to always be accompanied by an experienced, licensed operator over age 21 sitting next to them in the passenger seat.

The recent death of a 16-year-old Brockton motorcyclist has area legislators calling for mandatory training for junior motorcycle operators.

“You can get a permit to ride a motorcycle, regardless of whether you’ve been on one or not. We’re trying to change this,” said Rick Gleason, district manager of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association for southeastern Massachusetts.

Ryan Orcutt, 16, of Brockton, died on Friday after he lost control of a 1993 Honda motorcycle while traveling south on East Street in Brockton. The Honda is owned by his brother, Roger Kenneth Orcutt.

Ryan, a popular athlete and sophomore at Southeastern Regional Technical Vocational High School in Easton, had obtained a motorcycle permit in December, according to the state Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Witnesses told police Ryan had been traveling at a high rate of speed, and may have hit his brakes to avoid colliding with a car that had approached the intersection from Edson Street.

The Massachusetts Motorcycle Association has proposed legislation that would require junior motorcycle operators to have successfully passed a motorcycle safety course before riding one.

So far, the bill has the support of 25 legislators, including local sponsors Rep. Christine Canavan, D-Brockton; Rep. Geraldine Creedon, D-Brockton; and Rep. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth.

Canavan is a member of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association and often rides as a motorcycle passenger with her husband, she said.

“It’s a great thing, riding a motorcycle. They are fabulous, they are relaxing and it’s a wonderful hobby. But it’s dangerous,” Canavan said. “You don’t have the cocoon of a car around you.”

She said it’s too early to tell if the bill — now before the Joint Committee on Transportation, awaiting a hearing date — will pass.

Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said the agency would support the new requirements for junior motorcycle operators if they are put forth by lawmakers.

“If this is the next step, then the RMV stands ready and able to impose whatever new requirements that the Legislature considers to be effective,” she said.

Meanwhile, the bill is garnering support from Ryan’s family. His father, Brockton Fire Lt. Roger Orcutt, said Ryan “just went down, signed up for his permit and he got it.”

“They have nothing for kids on motorcycles. They just go in, they sign the paper, and boom, they go,” he said.

His other son, Roger Kenneth Orcutt, 21, said he obtained his motorcycle permit last July and his motorcycle license just one month later, in August.

To get his motorcycle license, he said he had to pass a road test that included riding figure eights with his motorcycle and shifting.

“I just kind of picked it up on the fly,” said Roger Kenneth Orcutt, who was 20 when he got his motorcycle license.

Maria Papadopoulos can be reached