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Human Factors: Rider Education & Training Table of ContentsHomenhtsa

Motorcyclist Attitudes

Rider Education & Training


Crash Avoidance Skills

Motorcyclist Alcohol & Other Impairment

Personal Protective Equipment


Motorcycle rider education and training comprise the centerpiece of a comprehensive motorcycle safety program. The challenges are to get motorcyclists to take training and to keep quality rider training affordable and accessible to all interested parties.

Rider training is an effective crash countermeasure for riders for the first six months following training (Billheimer, 1996).

Currently, there are 47 state-legislated rider training programs in the United States. The remaining three states (Alaska, Arkansas, and Mississippi) have privately operated rider training sites. Financing comes from different funding sources and appropriations at the state level. An outline of a typical legislation scheme is in Appendix D. The total appropriation for 1998 for these programs nationwide was approximately $16 million (SMSA, 1998). To assess rider training and education programming, NHTSA promotes and facilitates Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments, which evaluate a state’s motorcycle safety efforts using a peer-review program assessment team concept. The areas of assessment are detailed in Appendix E.

Since 1973, more than 2 million riders have been trained. In 1999, a total of 192,529 riders were trained. Estimates are that this represents just 20 to 50 percent of total annual demand. The curriculum most commonly used in all 50 states is MSF’s Motorcycle RiderCourse:Riding and Street Skills® (MRC:RSS) for beginners and the Experienced RiderCourse® (ERC) for advanced skills training. Instructors and RiderCoachesSM are trained and employed by individual state programs and certified through the MSF. These courses are conducted exclusively off-street. Most rider training programs in the United States do not utilize on-street training, which is widely accepted in other parts of the world. Private specialty training programs exist in some areas, including sidecar, trike, trailer, off-highway, on-highway, and track experience. Motorcycle simulator technology is generally not employed but is being studied.

Many motorcycle manufacturers and distributors based in the United States support rider education and training through their membership in the MSF and their participation in the MSF Motorcycle Loan Program. MSF is currently sponsored by the United States manufacturers and distributors of BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha motorcycles. These companies also offer training incentives to new motorcycle purchasers either directly or through their affiliated owners’ clubs. In addition, Honda extends use of its training centers in California, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas to the respective state programs for use as training sites. In 2000, Harley-Davidson began offering rider training directly through some of its dealers.

The state level rider training programs are part of an overall effort to encourage motorcyclists to get properly trained and obtain their motorcycle endorsement on their license. Most states provide allowances for the waiver of some portion of state licensing test for graduates of a state recognized rider training program. Some states require training for riders less than the ages of 16, 18 or 21 (see Appendix G for a list of each state’s licensing and training requirements). These courses are generally affordable. The average tuition is $66.06 for the MRC:RSS and $40.75 for the ERC (SMSA 1998). In some states, training courses are free.

Some state programs lack components for program evaluation. Among those programs that do have evaluation components, methods of data collection are not standardized with other programs for adequate comparison. There is also no centralized repository that permits the exchange of such information for programs to benefit from one another’s operation or training experiences. The National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA), an organization of state program administrators, surveys state programs annually for general training results and other statistical information.

There is no evaluation of rider education and training effectiveness or measures to determine if program effectiveness has been compromised due to the lack of resources. It is assumed, yet unknown, that the current programs are teaching necessary skills to survive in traffic.


We want all states to offer useful, available, and affordable motorcycle safety programs capable of providing quality rider education and training for all interested riders, new riders, and potential riders. Creating a program with sufficient resources will require the following:

• A government agency to provide program administration and oversight

• A funding source and ongoing appropriation to support training, marketing, and evaluation (see Appendix D)

• A uniform, educationally sound curricula (see Appendix F) that reflects current crash and training research as well as the differing demands of various riders and environments

• An effective delivery system to provide education and training where and when demand exists

Uniform data collection, data sharing methods, and training effectiveness measures should be instituted nationwide for evaluation of state rider training and other education programs. The possible advantages of on-street training should be explored.

There should be increased use of Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments, facilitated by NHTSA, to ensure that a team of peers periodically assesses all states.

Motorcycle awareness programs and materials should be components of other transportation programs (see Motorist Awareness, page 31).

Rider education and training and licensing functions should be merged to form one-stop operations (see Licensing, page 21).


All states should provide and promote rider education and training programs capable of accommodating all riders who need or seek training. States currently without state authorized programs should create them.

All state programs need assistance in their funding request approaches to legislatures; in determining more viable ways to achieve necessary funding outside of fees levied on motorcyclists; and in how to allocate resources to increase program efficiencies and expand training capacity.

Other areas of concern include maintaining sufficient resources for operation and administration of the program and continued and recurrent program assessments to maintain program quality.

State motor vehicle departments and the motorcycle and insurance industries should continue to provide incentives for riders to obtain initial and recurrent training and proper licensure.


• Expand motorcycle safety programs to accommodate all who need or seek training.

• Conduct uniform follow-up research into the effectiveness and impact of rider education and training.

• Merge rider education and training and licensing functions to form one-stop operations.

• Increase the number of states conducting Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments.

• Establish benchmarks for rider education and training effectiveness and program operation excellence.

• Explore the effectiveness of on-street training.

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