Rider education and motorcycle operator licensing have been acknowledged as two effective means to address the problem of highway crashes involving motorcycles.1 Rider education involves a formal, structured course that increases familiarity with the motorcycle as well as its on-road operation. Motorcycle operator licensing requires the operator to demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road, riding skills, and the ability to safely operate a motorcycle.
In 2003, there were 47 State-legislated rider education programs in the United States (only Alaska, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, and Mississippi do not have State-sponsored rider training programs). Each State-sponsored rider education program is administered differently. In some instances, the State administers the program through a Government entity. In other cases, the State contracts the program to a private provider which delivers the rider training. The curriculum most commonly used for beginning riders is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills, although many States are in the process of transitioning to the Basic RiderCourse, a new curriculum developed by MSF.2 In addition, MSF offers the Experienced RiderCourse for advanced skills training. These courses combine on-motorcycle and classroom instruction and are conducted exclusively off-street.
In addition, all 50 States and the District of Columbia require a license to operate a motorcycle on the highway. This license may be an endorsement on an existing driver license, or it may be a “motorcycle only” license. Typically, motorcycle operator licensing involves a vision test, a knowledge assessment of the rules of the road, and an evaluation of the skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle. Licensing also provides a means for State authorities to monitor safe driving performance through a driver records system.
In most cases, rider education and motorcycle operator licensing are handled by separate agencies. In some States, rider education and licensing have been integrated, but the degree of coordination varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some States, licensing authorities have granted licensing status upon the successful completion of a State-approved rider education course. In addition, State rider education programs vary depending on the size of the operating budget, the number of students trained, the length of the riding season, and the availability of resources, thus making each State program unique.
The great variation in rider education and licensing programs across States, in terms of both scope and modes of administration, combined with a lack of a centralized database on State practices has made it difficult for States and programs to exchange information and to benefit from one another’s operation or training experiences. The purpose of this report is to fill this information gap by providing detailed information on current motorcyclist education and licensing programs in each State. The data contained in this report should be valuable to motorcycle safety practitioners, government officials, policy makers, and the general public as they review the practices of other States to inform their own.
The report is organized into six sections. Following this introduction, a methodology section discusses the procedures employed by the American Institutes for Research to collect the data for this study. Next, a comparative section presents trends in rider education and motorcycle operator licensing across the 50 States and the District of Columbia. The following section presents comprehensive State-by-State data on all aspects of rider education and licensing. The report concludes with two appendices: a glossary of key terms and a table indicating the years from which the data were collected.
|1Billheimer, J. Evaluation of California Motorcyclist Safety Program. In Transportation Research Record No. 1640, TRB. National Research Council. Washington, DC, 1998, pp. 100–109.
2At the end of 2003, all but three States with legislated motorcycle rider education programs (Hawaii, Idaho, and Oregon) had adopted the Basic RiderCourse.