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III. A Comparison of Rider Education and Licensing Practices Across the United States

Training Opportunities in States Without
Rider Education Legislation
Although Alaska, Arkansas, and Mississippi lack State-legislated motorcycle rider education,1 motorcyclists in these States are not completely without rider training options. All three States have groups that provide MSF RiderCourse training as well as non-MSF course options, including ABATE, Harley-Davidson Rider’s Edge providers, and other private organizations.

Alaska’s ABATE chapter (Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education) provides rider education in the Anchorage area. ABATE offers the MSF Basic RiderCourse (BRC) and Experienced RiderCourse (ERC). Successful completion of either course yields a Course Completion Card, which grants the rider an automatic motorcycle endorsement upon presentation to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In conjunction with the ERC, Alaska’s ABATE also offers the SkillsCourse to provide an additional 3.5 hours of riding instruction. Harley-Davidson provides Rider’s Edge courses at its dealership in Soldotna (150 miles southwest of Anchorage), which also awards an MSF Course Completion Card after riders pass a knowledge test and a riding skills evaluation.

Like Alaska, Arkansas has an ABATE (Arkansas Bikers Aiming Towards Education) chapter that provides BRC and ERC courses. Private providers, such as Arkansas Cycle Touring and Training (ACTT) and the Western Arkansas Motorcycle Safety Program, also offer MSF RiderCourses to motorcyclists in the area. The Western Arkansas Motorcycle Safety Program offers the traditional BRC courses and provides three options for ERC training: Skills Practice RiderCourse, License Waiver RiderCourse, and Skills Plus RiderCourse. In addition to the MSF courses, ACTT offers a non-MSF 8-hour Advanced Rider Course (ARC), which includes 4 to 5 hours of street riding instruction and 4 hours of range instruction.

In Mississippi, MSF training is available through private providers, including the Mississippi Gold Wing Road Rider’s Association. This group sponsors the Mississippi Motorcycle Academy and has 11 MSF-Certified Instructors who provide training in locations throughout the State.
1 Washington, DC, is the only jurisdiction in the United States that does not offer rider education opportunities.

This section presents a comparison of the key features of motorcycle rider education programs and licensing practices across the United States. Drawing on the information presented in the profiles, the analyses are organized into three broad categories:

  • Program Administration

  • Rider Education

  • Operator Licensing

The comparison reveals trends in the administration of rider education programs, the training of students, and the requirements for licensing. By summarizing the practices, policies, and procedures used in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, this section offers a close look at the similarities and differences in the organization of motorcycle rider education and licensing across the country.

Program Administration
Effective Date of Original Law
The first law that dedicated funds to an administrative agency to support motorcycle rider safety and education was passed in Rhode Island in 1979. Other States soon followed, with legislation peaking in 1982 with the passage of laws in eight States. Among the first five States approving legislation, two, Arizona and North Dakota, currently hire contractors to provide all rider education in their States. Oklahoma was the most recent State to create an administrative agency, in 1999. Currently, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia are the only jurisdictions that have not passed legislation supporting a motorcycle rider education program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Relationship Among Various Programs
The ultimate and day-to-day administration of motorcycle rider safety programs was divided between separate agencies in all but seven States. Only Alabama, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia combined both operations under a single agency. In 21 of the 47 States with rider education programs, day-to-day administration was managed by an agency with specific responsibilities for motorcycle rider education and safety. In the remaining States, day-to-day administration was overseen by an agency with broader responsibilities, such as highway safety or driver licensing.

Among the twenty-one States where day-to-day administration was managed by a motorcycle rider education and safety office, most of these offices were housed within the State department of transportation or motor vehicles (10 States) or within a law enforcement/public safety agency (6 States). In the States where day-to-day operations were handled by an agency with broader administrative duties beyond motorcycles, responsibility most frequently rested with the State department of transportation or motor vehicles (13 States). Three States, California, North Dakota, and South Dakota, used private contractors to monitor the day-to-day operations of their motorcycle rider training programs.

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Collection of Rider Training and Licensing Data
Rider education and licensing data available electronically
Increasingly, States are moving toward making their rider education and licensing data available in an electronic format. Nine States provide at least some licensing or rider education data electronically, though the data are not comprehensive. Eleven States maintain electronic records of rider training data but not licensing data. Only two States (Hawaii and Oregon) compiled both extensive rider training and licensing data.

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Link among rider education, licensing, and crash data
Seven States (Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon) could link both their licensing data and their rider education data to crash statistics for their State. The only other State that could link any information to crash data was California, which could connect only licensing data with crash statistics.

 

 

 

 

 

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pie chartRider Education
Training Delivery
Months of instruction
Most States offered rider training at least nine months out of the year, with 15 States holding classes all year round. Rider courses were least frequently available in North Dakota, which limits instruction to 5 months.

Number of instruction sites
Seventeen States offered at least 1 training site per 10,000 licensed operators. North Dakota led all States, providing nearly 4 sites per 10,000 riders. On the other extreme were populous States such as New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, all of which provided far fewer than 1 training site per 10,000 operators.

With the notable exception of New York, which had only 31 sites, States with larger populations generally had more training sites. Of greater interest is the ratio of instruction sites to the number of licensed operators in a State.

 

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Operations and Participant Characteristics
Total riders trained
In 2001, 215,232 riders enrolled in a rider education and safety course in the 40 States that reported data. Of these riders, the majority (94 percent) were novices who took either the Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills (MRC:RSS) or the BRC. The remaining 6 percent (13,830) were experienced riders who enrolled in either the Intermediate RiderCourse (IRC) or the ERC. Among novice riders, those in four States (California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas) accounted for more than one-third of all training. Maine, which requires riders seeking permits to complete a course on motorcycle safety, trained the fewest number of novice riders (526) in MSF-sponsored courses. The majority of new riders in Maine (4,481) elected to take the Maine Motorcycle Safety Education Course (MMSEC), which requires only 8 hours of classroom instruction.

Training for experienced riders was spread more evenly across the States, with no State except California (9 percent) responsible for more than 6 percent of all students trained nationally. Hawaii trained the fewest number of experienced riders (12), and Texas trained the most (1,529).

The State profiles section that follows presents State-by-State enrollment data by gender and type of course. Enrollment data disaggregated by age categories could not be included in the report because few States collected such detailed information from their students.

Riders trained per site
Though the average number of novice students trained per site across all States was 235, the average varied dramatically depending on the State. North Dakota, for instance, trained only 39 novice riders per instruction site, whereas Massachusetts averaged 861 students per site. The average number of experienced students trained at sites also differed noticeably. The average across all States was 18 riders, with Hawaii training only around 2 experienced students and Massachusetts, again, offering instruction to more than 65 students per site.

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Program Funding and Expenditures
Cost to educate riders
The average cost to States to educate riders (excluding student contributions through tuition) was $106.98 per student. Vermont led all States by spending $256.58 per student. Only three other States (Idaho, Illinois, and Ohio) incurred costs of over $200.00 per rider. California, Florida, and Massachusetts spent considerably less than other States, averaging less than $35.00 per student.

States that incurred low costs to train riders often shifted the educational costs directly to students. California, Florida, and Massachusetts, for example, all had average novice tuition fees at or above $185.00, far surpassing the national average of $106.16. In contrast, Illinois and Ohio, which spent over $200.00 per student, charged zero and $25.00 for novice courses, respectively. Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were the only three States to provide rider training free of charge.

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pie chartFederal Funding
Fourteen States reported that they received federal Section 402 funds in 2001. Of these, half received $29,999 or less. Only three States, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, were awarded $100,000 or more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Curriculum
Approved curricula
States moved quickly to approve the new Basic RiderCourse (BRC) introduced by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) in 2001. By the end of the year, 27 States had approved the BRC for instruction. The MRC:RSS curriculum, taught in 39 States, was still used most frequently. A total of 22 States offered both novice curricula, reflecting the gradual implementation of the BRC curriculum. Students taking experienced courses most frequently completed ERC classes, which were offered in 39 States.

Approved Motorcycle Rider Education Curricula
 
MRC:RSS*
BRC*
ERC*
IRC*
    MRC:RSS* BRC* ERC* IRC*
Alabama
yes
yes
yes
no
Nevada
yes
yes
yes
no
Arizona
no
yes
no
yes
New Hampshire
yes
yes
yes
yes
California
yes
no
yes
no
New Jersey
yes
no
yes
yes
Colorado
no
yes
no
no
New Mexico
yes
yes
yes
no
Connecticut
yes
yes
yes
no
New York
yes
yes
yes
no
Deleware
yes
yes
yes
no
North Carolina
yes
yes
yes
no
Florida
yes
no
yes
no
North Dakota
yes
yes
yes
no
Georgia
yes
yes
yes
no
Ohio
yes
yes
yes
no
Hawaii
yes
no
yes
no
Oklahoma
no
yes
no
no
Idaho
yes
no
yes
no
Oregon
yes
no
yes
yes
Illinois
yes
no
yes
no
Pennsylvania
yes
yes
yes
no
Indiana
yes
no
yes
no
Rhode Island
Iowa
yes
yes
yes
no
South Carolina
Kansas
South Dakota
yes
no
yes
no
Kentucky
yes
yes
yes
no
Tennessee
yes
yes
yes
no
Louisiana
yes
no
no
no
Texas
yes
no
yes
no
Maine
yes
yes
yes
no
Utah
yes
no
yes
no
Maryland
yes
yes
yes
no
Vermont
yes
no
yes
yes
Massachusetts
no
yes
yes
no
Virginia
no
yes
yes
no
Michigan
yes
yes
yes
yes
Washington
yes
no
yes
no
Minnesota
yes
yes
yes
no
West Virginia
yes
no
yes
no
Missouri
yes
yes
yes
yes
Wisconsin
yes
yes
yes
no
Montana
yes
yes
yes
no
Wyoming
yes
no
yes
no
Nebraska
yes
no
no
no
 
— data not available
* MRC:RSS—Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills­; BRC—Basic RiderCourse; ERC—Experienced RiderCourse; IRC—Intermediate RiderCourse


Curricula approval
In the majority of States, responsibility for the approval of rider education curricula was assigned to the State departments of motor vehicles or transportation. In four States (Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Louisiana), the State department of education approved the curricula. Among the four States where another State agency approved the curricula (Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina), three States required approval by an agency associated with the State’s higher education system (Maine required review by the Secretary of State). In two States (Alabama and Connecticut) final approval rested with the State rider education and safety program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor pie chartSelection, Training, and Evaluation
Most States required State certification of rider training Instructors as well as a probationary period or teaching internship. The majority of States also mandated updates for their Instructors at least once a year. In three States (California, Idaho, and Oregon) updates were required multiple times each year. With the exception of Hawaii and Connecticut, all States that supplied data reported that they offered reciprocity for Instructors trained in other States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Requirements
 
Mandatory certification
Probationary period or
internship
Reciprocity for out-of-State
training
 
Mandatory certification
Probationary period or
internship
Reciprocity for
out-of-State
training
Alabama
no
yes
yes
Nevada
yes
yes
yes
Arizona
yes
yes
yes
New Hampshire
yes
yes
California
yes
yes
yes
New Jersey
yes
no
Colorado
no
no
yes
New Mexico
no
yes
yes
Connecticut
yes
no
no
New York
yes
no
yes
Delaware
no
yes
yes
North Carolina
yes
yes
yes
Florida
yes
North Dakota
yes
yes
yes
Georgia
yes
yes
Ohio
yes
yes
yes
Hawaii
yes
no
no
Oklahoma
yes
no
Idaho
yes
yes
yes
Oregon
yes
yes
yes
Illinois
no
no
yes
Pennsylvania
yes
yes
yes
Indiana
yes
yes
yes
Rhode Island
Iowa
yes
yes
yes
South Carolina
Kansas
yes
no
South Dakota
yes
Kentucky
yes
yes
Tennessee
yes
yes
Louisiana
yes
no
yes
Texas
yes
no
yes
Maine
yes
no
yes
Utah
yes
no
yes
Maryland
yes
yes
yes
Vermont
yes
yes
yes
Massachusetts
yes
yes
Virginia
yes
yes
yes
Michigan
no
no
Washington
yes
yes
yes
Minnesota
yes
yes
yes
West Virginia
Missouri
yes
no
yes
Wisconsin
yes
no
yes
Montana
no
yes
Wyoming
Nebraska
yes
yes
yes
 
— data not available

pie chartQuality Control Procedures and Program Evaluation
With the exception of Arizona, all States had formal quality-control procedures for their rider education programs. Few States, however, specified the procedures they use as part of their regular quality-control reviews. Arizona, along with Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa, were also the only States that did not conduct regular program evaluations. There was little similarity across the States in how they conducted their evaluations, though four States (New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Oregon) noted that they relied on their annual reports for evaluating their rider training programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Operator Licensing
Testing and Training Responsibilities
In the majority of States and the District of Columbia (31), the jurisdiction’s motor vehicle or transportation agency administered licensing tests for riders. Examiners were also most frequently trained by the State motor vehicles or transportation agency (21 States), though other agencies also had responsibility. In Idaho, for example, the Department of Education trained examiners. In three States (Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania), licensing examiners were trained directly by the State rider education and safety program. The majority of States and the District of Columbia (36) also offered third-party testing for licenses. Arizona and Hawaii were the only two States to have some form of licensing renewals for older riders (data not shown).

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Knowledge and Skills Tests Used
In approximately half the States (26), riders had to pass the MSF Knowledge Test to receive a motorcycle license. In 19 other jurisdictions, the knowledge test was designed by a local agency or the State separately from the MSF. The remaining six States used the Modified MSF. New Mexico was the only State that allowed testing agencies to use two knowledge tests, either the MSF or a local test. The MSF Alternate MOST was most frequently used to assess the skills of riders (28 States and the District of Columbia), followed by a local off-street test (10 States). Fifteen jurisdictions allowed testing agencies to use multiple skills tests, most frequently a local on-street (6 States) or off-street (4 States and the District of Columbia) test. Alabama was the only jurisdiction not to require that riders pass a skills test for a license.

 

 

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Incentives
Only 21 States allowed riders who completed a Certified motorcycle training and safety course to waive the knowledge portion of their licensing exam. In contrast, the majority of States (45) allowed graduates to waive the skills component of the exam. With the exception of Maine, all States that offered a knowledge waiver also offered a skills test waiver if a rider successfully completed a training course. Twenty States recognized rider education completed in another State for licensing purposes. With the exception of Massachusetts, most jurisdictions (47) that offered reciprocity for rider education also offered licensing waivers. Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey did not offer reciprocal licensing for riders licensed in other States.

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Motorcyclist Licensing System
Graduated licensing and tiered licensing were used very infrequently across the country. Seven States (Alabama, California, Hawaii, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) required graduated licensing, and only five (Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas) had tiered licensing systems. Oklahoma was the only State to require both graduated and tiered licensing.

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Operator and Vehicle Characteristics
Across all States and the District of Columbia, there was an average of 4.5 licensed riders per 100 people. New Hampshire had the highest ratio of riders at 9.6, 1.3 riders more than the next closest State, Maine (8.3 riders per 100 people). Vermont (8.2 riders per 100 people) followed Maine, giving Northeast States three of the top five positions in proportional ridership. Southern States had the fewest number of licensed riders per capita, with Alabama (0.04), Louisiana (1.3), Mississippi (1.9), and South Carolina (2.4) holding four of the last five positions in riders per 100 population.

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On average, just fewer than 2 motorcycles (1.8) were registered per 100 persons across all licensing jurisdictions. South Dakota had the highest per capita number of registrations (3.8 per 100 persons), and the District of Columbia had the fewest (0.7). Excluding the nation’s capital, the remaining States with fewer than 1 registered motorcycle per 100 population were all located in the South (Kentucky, Arkansas,
and Mississippi).

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Public Information and Education
The Motorcycle Operator Manual (MOM) was used most frequently by States, followed by the Modified MOM and then by manuals unique to particular jurisdictions. Only 13 States reported spending any funds on public information and education, though five States (Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin) spent at least $20,000 in 2001.


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1Appendix B identifies the States and variables that were collected from other years, when necessary.