Banner-- illustration of motorcyclists


Motorcycle rider education provides an opportunity for novice riders to learn the basic skills necessary to operate a motorcycle safely and for experienced riders to refresh and refine their techniques. Although 47 States have State-legislated motorcycle rider education and all States and the District of Columbia require operators to obtain a motorcycle license or endorsement, standards and practices for rider education and licensing vary widely across the country. The purpose of this report is to develop a research-based model of promising practices in rider education and licensing and to use the model to identify States that have implemented high-quality rider training and comprehensive licensing. In addition, drawing on detailed data collected from State motorcycle rider education administrators, instructors, and students, the report describes specific actions that programs in five highlighted promising-practices States (Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, and Oregon) have taken that promote the effective training and licensing of motorcycle operators. The promising-practices model and the specific recommendations can serve as a guide for other States interested in improving their rider training and licensing programs.

Promising Practices in Rider Education and Licensing

The model of promising practices in rider education and licensing was developed on the basis of a review of current research and position papers published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Thirteen practices were identified and organized within three broad areas: program administration, rider education, and licensing. Program administration refers to the structure and organization of a jurisdiction’s rider education and licensing activities. Practices related to rider education concern the details of delivering training efficiently and effectively to motorcycle operators. Finally, licensing practices require operators to ride legally and prescribe procedures for ensuring that only skilled riders are licensed to operate motorcycles.

Data and Measures

All 47 States with legislated motorcycle rider education programs were ranked along the various dimensions of the promising-practices model on the basis of data collected as part of an earlier NHTSA-funded study summarized in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing: A Review of Programs and Practices (NHTSA, 2005). This data provided information on each State’s practices as they related to the three areas of program administration, rider education, and licensing.

Identifying Promising-Practices States

Overall promising-practices scores were assigned to each State through summated scales for the three areas of program administration, rider education, and licensing. States were classified as “low,” “medium,” or “high” promising practices on the basis of scores for all 47 State-legislated programs.

Data Collection Instruments for Site Visits

Five States, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, and Oregon, were selected for site visits because of their overall high promising-practices scores for rider education and licensing. The purpose of the site visits was to gather detailed information from motorcycle rider education program administrators, instructors, and students about the features of programs that deliver high-quality and effective training. Information was collected through interviews with administrators and focus groups with instructors and students.

Results From Site Visits

During the site visits to the five promising-practices States, administrators, instructors, and students were asked to consider and comment on features of the program related to program administration, rider education, and licensing. Through the focus groups and interviews, the respondents identified specific policies and actions the programs had implemented that helped promote high-quality training and effective licensing. These actions are summarized in a “Highlights” section that corresponds to each of the 13 promising practices.


Review and analysis of the data collected during the site visits resulted in a set of recommendations aimed at providing guidelines for States interested in improving their rider training programs, focusing on the critical components of program administration, rider education, and licensing:

  • organize the rider education program and the licensing program under the same administrative agency;
  • explore alternative sources of funding to support rider training activities;
  • centralize registration and increase the flexibility of course schedules;
  • offer classes targeted toward experienced operators who are riding without a license; and
  • implement ongoing training, monitoring, and mentoring of instructors.

Back to NHTSA Home Page