On the basis of the review and analysis of five promising-practices States in motorcycle rider education and licensing, general recommendations are provided below. These recommendations are aimed at providing guidelines for States interested in improving their rider education program, focusing on critical components of administration, rider education, and licensing.
One of the key reasons the five promising-practices programs are able to provide highquality training to riders is the close working relationship they maintain with the licensing programs in their respective States. By working together, the programs are able to implement policies and agreements beneficial to both offices, including offering incentives to riders to enroll in training, collecting extensive data about motorcycle operators, and training motorcycle license examiners. Organizing the two programs under the same administrative agency is not necessary to promote integration (the programs in Idaho and Oregon are under different agencies), but it is one means of promoting effective communication and coordination between the two offices.
One of the most important ways in which the rider training and licensing offices can work together is to establish knowledge and skills waivers for operators who successfully complete a rider education course. The most seamless linkage between rider training and licensing is the one-stop shop, where riders are licensed immediately upon successful completion of a rider training course (NHTSA, 2000). In Maryland, for example, operators receive their endorsement sticker at the training site following the conclusion of the class. The program functions effectively in large part because the rider education and licensing program in Maryland are both housed in the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. On the first business day following the conclusion of the class, the training site sends the names of students receiving an endorsement to the licensing agency so that these students can be immediately entered into the State licensing records. The two programs also work together to link data about motorcycle operator licensing, completion of rider training courses, and crashes to learn more about the factors that contribute to rider safety.
Rider training programs also benefit when they can use space at licensing agencies to hold classes. One of the greatest challenges identified by administrators in several States is a lack of range and classroom availability to hold courses. Licensing programs, which often have large parking lots used for conducting tests, can be used on the weekends and after business hours to conduct training classes. Licensing programs also benefit from a close working relationship with the rider training agency. Across the promising-practices States, the rider education programs train the motorcycle licensing examiners in the State. In addition, in Maryland, instructors from the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program provide after-hours testing for operators seeking licenses.
The promising-practices programs, as well as rider training programs across the country, are primarily funded through two sources: legislative appropriations (e.g., money collected from licenses and endorsements) and course tuition. When States face budget crises, programs across the State, including rider education, may be targeted for budget reductions. One way to supplement legislative appropriations is to raise tuition. Yet if tuition costs go too high, students may be discouraged from seeking training. Moreover, many States have legislated tuition caps for rider training that limit the amount that programs can charge students for enrollment. Given these constraints, States may elect to seek creative sources of funding, including establishing marketing agreements and seeking federal grants.
Idaho STAR and Team Oregon have both taken steps to market their programs to customers beyond the rider training courses they offer. The Idaho STAR program, for example, worked with the State to introduce a specialty Idaho STAR license plate. A portion of sales of the plate, which bears the Idaho STAR logo, goes toward the rider training program. Idaho STAR is promoting the plates in its classes as well as through dealers and other motorcycle enthusiasts who support the program. Team Oregon has also devised an alternative source of revenue, through selling advertising space in the back of the workbooks used for rider training courses. The program is working toward cultivating ties with dealers and other motorcycle vendors that may be interested in reaching riders. Advertising revenue is projected to help pay for printing the workbooks and ideally will also go toward supporting other program activities.
The Nevada Rider Motorcycle Safety Program has turned to Federal grants to support many of its education and outreach activities. Without these funds, the program would be unable to finance any public awareness campaigns. When Nevada transitioned from the MSF Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills curriculum to the Basic Rider Course, the State administrator again relied on grants to pay for the new course material associated with the BRC. Purchasing this material without the grant money would have been extremely difficult because the costs of the transition were not covered in the State budget.
Although students across the five promising-practices States reported they were very satisfied with the training they received, students in States where registration was administered directly through the training site (Maryland, Nevada, and Oregon) expressed some frustration with the enrollment process and wait times. In contrast, in Delaware and Idaho, students register directly through the rider training programs. The Idaho STAR program is the most accessible to students, allowing them to register and pay for any class offered in the State through the program Web site. Centralizing registration through one agency makes it easy for students to enroll and to track course availability. The Web sites for both Delaware and Idaho list the number of spaces available in each class, so students can quickly select a course with an opening. In contrast, when students register through a community college, they often must wait for the college to process their enrollments and then attempt to register by telephone or in person for a class that may have already filled.
While the logistics of establishing and maintaining a centralized registration system might be more complex in States with large populations, such systems could still be implemented effectively. States have already shifted many services to the Internet and current technologies have increased the efficiency and speed with which States can deliver services to users while minimizing costs. States could also divide registration into regions, which would be linked to the centralized system.
In addition to centralizing the registration process, programs can aid students by maximizing the flexibility of rider training schedules. Most States offer courses over the weekend, but Maryland also schedules some classes during the week. Sensitive to the fact that demand for training peaks in the spring and early summer months, the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program also increases the number of classes available early in the training season to accommodate students. Another strategy used by Maryland and Team Oregon is to double the number of students enrolled in the classroom portion and to stagger the class schedules over a training session. For range activities, the students are segmented into two groups of 12, with each group receiving separate instruction on the range.
Though the promising-practices States offer training courses that range from beginning to advanced, novice classes are in greatest demand. The licensing incentives offered by the States for course graduates (knowledge and skills test waivers) contribute to this demand. Licensing incentives attract not only true novices seeking to learn how to operate a motorcycle but also experienced riders who want to obtain a proper endorsement. Although experienced riders can register for a novice class, they then eliminate class spaces for true beginners. Moreover, experienced riders may find the pace of novice courses exceedingly slow and tedious.
Instead of directing experienced but unlicensed riders toward novice courses, four of the five promising-practices States have begun to offer special classes through which riders can receive their endorsement over a weekend. Delaware, Maryland, and Nevada all offer the MSF’s Experienced Rider Course Suite; Team Oregon offers a class titled Intermediate Rider Training. In both the ERC Suite and the IRT, students complete an eight-hour training program designed for operators familiar with motorcycles. At the conclusion of the course, successful graduates receive a course completion card that waives the State knowledge and skills tests (in Maryland, they can receive their endorsement at the training site).
Through the instructor preparation courses, instructor candidates across the five promising-practices States learn the skills and techniques required to teach the classroom and range components of rider education courses. Yet instructor training in the five programs does not conclude on graduation from the IP. All the programs provide yearly updates for instructors before the training season. These updates cover a variety of topics, including changes to curriculum, refreshers on the range exercises (and an opportunity to perform the range exercises before classes begin), and pedagogical skills that can be used in the classroom (e.g., dealing with confrontational students). Moreover, the updates also allow instructors to share teaching experiences and tips and to reconnect with other instructors with whom they will teach throughout the year.
The five promising-practices programs also monitor the training delivered by instructors, either through the training sites or through representatives from the rider education office. In Idaho, for example, the State administrator evaluates each instructor over the course of the training season. The Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program employs four quality assurance supervisors who randomly monitor instructors. When necessary, Maryland assigns mentors to instructors to ensure that they deliver safe and effective training. To smooth the transition between the IP course and real teaching, Team Oregon requires that newly graduated instructors must complete apprenticeships in the classroom and on the range before they become full instructors.
Continual training, monitoring, and mentoring of instructors is essential not only for evaluating training but also for retaining instructors. The rider training programs invest significant time and resources in IP classes. Providing instructors with support and guidance after the IP is one effective means of maintaining instructor satisfaction. Programs can promote instructor satisfaction by making certain that instructors have a forum to raise issues of concern with the rider training administrators. For example, Team Oregon’s Leadership Council, which serves as an intermediary between the instructors and Team Oregon administrators, allows instructors to speak as a group about program policies, curriculum, and training.