1.1 Operator Education and Training
Motorcycle operator education and training has been thoroughly integrated into all aspects of motorcycle safety. The National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety calls it “the centerpiece of a comprehensive motorcycle safety program” (NHTSA, 2000a, Rider Education and Training). NHTSA's motorcycle safety program guideline states that “safe motorcycle operation requires specialized training by qualified instructors” and recommends that States conduct education and training (NHTSA, undated). As of 2003, 47 States had State-operated and legislated education and training programs and the other three had privately operated programs (NHTSA, 2003, p. 14). Many States encourage training either by requiring it for all motorcycle operators under a specified age or by waiving some licensing or testing requirements for motorcycle operators who complete an approved training course (Baer et al., 2005, p. 22). Education and training enjoys broad support from the motorcycle industry, motorcycle user organizations, and motorcyclists (NCHRP, under review, Strategy D1). Indeed, the need for good operator education and training may be the only subject on which virtually all organizations involved with motorcycling agree.
However, it is not at all clear what constitutes good operator education and training, nor whether current training reduces crashes. As to content, the National Agenda concluded that “it is assumed, yet unknown, that the current [operator education and training] programs are teaching necessary skills to survive in traffic” (NHTSA, 2000a, Rider Education and Training). It recommended that a “uniform, educationally sound” curriculum be adopted. NHTSA (2003, p. 13) reported wide differences in training program content and administration from State to State. Baer et al. (2005, p. 17) summarized the curricula offered in each State.
Training effectiveness is equally uncertain. Mayhew and Simpson (2003, pp. 29-36) reviewed all available high-quality studies of motorcycle operator education and training programs. Of six studies in the United States , only one showed any positive results: “[I]t appears that training has an impact on riders, particularly inexperienced riders, for at least six months following training... Beyond this time, riding experience levels the playing field and accident rates of the trained and untrained groups become indistinguishable” (Billheimer, 1996, quoted in Mayhew and Simpson, 2003, p. 32). Mayhew and Simpson point out several methodological issues and questions regarding Billheimer's results. They also summarized New York 's high-quality evaluation in the early 1980s. It randomly assigned operators to one of four groups: 1) New York 's existing and fairly simple licensing road test; 2) a more thorough test, called MOST II, developed by MSF and AAMVA; 3) MOST II plus 3 hours of training; and 4) MOST II plus 20 hours of training. Training did not affect crash rates. Mayhew and Simpson concluded that the studies to date “have failed to provide definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of rider education and training in reducing crashes.” They also summarized four studies from Canada and one from the United Kingdom that add further support to this conclusion.
Training also may not be easily available to many beginning motorcycle operators. The National Agenda (NHTSA, 2000a, Rider Education and Training) estimated that no more than half of those who want training receive it. Both NHTSA (2003, p. 13) and NCHRP (under review, Strategy D1) report that waiting times of 3 to 12 months are not unusual.
NHTSA has reviewed and summarized each State's motorcycle education and licensing programs and practices (Baer et al., 2005). A second report, Promising Practices in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing , was published in September 2005. It describes effective training and licensing programs and actions to promote training and licensing.
NHTSA and motorcycle organizations must take the lead in resolving these issues. In the meantime, States should do their best to offer their current motorcycle training on a timely basis to all who wish to take it and to revise their training if another curriculum is demonstrated to be more effective. States also may wish to examine their own motorcycle crash data to see if their training should stress certain situations or skills, as Oregon has done (NCHRP, under review, Strategy D2).
Use: 47 States have State-operated motorcycle operator education and training programs and the other three have privately-operated programs.
Effectiveness: As discussed above, the effectiveness of current operator training programs in reducing crashes is unknown.
Costs: Operator training programs are funded in part by the States and in part by fees paid by the students who take them. State costs per student in 2001 ranged from less than $35 to more than $200 and averaged $106.98 (Baer et al., 2005, p. 14). Student fees ranged from zero to more than $200 and averaged $106.16 (Baer et al., 2005, pp. 14-15). Many States offset some or all of their costs through motorcycle license or registration fees.
Time to implement: Operator training currently is conducted in all States. Opening new training sites to increase capacity could take three to six months or more depending upon State regulations.