Motorcycle Rider Training
As of 2019 all 50 States offered some form of rider education (MSF, 2019). Training also is provided by some rider organizations, manufacturers, the U.S. Military, and others. Many States encourage training either by requiring it for all motorcycle operators or those under a specified age, or by waiving some testing requirements for motorcycle riders who complete and pass an approved training course (MSF, 2018).
Although training is available, it is not at all clear what constitutes appropriate rider education and training, or whether current training reduces crashes. Evidence suggests that in addition to teaching motorcycle control skills, programs would better prepare riders if they trained riders to recognize potentially hazardous riding situations and encourage riders to assess their own abilities and limitations, and to ride within those constraints (e.g., Clarke et al., 2007; Elliott et al., 2007). Crash analyses have been used to identify crash factors leading to the greatest injury severity (Pour-Rouholamin & Jalayer, 2016); results from such analyses can be used to prioritize critical issues to emphasize in a training program. NHTSA supported the development of Model National Standards for Entry Level Rider Training, released in August 2011. These Model Standards recommend content for motorcycle rider training courses. States are encouraged to go beyond the standards to address State-specific crash needs (Windwalker Corporation & Highway Safety Services, LLC., 2011).
Victoria, Australia, recently undertook a comprehensive approach to develop a motorcycle graduated licensing system (M-GLS) education and assessment curriculum. The process included identifying the target population for the curriculum, describing the tasks graduates of the course should be able to complete, specifying the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to complete the task, and how to convey that information through the curriculum. The result was a 3-stage curriculum guided by best practice and research on adult learners with a focus on the skills identified as particularly important for beginning riders (Senserrick et al., 2017).
The NAMS encourages training (NHTSA, 2000). NHTSA’s Motorcycle Safety 5-Year Plan recommends that States conduct frequent and timely education and rider training at sites that are accessible throughout each State (NHTSA, 2019). Potts et al. (2008, Strategy C2) further recommends that States evaluate crash experience, compare data and crash scenarios with training and licensing practices, and adjust as needed to ensure practices are effectively targeting crash problems. This effort requires cooperation on the part of agencies, including those responsible for collecting and analyzing crash data and those responsible for training and licensing.
States should provide motorcycle training on a timely basis to those who wish to take it. See Baer, Baldi, and Cook (2005) and NHTSA (2006) for examples of successful methods to use training capacity more effectively, including creative scheduling, centralized online registration systems, and use of private providers.
Most States offer training to both experienced and beginning motorcycle riders. For more information about the features of training and education programs offered by the States, see Baer et al. (2010) and MSF (2019).
Kardamanidis et al. (2010) evaluated the results of 23 studies for a Cochrane Review and found conflicting evidence regarding the effectiveness of motorcycle rider training in reducing crashes or offenses. Due to the poor quality of available studies (most of the studies had selection and detection bias) the authors were unable to draw any conclusions about its effectiveness. However, data suggests that having mandatory pre-license training for motorcyclists may reduce crashes and offenses by discouraging motorcycle riding, thus limiting exposure.
While studies regarding motorcycle rider training up to this point are inconclusive, a study conducted by Boele and de Craen (2014) investigated the possibility of training higher order motorcycle skills with “risk’ training. Specifically, their study investigated if the training influenced motorcyclists’ safe riding behavior and their hazard perception in the short term (a few months after training) and long term (12 to 18 months after training). Training participants were divided into experimental and control groups. Riders in both groups participated in a pre-test, which included a questionnaire and on-road ride. They also completed a short-term post-test, which included the same pre-test questionnaire and on-road ride as well as a hazard perception test. Finally, this was followed by a long-term post-test, which included the same pre-test questionnaire and on-road ride, and a hazard perception test. Participants in the experimental group received the “risk” training between the pre-test and the short-term post-test activities. In terms of observed riding behavior, results indicated that participants in the experimental (risk training) group demonstrated more safe riding behaviors compared to those in the control group. In terms of hazard perception during the short term, post-test results indicated that participants in the experimental (risk training) group identified more hazards than participants in the control group. This same result was found for the long-term post-test; however, it was not statistically significant indicating that the impact on hazard perception was not sustained in the long term.
Although the results of the Boele and de Craen (2014) study are positive, the authors are quick to caution the idea of implementing this training on a large scale. Specifically, they attribute retention of the training’s effect to following the design and curriculum closely as well as the didactic and substantive quality of trainers, which need to be considered with any implementation of this training.
Rider training programs are funded in part by the States and in part by fees paid by the students who take them. Many States offset some or all their costs through motorcycle license or student registration fees.
Time to implement:
Rider training currently is conducted in all States. Training capacity is limited by the number of available training sites, qualified instructors, and motorcycles and helmets for students to use during training. Some measures to increase capacity can be implemented quickly while others may take 6 to 12 months.