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Effectiveness: 2 Star Cost: $$
Use: High
Time: Varies

Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure’s effectiveness has been examined in several research studies. Despite some positive research findings, the balance of evidence regarding countermeasure effectiveness remains inconclusive.

As of 2015 all 50 States offered rider education (MSF, 2016). Sixty percent of the 44 States that responded to a survey question from Baer et al. (2010) reported they were able to accommodate all riders seeking training within a calendar year. Training is also provided by some rider organizations (some ABATE and Gold Wing groups), manufacturers (Harley-Davidson), 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 approved training courses (Baer, Cook, & Baldi, 2005). Most entry-level training uses the Basic RiderCourse curricula developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The Experienced RiderCourse suite (ERC) is offered to riders with some previous experience or for seasoned riders who want additional training; however, the ERC represents a very small part of total training provided.

Although training is available, it is not 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 were trained to (1) recognize hazardous riding situations, (2) assess their own abilities and limitations, and (3) ride within those constraints (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 can be used to prioritize critical issues to emphasize in training. NHTSA supported the development of Model National Standards for Entry Level Rider Training released in August 2011. These 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).

NHTSA’s Motorcycle Safety 5-Year Plan recommends that States conduct frequent and timely education and rider training at sites accessible throughout the State (NHTSA, 2019). NCHRP (2008, Strategy C2) further recommends that States evaluate crash experience, compare data and crash scenarios with training and licensing practices, and adjust targeted crash problems as needed. This requires cooperation by agencies 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 on-line registration systems, and use of private providers.

Use: Most States offer training to both experienced and beginning motorcycle riders. For more information, see Baer et al. (2010) and MSF’s overview table, available at

Effectiveness: Kardamanidis et al. (2010) evaluated the results of 23 studies for a Cochrane Review and found conflicting evidence on effectiveness of motorcycle rider training in reducing crashes or offenses. Due to the poor quality of the studies (most had selection and detection bias) the authors could not draw conclusions about effectiveness. However, data suggest that mandatory pre-license training for motorcyclists may reduce crashes and offenses by discouraging motorcycle riding, thus limiting exposure.

While there are few positive studies on motorcycle rider training to date, 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 had an effect on safe riding behavior and hazard perception in the short-term (a few months) and long-term (12 to 18 months) after training. Training participants were divided into experimental and control groups. Both took pre-tests that included questionnaires and on-road rides. They also took short-term post-tests that included the same pre-test questionnaires and on-road rides as well as hazard perception tests, followed by long-term post-tests of the same things. The experimental group received the risk training between the pre-test and the short-term post-tests. Results reported that the experimental (risk training) group demonstrated more safe riding behaviors compared to the control group. The experimental (risk training) group also identified more hazards than the control group. This result was also found for the long-term post-tests; 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 study (2014) are positive, the authors were quick to caution the idea of implementing this training on a large scale. Specifically, they attribute retention of the training’s effect to closely following the design and curriculum as well as the didactic and substantive quality of trainers, which need to be considered with implementing this training.

Costs: Rider training programs are funded in part by States and in part by students’ fees. 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 (a big paved area such as a school parking lot is required), qualified instructors, and motorcycles and helmets for students to use. Some measures to increase capacity can be implemented quickly while others may take 6 to 12 months.

Other issues:

  • Training for other motorcycle configurations (three-wheeled motorcycles and motorcycles pulling trailers): Several motorcycle organizations offer courses that address these special motorcycle configurations. These courses have not been evaluated.