The Benefits of Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course


Right up until the latter part of the 20th century there were no definitive facts and figures on motorcycle accidents. People just took it for granted that they were inevitable and left it at that.

In the late 70’s, the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contracted the University of  Southern California’s Traffic Safety Center. They were instructed to conduct an in-depth study on motorcycle safety.

The survey was carried out by the USC professor, aptly named for a safety report, Harry Hurt. It was the most in-depth report on the causes and effects of motorcycle accidents ever produced. Not only providing an incredible wealth of information but supplying a set of statistics that would be relevant for years to come.

Such was the depth of the report; the finding took five years to be extrapolated and released. But when it was, it merely served to rubber stamp what we motorcyclists had known all along.

A staggering 900 accidents and 3,600 police reports were studied. They found that the vast majority of accidents (over two thirds) were entirely due to car driver’s negligence and invading the motorcyclists right of way. As a bi-product, the Hurt Report also produced data that proved helmets reduced the risk of brain injury and fatality.

To sum up, in cold hard figures, Hurt found that 75% of motorcycle collision accidents were the fault of the vehicle driver. The remaining 25% were single vehicle accidents.  In other words, motorcyclists either traveling too fast or losing control. Only 3% accounted for equipment failure such as a blown tire.

Now, although these figures related to a period almost 40 years ago, alarmingly there has been no such in-depth study of this proportion carried out since. The only document even coming close, being the MAIDS report of 2009. MAIDS reviewed 900 motorcycle accidents across Europe and concluded that Hurt’s original figures correlated almost perfectly to theirs.

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But how are these findings relevant to motorcycle safety in the 21st century?

Well, the answer is, motorcycle training is relevant not only at the beginner stage, where the majority of states mandate safety training for young riders but at all levels.  It is as relevant for returners to motorcycling as it is for the experienced rider.

Both the Hurt and MAIDS report’s state that motorists are mostly to blame for collisions.  Understandably, with the correct training and ongoing motorcycle riding school tuition, these worrying accident statistics could well be significantly reduced.

So, what exactly is a Motorcycle Safety School?

In all 50 states of America, a motorcycle rider-training program is in operation. Regulations differ from state to state as to whether these are compulsory or just strongly advised. Three states, namely California, Idaho, and Oregon have their own specific rider training programs. However, the common denominator in the remaining 47 is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), founded almost 45 years ago.

All four of the big Japanese manufacturers sponsor the Foundation; BMW, KTM, Piaggio, Triumph, and Ducati from Europe and BRP, Polaris and Harley Davidson in the USA.

According to the non-profit Foundation, their whole raison detre is to give motorcyclists the tools they need for a safer more enjoyable riding experience. This benefit can be achieved by supporting a safer riding environment, providing access to quality education and safety training for everyone. All riders can benefit. From young, learner riders through to current, returners or experienced riders.

The MSF’s Rider Education and Training System is specifically designed to promote lifelong learning for bikers and on-going professional development for those who teach the courses.

Skill Enhancing Courses

Using a combination of hands-on, on-line and classroom only courses, the MSF provides a vast array of skill enhancing courses. These start with nine different beginner lessons, five continuing courses, four improved courses and four advanced courses. These courses pretty much cover all the bases.

Those living in one of the three states not covered by the organization will learn a different curriculum. In California, the California Highway Patrol oversees this.

While in Idaho, the STAR motorcycle safety program is in force. This program offers a seven-stage approach and covers everything from an introduction to riding course, through to an advanced rider clinic and three-wheeler course.

Finally, Team Oregon administers their state’s rider training courses in association with the Department of Transport and Oregon State University. They run a number of courses from no experience beginner, to advanced skills courses.

Why Do You Need to Enroll?

That’s an easy question. For newbies who love the idea of a bike but have never experienced riding one it before there is no better way of discovering whether or not motorcycling is for you.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t matter how many chickens you’ve chased around the farm. Or how many trips you’ve packed as a pillion, when it is you in the front seat in traffic, you need proper structured training.

And finally, regardless of whether you’re an experienced rider or specifically because you’re a mid-life-crisis returner, updating and improving your skills is the smart thing to do.

What Are the Benefits of a motorcycle safety course?

Ok, what about living longer? That is perhaps a little blunt, but it’s a fact. Learn how to ride properly, and you stand more of a chance of surviving out there in the tarmac jungle.

According to Oregon’s STAR rider training scheme, successful course participants reduce their risk of crashing by a staggering 79%. With an 89% reduction, in the type of crash that sees you queuing up in that big old service department in the sky.

A basic course will teach you how to stay on your bike and the essentials of traffic signals and regulations. That is all that your state requires of you before letting you loose with a rider’s permit.

Take any of the continuation courses, however, and you get to hone your skills and learn life-saving techniques such as defensive riding.  Graduate to an advanced class, and you may even come away riding like that bike cop who can turn four ton of police BMW around a traffic cone while writing you a ticket.

How Much does a Motorcycle Safety Course Cost?

Hmm, good question. Unfortunately not an easy one to answer. But fear not dear reader, here is a quick flit across the country to give you an idea. Residents of Puget Sound in Washington State get a good deal with a basic training course starting at around $125 or $250 for non-residents.

Californians, on the other hand, will have to part with over $180 for the under 20’s and $258 for those legally old enough to drink (which obviously, you shouldn’t do when riding).

Residents of the Big Apple will probably have to sell their motorcycle to afford the basic skills riding course which comes in at a hefty $350. Or consider moving upstate and pay only $275.

Meanwhile, in the Sunshine State of Orlando residents can choose from a whole host of training providers. Some are specific training companies with prices for a basic learner course starting at $199. Alternatively, learners can go to one of the sponsored trainers, who may charge $250 but often give out freebies to offset the cost.

In all of these scenarios, however, don’t forget. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

What Are the Different Types of Motorcycle Riding Schools?

Once your first motorcycle riding school course is under your belt, you will have mastered the basics and are implementing them safely in real life scenarios. It is only then that the whole spectrum of motorcycling in all its myriad forms opens up to you like a two-wheeled clam.

Not only can you continue with your advancements in road riding, but you can also take riding classes in a whole host of different styles. Take adventure bikes for instance. They look great, and you can load them up like a prospector’s pack mule. Unfortunately, the moment you hit the dirt you’ll suddenly realize that they weigh twice as much as one.

It makes total sense to try out an off-road motorcycle riding school, where you can get down and dirty, before doing it for real.

Motorcycle Racing Schools

The fun doesn’t stop there either. Put the miles in on the road, and when you’re proficient enough and fancy getting your knee down at the next corner, there are motorcycle racing schools from Nevada to New Hampshire. These are the places to go if you want to learn to ride quickly and safely on the track.

Ever wondered how it feels to go from 0-170mph in seven seconds on a motorcycle? Well wonder no more, there are even motorcycle drag racing schools. Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend one straight out of basic training.

The final three examples above, of motorcycle training courses, are all there waiting for you if you decide that’s the direction you wish to take. They’re part of the adventurous, exciting and fun two-wheeled world.

What isn’t fun, though, is riding a bike with the bare minimum of skills and ending up potentially endangering yourself and other road users. Motorcycling can be the best thing you’ve ever done, just do yourself and other road users a favor, and do it right.