Maine is right to require motorcycle training

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A Basic RiderCourse student conducts motorcycle safety training at the South Mesa riding range on Camp Pendleton in March 2011. The base has a standing order that any riders are required to report their ownership to their commanding officer within 48 hours of purchasing a motorcycle or when checking in to a unit aboard the base. This is part of the push to ensure that military personnel reduce the risks associated with riding a motorcycle. (DoD/USMC PHOTO)
A Basic RiderCourse student conducts motorcycle safety training at the South Mesa riding range on Camp Pendleton in March 2011. The base has a standing order that any riders are required to report their ownership to their commanding officer within 48 hours of purchasing a motorcycle or when checking in to a unit aboard the base. This is part of the push to ensure that military personnel reduce the risks associated with riding a motorcycle. (DoD/USMC PHOTO)

Last month, RiderZine reported on the proposed legislation that will require that future motorcyclists in Maine take hand-on motorcycle training. The idea of being forced to take a course that involves riding a motorcycle under the oversight of an instructor is one that isn’t setting well with every motorcyclist in Maine, but it’s an idea that is well past its time.

To be clear, the proposed legislation refers to those who have not yet attained a motorcycle endorsement on their Maine driver’s licenses, so at this point existing endorsees won’t be required to take the course.

Currently, anyone can take the eight-hour classroom course to earn a permit and eventually take the road test, and many argue that if a rider operates safely under a permit and passes the road test, there shouldn’t be the need for further instruction. But the logical fallacy here lies in the typical “It won’t happen to me” mentality. Based on the 32 motorcycle deaths Maine saw in 2015, which is the most in a year since 1991, that mentality needs to change. When you consider that we still have cases like the accident in Lisbon earlier this month, when speed and alcohol apparently contributed to a rider running a stop sign, totaling his bike, and getting LifeFlighted to the hospital with his passenger, both with serious injuries, it’s clear that that mentality is still prevalent.

Of course, you can’t legislate common sense. But statistically speaking, the more people who are properly educated and trained, the more likely common sense will prevail. Consider skydiving: You could probably teach someone everything he needs to know to jump safely out of a plane, and he could probably do it, but it’s pretty obvious that he should do a few jumps with an instructor before he tries it on his own.

There are two proposed changes. The first indicates that a motorcycle permit is good for two years, and if the permit expires without the holder earning a motorcycle endorsement, he must take the classroom permit examination again.

The second is the one that really matters. Essentially, it mandates that endorsees take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse, which consists of a two-day mix of classroom and road training on a closed course. “A motorcycle driver education program must consist of classroom and hands-on instruction directly related to the actual operation of motorcycles, emphasizing safety measures designed to ensure greater awareness of careful and skillful operation of motorcycles,” reads the proposed legislation.

The MSF BRC is a comprehensive regimen based on decades of research and experience that clearly and easily breaks down the basics of riding a motorcycle, with exercises that start out simple and build off previous exercises. New riders benefits from learning in a safe, controlled environment, and are not subject to the myths and wrong ideas they might otherwise learn. And the BRC has frequent “experienced” riders who think that their years of riding means there isn’t anything for them to learn—but who quickly realize all the ways they’ve been doing it wrong.

Naturally, some are miffed at the thought of being forced to spend several hundred dollars in order to get certified, but there might not be a better example of how your money can be put to good use. Is your life worth a few hundred dollars? Is your family having their child, sibling, or parent around worth a few hundred dollars? Is learning how to stay alive and avoid serious injury worth a few hundred dollars?

One might argue that no one is required to take an on-the-road course to earn a driver’s license, but driving a car isn’t like riding a motorcycle. As any motorcyclist knows, they’ll let anyone drive a car, with the barest minimum of skill. And until this legislation passes, to be fair, they’ve let anyone ride a motorcycle, also with the barest minimum of skill.

But there are two huge differences between those on four wheels and those on two. First, cars don’t have the added physics challenges of things like balance. And second, when it comes to a showdown between a car and a motorcycle involved in a crash, the motorcyclist is at far greater risk—every single time. Even a big GoldWing will lose to a small car any day of the week.

The new legislation is the right thing to do for everyone. It will help to ensure that future generations of motorcyclists are better educated, more in tune to safety issues, and more alert on the road. Perhaps soon we can begin applying the same rigorous standards to those driving cars, but for now the best way to keep yourself safe and alive on a motorcycle is to learn how to ride one properly.

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