In catching up on the posts by my blogging neighbors, I read a post by Bill Sommers in Little Billy's Scooter Tales. Bill has now declared himself an evangalizer for motorcycle safety training. I'm all over that, or down with that, or whatever it is that those hipper than me say.
I also received an e-mailed update from the Governor's Advisory Council for Motorcycle Safety in Oregon. Yeah, I know, my hands are all over different aspects of motorcycle training here. Keeps me off the streets. Oh wait, it doesn't does it? Maybe if I had that new KLR? I'd be both riding and off the streets at the same time. Or maybe riding on sidewalks which is still on pavement but technically not on the street. Now I'm Rambling. Gary's going to be on me for copyright infringement or something. Better get back to business.
This update was notification of the conclusion of a project. That project was to get the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to do an analysis. Two things were looked at. Firstly, a list of all registered owners of motorcycles was generated. Secondly, it was determined how many of those owners of record actually had motorcycle endorsements. This wasn't any sort of punitive or enforcement measure. It was merely an information gathering exercise with a specific action in mind.
The numbers showed that 23% of the registered owners did not show up as having an endorsement. There's bound to be some legitimate aberrations due to circumstances. A registered owner could have purchased a bike for an offspring or spouse who is endorsed, for example. There's bikes that have titles but no hope of being ridden in the near future. You know, those basket cases that are the subjects of well-intentioned restorations that never quite seem to come to fruition. Even taking those factors into account the number is still quite large.
The GAC plans to send out friendly letters reminding these registered owners that an endorsement is required to ride legally in Oregon. How many letters? According to the update a little over 20,000 will go out!
Being a born cynic, my first reaction is that it's a source of revenue that's been targeted. I can't say that it's all bad in this particular case. Our state's motorcycle training is rider funded. The only revenues are class tuitions and a portion of endorsement fees. More endorsements mean more money available to offer training opportunities.
There's another benefit to the riders, though. Statistics have shown that riders with endorsements are represented in accidents to a smaller degree than unendorsed riders. Which basically means, that for some reason, just the act of obtaining an endorsement lowers a rider's chances of becoming a statistic. Personally, I think it's because of two factors.
For one, a rider who goes to the DMV to take their test needs a little skill in order to pass. I have spent hours riding the course over and over. No, I didn't flunk that many times. Examiners need practice in scoring and training on how to properly evaluate a bike in their test. Some of us regularly volunteer to be the "hopeful candidates". I like doing it because I love showing off. Actually, we are supposed to make little mistakes on purpose. Do you realize how hard that is to do when your instincts are geared towards proper technique? Of course, the flip side is that if we actually do screw something up ( yeah, happened to me! ) the examiners think you did it on purpose. I feel good knowing some of my fellow instructors and I have had the chance to offer input. Most of the examiners aren't riders. We're able to share our perspective with them.
One such area which really amuses me is in the braking exercise. The rider's supposed to start braking at a designated point. Examiners use a stop watch to measure speed. The stopping distance is determined by that speed. Recently I watched the examiners. They were all concentrating very hard on watching where the front tire ended up. So I started braking sooner and sooner. They never caught it because they were looking so hard at the ending point. When I urged them to watch the front fork and my right hand, they caught on. It was funny but also a learning moment. Things like this help to ensure fairness in the exams. Anyway, this isn't where I started to go. I'm Rambling, again. Sorry, Gary!
My point is that even for experienced riders like me, the DMV test can be difficult. There's so little room, for one thing. The place where the test is given is usually just some extra space in the corner somewhere. Some of the areas have a marked gradient to them. So if a rider successfully passes the test they probably actually have some skills. The back side of this coin is that taking steps to get legal usually signifies a level of rider responsibility. This carries over into the streets. I think this accounts for some of why endorsed riders are slightly under-represented in accidents.
I think the other reason is that so many riders take training classes to get an endorsement. Here in Oregon, if we issue a completion card, DMV doesn't do any further testing. Our skill evalution is slightly tougher than DMV's. On the other hand, the test comes after a weekend of training. We don't teach the test. Rather, the test is a way to see how well the students can apply what they've learned to new situations. Granted, our training is only the foundation. The students still need to construct the rest of the building. What a great foundation, though!
If you know folks riding unendorsed, give them a gentle nudge. Not only will you save them legal consequences, you'll be helping them to ride safer, too.
I certainly hope that all 20,000 of those who get these letters don't mass toward our classes. We couldn't handle that rush! It's an interesting project, though. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.
Miles and smiles,