Monday, May 07, 2007

Where are the endorsements?

As things often go, there was a cosmic alignment between events. Have you ever gone forever without even hearing about a certain thing? Then you suddenly hear about it from several sources? Maybe it's Universal Synchronicity. Maybe we make our own combinations subconsciously. Who nows? I experienced my own little bit of Karma. In this case it was a blog post and an update that I received. To tell the truth, I was being a little lazy. I'm working on the ABS and linked brake post. It's a struggle sometimes to make things interesting and relevant. Progress has been made, albeit in very short, but intense bursts. In between times, I've been catching up on my reading. Two things fell under my gaze within a matter of minutes of each other.

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,



balisada said...

Yes, the class is a great deal.

It's a short, intensive course offered by instructors who work for an accredited group (Team Oregon).

So that means that when I took the class, I got actual facts and not opinion, (which I would have gotten, had I had one of my relatives teach me to ride).

And after you have taken the Basic Rider Course, get some experience, and come back later for the Rider Skills Practice. It's even funner (That know-it-all who always seems to be in every beginning class, is absent in this one).

That figure 8 thing, in the Rider Skills Practice, where we were riding and watching for each other was wild, and I liked the fact that we could follow along in the book, but I wish that more of the range diagrams were in it, because one of the range tests was difficult to grasp.

The Basic Skills class also has the added benefit of the beginning rider seeing other riders who are just as inexperienced and lacking in confidence as they are. So the beginning rider is not thinking that they are somehow 'irregular'.


jeffinny said...

Hmmm, interesting. Sounds like Oregon is actively discriminating against motorcyclists (civil action anyone?). According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials the numbers Oregon quoted are about on par with the percentage of ulicensed automobile drivers involved in FATAL accidents.

I infer from this that a) The Oregon motocyclist may actually be MORE likely to be licensed than the average US motorist, and b) this data indicates that their should be an unbiased focus on getting all drivers properly licensed.

Unlicensed fatality data:


irondad said...

Thanks for the feedback on the RSP. This is a relatively new offering for us. We take student comments into account in the refining process. I love teaching the RSP. What a blast!

At first glance I could see why you have the perception you do. Keep in mind that this blog promotes commuting on two wheels. As a result, I tend to only report on things relating to bikes. Car drivers only figure in as they present hazards to riders. There are parallel projects going on with car drivers as far as licensing goes.

I appreciate the reference. I'm always interested in "big picture" things.

Car drivers have a lot further to go than motorcyclists, for sure.


ps said...

That's interesting that car drivers are even worse. I would guess that is because of people whose licenses are suspended or revoked and can't or won't give up driving, whereas unlicensed motorcycle use is probably because people don't care (or can't get into a class).

In Illinois you can't renew your registration without proof of insurance, and it is very expensive to get insurance if you or someone you live with has a suspended license, but no doubt there are still plenty of unlicensed drivers.

Although it is far too hard to get into a class here. I had to wait over a year. That's because it's free. I don't know why $100 or so is a big deal if you're going to spend big money on a new bike, but apparently it is. I was one of very few people in my class who let the motorcycle course fund keep my $20 registration deposit.


Gary said...

Here in Minnesota, we have the perpetual permit poseurs; usually Harley owners who have failed the riding test once, and are afraid to take it again.

They just go and renew their rider's permit every Spring, so they can ride from bar-to-bar with all their badass buddies. Then they drink and ride, and then they fall down. Pretty sad...

Ride well,

Bill Sommers said...

Thanks for the promo! I've found that I have my work cut out for me. Compiling "basic" information in literature form that will not get tossed as soon as I turn my back is my first task. Getting together with one of our local instructors is a phone call away. So I'm rolling now.

Presentation will be the key to my success. Having the right info at hand will help. I've already turned someone toward your blog as a reference for cornering technique information.

It's good to have neighbors like you to fall back on. Thanks!

Have fun,

Steve Williams said...

Here in Pennsylvania the DMV test is considered daunting for the reasons you outline and I know a handful of long time riders without motorcycle licenses that will not chance their egos on that test.

I have suggested the MSF course but without much success. I think the course is fun myself and will probably take the Experienced Rider Course again this time on the GTS.

Taking Bill's lead as a new evangelizer I think when I reprint my Scooter in the Sticks cards I will print some safety information on the back about rider safety and training. Sounds like the least I can do to give back to all the riders who have offered support and advice.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

A lot of folks of various sorts are driving with no licenses or suspended ones. Obviously with no insurance, either. They purchase a cheap car with tags that are valid for a while. Many times they don't transfer the title. When they have a wreck the vehicle gets abandoned. The orginal owner then gets the official notices. There's a just way more of these than unendorsed motorcycle riders.

Free training? Interesting. How is it funded? Good on you for your support.

I get people in all the time who have failed DMV. The good news is that it humbles some of them and then they listen. Here they can't renew the permit over and over.

They don't have a drinking problem. They ride, get drunk, fall down. No problem!

Sometimes the subtle approach at the right moment is more effective than a frontal campaign. I'm pleased if this blog can help with riding skills.

Mentoring riders can be a great way to impart wisdom. Some won't come to training or even admit they need it. Inside though, they know the truth.

I like the "let me show you something that worked for me" approach.