According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, motorcycle crashes across the state have been on the decrease over the last decade. However, about 3,000 motorcycle accidents still occur each year, resulting in more than 150 deaths. Most bikers prioritize safety, but they do not have control over the choices others on the road make behind the wheel. One of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of a motorcycle accident and injuries is to take a motorcycle safety course.
Bikers can take motorcycle classes through a variety of programs throughout the state, but the most popular way to take a motorcycle safety course in Pennsylvania is through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP). Below we discuss the benefits of a motorcycle safety class, different levels of classes, things bikers learn at each level, and information about registering for an approved Pennsylvania motorcycle safety course.
Benefits of Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course in PA
Pennsylvania does not require motorcyclists to take a safety course unless they are under age 18. Even though it is not required, bikers over age 18 reap several benefits when they complete an approved Pennsylvania motorcycle safety course. The benefits of taking a motorcycle safety class include:
Receive Your Endorsement
When you complete a PAMSP Basic or Intermediate course, Pennsylvania waives the requirement for you to take a skills test at a nearby driver’s license center. Attendees must have a motorcycle permit. Upon completion of the course, they immediately get their motorcycle endorsement for their license. Ultimately, taking a course allows you to kill two birds with one stone. You learn about motorcycle safety and earn your endorsement too.
Refresh Your Skills
Sometimes, experienced motorcyclists develop some bad habits while riding or forget some basic safety procedures and tips. Taking a motorcycle safety course benefits experienced riders by refreshing their skills and helps them correct any bad habits they have picked up over the years. Ultimately, it keeps experienced riders safer on the road and helps them improve their riding skills.
Improve Defensive Driving Skills
Unfortunately, those in passenger vehicles do not always watch for motorcycles. Although a basic motorcycle safety class teaches students how to ride and handle their motorcycles, defensive driving skills are key to remaining safe on the road. During class, students learn how to identify safety risks on the road, especially from other drivers. Additionally, students learn how to respond to safety risks in a way that keeps them alive and minimizes or eliminates damage to their bikes.
Examples of defensive riding skills typically covered in a motorcycle safety course include learning to:
- Constantly scan the road for dangerous situations and hazards, such as trash, sand, potholes, branches, pebbles, and anything else that might cause you to skid or lose control of your bike.
- Slow down safely and quickly when you identify hazards and other dangerous situations.
- Leave plenty of time and distance between you and other vehicles that share the road, so you have enough time to appropriately respond to any quick maneuvers. Tailgating or being tailgated could lead to a fatal motorcycle crash.
- Let other vehicles following you too closely pass to avoid an accident.
- Position yourself in a lane so you are not lingering in the blind spots of other vehicles; this prevents motorists who do not check their blind spots from running into you when making a turn or lane change.
- Avoid riding your motorcycle during inclement weather when wet roads, fog, high winds, and other elements make riding dangerous. If you get caught in bad weather, pull over when possible and position your bike in the dry line left from the car in front of you so you get more traction on wet roads.
- Always use your turn signals to let others who share the road know your plans, and do not be afraid to use your horn.
- Only pass other vehicles when you absolutely must and make sure the driver has you in their sights.
- Avoid riding your motorcycle if you have not gotten proper rest or if you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Reduce your speed on curvy roads to avoid skidding and potentially getting in an accident.
- Watch for distracted drivers who might be using their cell phones, eating snacks, adjusting their seats, or engaged in some activity that disrupts their attention to the road and the wheel.
- Avoid applying the brakes too quickly to avoid skids. Many motorcycles come standard with anti-lock brakes, but those who have older bikes without this technology have to be especially careful. If an animal runs out in the road or a vehicle in front of you makes a sudden stop, you will be forced to put on your brakes. Anti-lock brakes can help you avoid an accident. Without them, you could dump your bike if you do not carefully apply your brakes.
Breaks Down Negative Stereotype of Bikers
Motorcyclists have long had a reputation for driving recklessly and being outlaws. Yet, research shows that most motorcycle accidents occur because of careless drivers in passenger vehicles. Those who attend motorcycle safety courses share their experience with others, painting a picture of responsibility. Taking a safety course goes a long way to break down the unfair and negative stereotypes often associated with motorcycle enthusiasts.
Make Connections Within Your Local Motorcycle Community
Experienced riders often have connections with other bikers. They might take day trips or weekend trips with others. New motorcycles can connect with others who have the same interests. This builds your local biker community and ensures you always have a like-minded friend or acquaintance to take a joyride with.
Bikers need to purchase insurance for their motorcycles. Like auto insurance, motorcycle insurance is more expensive for inexperienced riders who have not spent much time on their bikes. Many motorcycle insurance providers offer drastic discounts on monthly premiums for bikers who take a motorcycle safety class. Even experienced bikers sometimes see a rate reduction.
Levels of Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Courses
The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP) offers four different course levels based on a student’s experience with motorcycles. Here is a broad overview of each course, its requirements, and the skills the course covers.
Introduction to Riding Clinic (ITR)
The ITR is the most introductory of all motorcycle safety classes. Students cannot get their motorcycle license upon completion, but they can evaluate whether motorcycle riding is something they want to do regularly. The class teaches students the fundamental skills they need to operate a motorcycle and begin street riding schools. Students attend two hours in the classroom and participate in two hours of riding.
Beginner Riding Clinic (BRC)
When people think of a motorcycle safety class to get their license, they are thinking of the BRC, referred to as the Basic Riding Course in some states. PAMSP’s BRC teaches the fundamentals of responsible riding to those without motorcycle experience, but they go much deeper than the IRT course mentioned above. Each student spends six hours receiving classroom instruction and 10 hours of riding instruction learning about basic riding skills, such as shifting, stopping, and turning. Students also learn about protective gear and how to avoid road hazards.
Intermediate Riding Clinic (IRC)
The IRC caters to motorcyclists who have some experience riding. Students work on skills like cornering, braking, and swerving. The exact curriculum hinges on current research about motorcycle crashes. The skills focus helps bikers learn crash avoidance. In the other clinics for beginners, students can use a motorcycle at the training center. IRC students must use their own motorcycle and provide proof of registration and insurance. Drivers with experience who choose to skip the BRC can get their motorcycle license upon completing the safety course.
Advanced Riding Clinic (ARC)
Those who have a motorcycle, have their license, and have experience riding will benefit from the ARC. The clinic seeks to enhance the safety skills of experienced riders by providing information about risk management, riding strategies, and rider behavior. The ARC is an eight-hour clinic that provides both classroom and riding instruction.
Registering for a PAMSP Motorcycle Safety Course
Whether you are a new rider or an experienced rider looking to register for a motorcycle safety course, you can find multiple locations throughout the state. All the courses listed above are FREE for Pennsylvania residents. PAMSP has contracted with various third-party training providers to provide classes. Listed providers include many Harley-Davidson dealerships and motorcycle clubs throughout the state.
Getting the Proper Gear Before A Motorcycle Safety Course
All students that register for a motorcycle safety course must wear proper protective riding gear to attend the class. Your riding gear is the only protection you have between your body and the road. Investing in proper motorcycle riding gear helps you minimize your injuries and reduce your risk of fatality if you are in a motorcycle crash.
We provide an overview of each of the things you need to safely ride a motorcycle.
Only those over 21 who have at least two years of riding experience or have already completed a motorcycle safety course can opt out of wearing a helmet when riding their bike. Although some riders can go without a helmet does not mean they should, and helmets are required during PAMSP motorcycle safety courses. Helmets reduce a biker’s chance of dying in an accident by almost 40 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates bikers who do not wear helmets are about 70 percent less likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries in a motorcycle crash.
If you are buying your first motorcycle helmet, remember that you need to replace it on occasion. Snell Memorial Foundation, a respected organization that conducts research and tests helmets, recommends that bikers replace their helmets every five years. In Pennsylvania, full-face and 3/4 helmets are legal as long as they meet all certification requirements set forth by the Department of Transportation.
If you are not wearing a full helmet with a face shield, you need to have some type of protective eyewear. PAMSP requires tinted or clear goggles, sunglasses, or eyeglasses if a biker does not have a face shield. When you approach a hazard or when an accident occurs, the way you handle your bike determines whether you suffer minor, severe, or fatal injuries. Having the best visibility possible allows you to have better control of your motorcycle and react appropriately to hazards. You also have clear visibility, so you can avoid guardrails and stay in your lane.
Motorcycle riders need to invest in good footwear to protect them while they are on their bikes. Experts generally agree that boots are your best bet. However, any athletic or hiking shoe will work as long as it is over the ankle with little or no heel and has a good rubber sole for traction. A good pair of motorcycle boots protect you from open wounds in an accident. They also keep you stable during an accident because athletic shoes and other lightweight shoes often slip off when a biker’s foot gets twisted while riding.
Summer weather and warm climates are the perfect time and locations to ride a motorcycle, but warm weather is also perfect for t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. Warm weather clothing and motorcycles do not mix. Bikers who do not wear the right clothes put themselves at risk for road rash, which can lead to dangerous infections and scrape layers of skin off during an accident.
First, you should wear a pair of full-fingered motorcycle gloves made of durable leather and constructed for use on motorcycles. Next, you must always wear pants. Shorts, leggings, and spandex are dangerous and unacceptable. Leather pants or jeans are best, and they should go all the way to the foot. On the top half of your body, you should always wear long sleeves. However, wearing a jacket is best. If it is too hot for a leather jacket, you can find lightweight protective motorcycle jackets with some ventilation.