Suppose you are planning to ride a motorcycle in Philadelphia or throughout Pennsylvania. In that case, there are two ways to obtain a motorcycle license: by completing a basic rider training course or passing a basic knowledge test. Riders under 18 must take a basic rider course to obtain a Class M learner’s permit.
Fortunately, training courses are free for residents of the Commonwealth. Here is more information about Pennsylvania’s motorcycle safety course requirement, why it exists, and how to legally obtain the training you need to operate your motorcycle on Philadelphia’s roadways. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer today if you have been injured in a motorcycle crash due to someone else’s negligence.
Philadelphia Motorcycle Safety Courses Guide
- The Reason for Motorcycle Safety Courses
- The 1984 Law that Established the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PMSP)
- The Courses Available Through PMSP
- Obtaining the Gear Needed for the Class (and Your Safety)
- How to Find a Rider Training Course in Philadelphia
The Reason for Motorcycle Safety Courses
Motorcycle accidents are overrepresented in traffic fatality counts, making up just three percent of the vehicles on roadways across the U.S., yet accounting for around 14 percent of traffic accident deaths. According to research that analyzed more than 8,000 motorcycle crashes in Pennsylvania, riders with less than two years of experience are two to four times more likely to crash than more experienced riders. The younger the rider, the higher the risk, with riders under 22 most likely to crash.
Operating a motorcycle requires a different set of skills than driving a car.
Some of these differences include:
- Motorcycle riding is more physically and mentally challenging, requiring the rider to be completely aware not only of the traffic around them but also of the road conditions. With less stability than a four-wheel vehicle, motorcycles are prone to sliding on debris on the roadway that a passenger car driver would likely not even notice.
- Motorcyclists are less visible than other roadway users, and many drivers are distracted or simply inattentive to the slimmer frame of an approaching motorcycle.
- Motorcyclists are required to drive defensively, anticipating the actions of others around them to avoid a collision. These defensive driving techniques must be utilized quickly and properly to provide the best chance of avoiding an accident.
The 1984 Law that Established the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PMSP)
In 1984, Chapter 79 was added to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 75. This chapter called for the provision of an approved motorcycle safety course that would be offered for free for Pennsylvania residents who either have a Class M license or permit.
The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Driver Licensing oversees the program, administered by The Motorcycle Safety Foundation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. PMSP was established in 1985 to provide motorcycle riders with the skills they need to combat the everyday hazards on Pennsylvania roadways. With approximately 70 training centers statewide, more than 380,000 people have completed training courses through the program since its inception.
Riders under 18 must obtain a Class M learner’s permit and complete the basic rider course to receive their Class M license after getting a learner’s permit for at least six months and at least 50 hours of supervised riding. Riders over 18 who complete the intermediate course receive a waiver of the skills test requirement at a PennDOT Driver’s License Center.
The Courses Available Through PMSP
The PMSP offers several courses for riders of all experience levels. Even those riding for decades can benefit from a skills refresh or the opportunity to learn the latest defensive driving techniques. Here is a look at the program’s approved motorcycle safety courses offered by third-party vendors.
Basic Rider Course
The Basic Rider Course involves 15 hours of instruction over two weeks, including five hours of classroom training and 10 hours of riding. Motorcycles and helmets are provided for participants’ use. Riders under 18 who have a Class M learner’s permit must complete either this course, the Basic Rider 2 course, or the 3-Wheel Basic Rider Course to obtain their motorcycle license.
Basic Rider Course 2
This course can also be taken to satisfy the Commonwealth’s motorcycle safety training requirement and has an enhanced focus on crash research and swerving, braking, and cornering skills. This 6-hour course is intended for riders who already have some experience riding, and participants are required to furnish their own motorcycles and gear and provide proof of registration and insurance. An inspection of the motorcycle is also required.
3-Wheel Basic Rider Course
During this motorcycle safety course, participants learn fundamental riding skills and safety strategies similar to those provided in the Basic Rider courses but designed explicitly for operators of three-wheelers. This 12-hour course features four hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of riding in which the participant provides their own 3-wheel motorcycle and gear. Proof of registration and insurance are required, along with an inspection of the 3-wheeler used during the course.
Intermediate Rider Course
The Intermediate Rider Course is offered for experienced riders who wish to develop more skills in traction management. The Intermediate Rider Course is required for adult riders who want to bypass the skills test at the Driver’s License Center.
Advanced Rider Course
The Advanced Rider Course is available for riders who have logged at least 3,000 miles of riding experience. This course provides training on how to maximize mid-corner traction and ground clearance to improve safety. Riders must use their own motorcycle and gear.
Can Out-Of-State Residents Take the Courses?
Yes, PMSP permits enrollment into motorcycle safety courses by out-of-state residents for a fee.
These fees include:
- $250 for the Basic Rider Course
- $150 for the Basic Rider Course 2
- $200 for the Three-Wheel Basic Rider Course
Other Benefits of Taking a Motorcycle Course in Philadelphia
Motorcycle training courses are designed to teach riders the skills to help them stay alive while navigating their chosen form of transportation on public roadways. Around 200 motorcyclists die each year on Pennsylvania roadways. Like many types of traffic accidents, motorcycle accidents are far more likely to occur in urban areas, where traffic is heavier and features several motor vehicle types. Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s most populous city, accounting for more than 12 percent of the Commonwealth’s population and a larger share of its accidents. Traffic congestion in Philadelphia is among the worst in the world, second in the U.S., only to the congestion found in New York City.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 4 out of every ten motorcycle accidents involve alcohol impairment. Police arrest more than 2,000 people yearly in Philadelphia for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Alcohol impairment causes significant deficits in the skills drivers of four-wheeled vehicles and motorcycle riders need to operate their vehicles safely. While safety courses do not prevent the risk of a motorcyclist encountering a drunk driver on one of Philadelphia’s roadways, the courses teach techniques for maneuvering safely in crowded city streets. They also teach defensive techniques designed to help the rider understand the proper responses when encountering hazardous conditions.
Some of the topics commonly covered in motorcycle safety courses include:
- Learning to constantly scan the roadway in search of potential hazards such as potholes, oil spots, and loose sand on the roadway.
- How to safely slow the motorcycle down to avoid hazardous riding situations.
- The importance of leaving sufficient space between the motorcycle and other riders or drivers and permitting other vehicles who are following too closely to pass.
- The proper position in a travel lane that avoids riding in a driver’s blind spot.
- The importance of avoiding inclement weather when riding and tips to stay safe if caught in a sudden rainstorm.
- How to safely pass other vehicles.
- The importance of avoiding operating the motorcycle when fatigued or impaired.
- How to negotiate sharp curves safely, and the braking techniques needed to avoid skidding.
Obtaining the Gear Needed for the Class (and Your Safety)
The Basic Rider Course offered through the PMSP provides motorcycles and safety gear for participants—many of whom are interested in learning more about motorcycle riding but have not yet had the opportunity to purchase those items. However, participants must have their own motorcycle and gear for all the other classes, including the Basic Rider 2 and 3-Wheel Basic Rider courses. Here are some things to look for.
Riders under the age of 21 or with less than two years of riding experience must wear a helmet when riding on Philadelphia’s roadways. To comply with Pennsylvania’s helmet law, the helmet must satisfy the safety standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
These helmets will come with a yellow “DOT” safety sticker and must also be permanently labeled with information including the name of the manufacturer, the model name, size, and the month and year when the helmet was manufactured. The DOT sticker will appear on the helmet’s outer shell, while the other information must be included in an area permanently fixed to the helmet that can be seen without removing padding.
It is important to note that helmets are something you will want to buy new, rather than using a hand-me-down from a friend or relative or purchasing used at a yard sale or online. Not only is a used helmet less likely to fit properly to your head, but the materials used to make the helmet can degrade over time or could have sustained damage from a past accident or even from being dropped. Damage is not necessarily apparent just by looking at the outside surface.
Most helmets need to be replaced every five years, when the rider has been in an accident, or if the helmet has been dropped. The bright side to replacing your helmet every five years—in addition to providing the best protection possible for your head in the event of an accident—is that motorcycle helmet technology continues to improve each year. This means you are bound to find some new features when it comes time to replace it.
Protective Eye Wear
Riders in Pennsylvania are required to wear protective eyewear to prevent injury to the eyes from bugs, wind, and flying debris that could impair the rider’s ability to see the roadway. No specific type of eyewear is required, but PennDOT strongly recommends that riders obtain shatter-proof protection.
Optional Gear to Enhance Safety
Motorcyclists are at a significantly increased risk of death or severe injury every time they ride compared to the death and injury risk of occupants of other vehicle types. Much of this risk is due to the absence of the protective features found in cars, such as steel frames, seat belts, and airbags. While Pennsylvania does not require riders to wear specific clothing, several articles of clothing can help the rider avoid injuries such as road rash, which occur when the rider’s skin makes contact with a rough surface such as an asphalt road.
Riders should avoid clothing such as shorts or sandals, opting for long pants and protective shoes with a high ankle and little to no heel. Full-fingered gloves can protect the rider’s hands. Many riders opt for a riding suit made of leather or ballistic material. Often riding suits provide extra protection for areas commonly impacted in crashes, such as the elbows and knees.
How to Find a Rider Training Course in Philadelphia
Riders can learn about the motorcycle safety courses offered in Philadelphia by visiting the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services page dedicated to the topic and searching for courses in their area being offered by third-party vendors through the PMSP. The search provides a location of the courses and the vendor’s website showing the sessions. Interested riders can enroll in the course directly through the vendor’s website.
If in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else’s negligence injured you, let a motorcycle accident lawyer seek compensation for your financial and emotional costs. Start with a free case evaluation.