Motorcyle Safety

August 6, 2014  
Filed under Travel

August 2014

Bike travel

There are reasons police officers, firefighters and paramedics sometimes refer to two-wheeled transportation as “murdercycles” or “donorcycles.”
In Vermont last year, there were five of them — five motorcyclists killed on this state’s roads and highways.
But it’s possible to be relatively safe on a motorcycle — with a little preparation.
Studies are mixed on whether a motorcycle safety course reduces a motorcyclist’s risk of injury or death. Many experienced riders though (including this author) and Vermont Department of Transportation motorcycle safety instructor Patrick McManamon are big believers in motorcycle safety courses — and a federally certified crash helmet.
“Motorcycle safety education is extremely important. The basic course teaches you not only basic skills on how to ride, but also what you should be looking for,” McManamon said. “It teaches you crash avoidance by looking ahead and making decisions based on what you’re seeing that’ll help you stay safe.”
The courses also emphasize the proper safety equipment — both for the rider and on the motorcycle itself.
“You’ll learn about the riding gear you should be wearing that will protect you because unlike in a car or truck, you’re not in that steel cage, you’re out there exposed to the elements,” said McManamon, who has been a certified safety instructor for 10 years. “It’s extremely important to wear not only a DOT-approved helmet, but the proper riding gear to protect yourself.”
Many riders would argue that while worthy of considerable respect, a motorcycle in and of itself isn’t inherently dangerous. Some would say the most dangerous thing to a motorcyclist is an inattentive or inexperienced driver in a car or in a truck — particularly those who are distracted by eating, talking on the telephone or perhaps worst of all, by texting or surfing the ‘net on a cell phone or their vehicle’s “infotainment” system.
“Unfortunately, most car drivers are not looking for motorcyclists,” McManamon said. “Motorcycles, just because of their size, can be hard to see and with texting, cell phones and all the other distractions, people just don’t see us. I think all-around, it’s an extremely important class.”
Forewarned is forearmed and all would agree that learning basic and advanced operation and defensive driving skills cannot hurt even the most experienced motorcyclist. Some — including six states that require them for all riders and 19 more that require them for riders younger than a specified age, usually 18 or 21 years — would argue that certified instruction is a must for novice riders.
Most states and many motorcycle dealerships offer rider safety programs based on the standards set by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and those courses have been available in the Green Mountain State since 1990 at prices that are often lower or at least very competitive with commercial programs.
In Vermont, the state Department of Motor Vehicles offers comprehensive motorcycle and scooter courses under its Vermont Motorcycle Awareness Program (VMAP) and Vermont Rider Education Program (VREP) from April through September with weekday and weekend courses around the state in Highgate, Colchester, South Burlington, Berlin, St. Johnsbury, Pittsford, Rutland and Brattleboro. A schedule is available online at Sign up early because the courses fill quickly.

local courses:
• Basic RiderCourse (BRC)
For beginners, those with little or limited experience or those who haven’t ridden in a few years, this course teaches the basic skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle in traffic. The 18-hour course includes a minimum of five hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of riding exercises on a closed course.
To attend, a rider must be at least 16 years old, have a valid Vermont driver’s license (no motorcycle learner’s permit needed) and have a 3/4 or full-face helmet, protective eyewear, heavy duty long-sleeved shirt or jacket, heavy long pants such as blue jeans, full-fingered gloves and sturdy shoes (not sneakers) that cover the ankles. Cost is $175 and those who successfully complete the course are exempt from taking the written and riding skill tests to get a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. Many insurers offer premium discounts of up to 20 percent for those who complete this course.
• Intermediate RiderCourse (IRC)
A one-day course for students who have completed the BRC but would like more practice time on the motorcycle. Same requirements as the BRC. Cost: $85.
• Experienced Rider License Waiver Course (ERC-License Waiver)
One-day course designed for riders who have basic motorcycle skills taught in the BRC but do not have a motorcycle endorsement on their license. Requires a valid State of Vermont motorcycle permit. Same requirements as the BRC with the addition that students can bring their own registered, inspected and insured street-legal motorcycles in good mechanical condition or use a DMV-provided motorcycle for an extra fee. Cost: $95; $105 with DMV-provided motorcycle.
• Experienced Rider Skills Plus Course (ERC-Plus)
One-day course for riders who are already licensed and frequently ride. Includes riding exercises and discussions on motorcycle safety including emergency braking, swerving, proper cornering techniques and slow speed maneuvers. Must use your own road-legal motorcycle and have same clothing and gear as required in BRC. Cost: $80.
• RiderCoach Preparation Course (RCP)
An 80-hour course that teaches experienced riders how to teach the MSF’s Basic Rider Course curriculum. Candidates must be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement that has not been suspended or revoked over the past two years, no convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs over the preceding five years and at least four years of experience riding a motorcycle over the preceding five years. Course completion requires a home study assignment, skills and knowledge tests and student teaching assignments. Those who pass will be certified as a RiderCoach and are eligible to work for the VREP. Applicants should call the program coordinator at 802-828-2068 for more information.

For information about VREP, VMAP or other safety programs offered by the State of Vermont, log on to or call 1-800-529-2535.


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