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Status Report, Vol. 45, No. 3 | March 31, 2010 Subscribe

Training fails to reduce crash risk of young riders

In many U.S. states, young beginners have to take a training course before they become eligible for a license to drive a motorcycle. The intent is to reduce crashes, but a new analysis of insurance claims indicates the opposite may be true.

Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analyzed motorcycle claims under collision coverage to see if crash risk is lower in states that require training for riders younger than 21, compared with states that don't require any training. The main finding is that the frequency of insurance collision claims for riders this age is 10 percent higher, not lower, where training is required. Although this difference isn't statistically significant, it contradicts the notion that motorcycle training courses reduce crashes.

A potential explanation is that riders in some states are fully licensed once they finish training. This might shorten the permit period so that riders end up with full licenses earlier than if training weren't mandated.

"Motorcycling requires unique skills, and training probably is the right way for most riders to learn them," says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the affiliated Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Just don't count on it to reduce crashes or substitute for laws requiring helmet use."

The analysis looks at collision losses in 4 states (California, Florida, Idaho, and Oregon) that require rider education for license applicants younger than 21, compared with losses in 28 states without training requirements. The study doesn't include data from 13 states that require training for riders younger than 18 or for 1 state that mandates it for riders younger than 16 because sample sizes are too small.

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