Vermont motor vehicles officials are preparing a mandatory four-hour classroom course for new motorcyclists.
The state is working with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a national nonprofit organization in Irvine, Calif., to come up with the course. The foundation, which is sponsored by several motorcycle companies including Harley-Davidson, Honda and BMW, already runs a 20-hour driver training course in Vermont.
Currently new motorcycle riders must take a written test and a driving test before earning an “endorsement” on their driver’s license that allows them to operate a motorcycle. They can skip the tests if they pass a state-run driver training course.
The new mandatory course — which might not be instituted for several months, or even longer — will take place in a classroom, and will not replace the driver training, said Glen Button, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles enforcement and safety division.
There are 34,688 registered motorcycles in Vermont, and 33,855 drivers have a motorcycle endorsement, he said.
Dave Laramee of Irasburg, the head of a nonprofit group called United Motorcyclists of Vermont, said he thinks the mandatory safety course is a good idea. Right now, he said, the DMV is sending new motorcycle riders out to practice on the street.
“I don’t like laws that restrict my rights of choice,” said Laramee, who lobbied this year for a bill that would remove Vermont’s motorcycle helmet law. “But I feel that education is where you’re going to prevail when it comes to motorcycling. I think the course is great.”
Vermont’s “motorcycle awareness program” has been on the books for more than a decade, but the state Transportation Agency only recently started setting it up, said Button.
“It is a long time, but it’s also a pretty big undertaking,” said Button, who has been at his job four years. “There are logistics you have to work out; you have to come up with the appropriate curriculum, and then the delivery mechanism.”
The legislation enabling the creation of the safety course, which passed in 1990, specified that the course wouldn’t be mandatory until the state had the resources to provide it at several locations around Vermont, said Motor Vehicles Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge.
Maine is the only state that now requires motorcycle riders to undergo classroom training only, said Kathy Van Kleeck, who works for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in Virginia. About a dozen states require riding and classroom training for riders under 18 or 21, she said. Rhode Island requires it for all riders. And three states — Arkansas, Alaska, and Mississippi — don’t require any training, Van Kleeck said.
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