This section presents the available research on the impact of rider training for reducing crash risk.  Motorcycle rider training teaches people the skills for riding on public roads. It is the equivalent of driver’s education for car drivers. Training is designed to teach riders how to safely and confidently operate a motorcycle, help riders to manage the risks of riding and provide a path to gaining a proper license.

One common assumption is that trained motorcyclists have fewer crashes.  Therefore, there is community demand for investment in rider training programs as a crash risk reduction measure.

The effect of rider training is quite possibly similar to that for driver training.  A critical examination of the  driver training literature concluded that prior to Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws that any effects of training are very small and short-lived and offset by the impact of training in accelerating licensure of young drivers.  A recent systematic review  of systematic reviews concludes there was no evidence that driver education is an effective approach to reducing crashes or injuries.

Though driver education and motorcycle rider training cannot be directly compared, many of the rider training studies published have also questioned the value of motorcyclist training.  Reviews of the rider training literature show that there is no consensus for the validity of the common assumption that trained riders have fewer crashes.  On the basis of the currently available literature reviews, the assumption that training decreases accident involvement cannot be wholly accepted as true. Here is a  Rider Training Research Reference List that includes studies in addition to those posted below.

There remain, however many great reasons for participating in formal training opportunities.

Training Research Studies

2021 – “Investigation of the Speeding Behavior of Motorcyclists Through an Innovative Smartphone Application” – ABSTRACT

The objectives of this study were: (i) to explore the riding behavior of motorcyclists while speeding, based on detailed riding analytics collected by smartphone sensors, and (ii) to investigate whether personalized feedback can improve motorcyclist behavior. The research contributes a preliminary example of the quantitative documentation of the impact of personalized rider feedback on one of the most important human risk factors; speeding. The  results capture and quantify the positive effects of rider feedback, thus providing needed impetus for larger-scale applications as well as relevant policy interventions.

2021 – “Human Error in Motorcycle Crashes: A Methodology Based on In-depth Data to Identify the Skills Needed and Support Training Interventions for Safe Riding”

Human error is considered the primary factor contributing to crashes involving powered-two-wheelers (PTW), however no human-factors-based crash analysis methodology has been developed to support effectiveness of rider training interventions. Our aim is to define a methodology that uses in-depth data to identify the skills needed by riders in the highest risk crash configurations to reduce casualty rates.  Multi-vehicle crashes cannot be considered as a homogenous category of crashes to which the same human failure is attributed, as different interactions between motorcyclists and other road users are associated with both different types of human error and different rider reactions.

2021 – “Exploring the Relationship Between Entry-level motorcycle Rider Training and Motorcycle Crashes”

This study highlights the need for data to include exposure data and linkages to injury, citation, training and crash data.  After a linkable training database is developed, there will be a period of time before crash, citation, and injury data can be analyzed.  

2021 – “Braking Capabilities of Motorcyclists – An Update Literature Review”

This article reviews published  studies related to the deceleration that motorcyclists can produce by braking. An important concept the article points out is the difference between the braking capabilities of a motorcycle and the deceleration an average rider can achieve on that motorcycle.  Most riders will not be capable of fully utilizing the braking capabilities of their motorcycle. Second, most studies are conducted with riders who were not confronted with actual emergency situations.  

2019 – “Loss of Control Prediction for Motorcycles during Emergency Braking Maneuvers Using a Supervised Learning Algorithm”

The most common evasive maneuver among motorcycle riders and one of the most complicated to perform in emergency situations is braking. Because of the inherent instability of motorcycles, motorcycle crashes are frequently caused by loss of control performing braking as an evasive maneuver. Understanding the motion conditions that lead riders to start losing control is essential for defining countermeasures capable of minimizing the risk of this type of crashes. This paper provides predictive models to classify unsafe loss of control braking maneuvers on a straight line before becoming irreversibly unstable.   The loss of control predictive models developed may provide support to: (a) active safety systems developments; and (b) training actions aiming to improve rider’s skills with objective indicators of the controllability of the braking maneuver.  

2019 – “Emergency Braking Performance of Motorcycle Riders: Skill Identification in a Real-life Perception-action Task Designed for Training Purposes”

Comparing braking performance in the emergency scenario designed with a more standard hard braking task, this research showed that there were differences in the way of braking in the initial phase. The initial jerk of the riders after detecting an unpredicted hazard presence on the road (car crossing in front of the PTW) was different (mainly higher) than during planned hard braking test.  Previous authors have cautioned that training for improved skill may produce overconfidence or sensation-seeking behaviour, that does not translate to improved safety.

2019 – Rider Training Research Summary

This is a special edition of the SMARTER member newsletter Riding Smart which reviews the research regarding the lack of effectiveness of rider training for reducing the risk of crashing.  This edition also includes brief articles addressing the possible reasons rider training is not effective, possible fixes and an opinion article by the SMARTER President.

2017 – “Enhancing Higher-Order Skills Education and Assessment in a Graduated Motorcycle Licensing System”

The objective of this research was to develop an education and assessment curriculum commensurate with best practice that included on-road components and increased focus on awareness, judgment, and decision-making skills. No single best-practice curriculum was identified in the published literature.  Therefore, curriculum content was developed based on exemplary Australian and international curricula, behaviour change theory, and adult learning principles; including transitioning from training to coaching and from testing to competency-based assessment. (See 2018 – “Recommendations for a Graduated Licensing System for Motorcyclists in South Australia” posted in RESEARCH-LICENSING)

2015 – “Long-Lasting Virtual Motorcycle-Riding Trainer Effectiveness”

This work aimed to test the long-lasting effects of learning acquired with a virtual motorcycle-riding trainer as a tool to improve hazard perception.  The present data confirm our main expectation that the effectiveness of the riding training simulator on the ability to cope with potentially dangerous situations persists over time and provides additional evidence in favor of the idea that simulators may be considered useful tools for training the ability to detect and react to hazards, leading to an improvement of this higher-order cognitive skill that persists over time.    

2015 – “Does an On-road Motorcycle Coaching Program Reduce Crashes in Novice Riders? A Randomized Control Trial”

This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of a program called “VicRide” in reducing crash involvement for novice motorcycle riders in Victoria. There was no evidence that this on-road motorcycle rider coaching program reduced the risk of crash, and researchers found an increase in crash-related risk factors for trained riders.

2014 – “The Role of Experience and Advanced Training on Performance in a Motorcycle Simulator”

The current research assessed the impact of experience and advanced training on rider behavior using a motorcycle simulator. Novice riders, experienced riders and riders with advanced training traversed a virtual world through varying speed limits and roadways of different curvature.  The results suggest that experience and advanced training lead to changes in behavior compared to novice riders which can be interpreted as having a potentially positive impact on road safety.

2014 – “Evaluation Advanced Training Course for Motorcyclists – RISK”

This is an evaluation of a one-day Dutch advanced rider training program called Risk.  These results were published in 2015 under the title A Randomized Controlled Evaluation Study of the Effects of a One-day Advanced Rider Training (Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 79, June 2015, Pages 152-159).  This one-day course teaches motorcyclists to recognize, analyze, and anticipate potential traffic hazards.  Results from the two-year evaluation indicate that the ‘Risk’ training has a positive effect on safe riding behavior and hazard perception.  While the evaluation suggests that the training has a positive effect on safe riding behaviors, whether this type of training course indeed reduces the risk of crashes could not be established in this study.      

2013 – “The Effect of Sight Distance Training on the Visual Scanning of Motorcycle Riders: A Preliminary Look”

This is not the typical type of operational skills training.  Very little is known about the effect of motorcycle rider training on visual scanning and sight distance techniques in naturalistic riding situations.  This study collected naturalistic data from a mix of novice and experienced motorcycle riders on a closed course and an open course.  Findings preliminarily suggest that there may be a relationship between training and feedback on sight distance and sight distance behavior on the road.

2012 – “Negotiating Left-Hand and Right-Hand Bends: A Motorcycle Simulator Study to Investigate Experiential and Behaviour Differences Across Rider Groups”

Why do motorcyclists crash on bends? To address this question, we examined the riding styles of three groups of motorcyclists on a motorcycle simulator. The results suggest that non-advanced riders were more likely to choose an inappropriate lane position than an inappropriate speed when entering a bend. Furthermore, the findings support the theory that expertise is achieved as a result of relearning, with advanced training overriding ‘bad habits’ gained through experience alone.  

2012 – “Motorcycle Rider Safety Project – Queensland.”

This program of research was undertaken to produce knowledge to assist (Department of Transportation)  to improve motorcycle safety by further strengthening the licensing and training system to make learner riders safer by developing a pre-learner package (Deliverable 1), and by evaluating the Q-Ride CAP program to ensure that it is maximally effective and contributes to the best possible training for new riders (Deliverable 2), and identifying potential new licensing components that will reduce the incidence of risky riding and improve higher-order cognitive skills in new riders (Deliverable 3).

2010 – “Approaches to the Assessment of Entry-Level Motorcycle Training: An Expert Panel Discussion

While basic rider courses teach important skills, the effectiveness of training as a safety countermeasure to reduce motorcycle crashes is unclear. Studies conducted in the United States and abroad to evaluate rider training have found mixed evidence for the effect of rider training on motorcycle crashes. Therefore, it is still unclear as to what extent rider training reduces crash involvement. There are several important issues to consider when evaluating rider training to allow for any firm conclusions on the relationship between rider training and crashes. Because these issues can make evaluating entry-level rider training difficult, NHTSA sponsored an expert panel of motorcycle safety researchers and training specialists to determine the feasibility of conducting a study to evaluate the effectiveness of entry-level rider training on reducing motorcycle crashes.  

2010 – “Motorcycle Rider Training for Preventing Road Traffic Crashes”

A review by the Cochran collaboration of 23 research studies that report an evaluation of the effectiveness of motorcycle rider courses in reducing the number of traffic offences, motorcycle rider crashes, injuries and deaths.  Due to the poor quality of studies identified, the researchers were unable to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of rider training on crash, injury, or offence rates.

2009 – “Motorcycle Collision Coverage Claims in States with Required Motorcycle Rider Training”

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.  

2009 – “Effectiveness of Motorcycle Training and Licensing” 

This literature review looked at the effectiveness of motorcycle education courses by examining the effect that training had on accident rates, violation rates, and personal protective equipment use found through past research. The methods, findings, and conclusions of seven independent studies were compared to evaluate the effectiveness of motorcycle training. One common assumption is that trained motorcyclists have fewer accidents. A review of the literature shows that there is no consensus for the validity of this assumption. This study also reviewed different motorcycle licensure systems and their effectiveness.

2008 – “Motorcycle Rider Training and Perceptions of Skill”

It has been argued that driver training can inadvertently result in novice driver overconfidence which may be counterproductive to the safety goals of training. A similar concern can be expressed in regard to novice motorcycle rider training. Overconfidence is posited to generate from trainees’ overestimation of their own skill levels following training, potentially contributing to risk taking once unsupervised in the traffic environment. The challenge for training practitioners is therefore to foster and reinforce skill development whilst limiting inflated trainee perceptions of their riding abilities.

2007 – “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks?: Training and Older Motorcyclists”

Past studies of the effects of motorcycle training on crash involvement have shown mixed results.  This paper examines the training history of a sample of older riders and the links to their crash involvement.  There was no significant relationship between involvement in one or more crashes and having completed a training course. There was no significant relationship either for single vehicle crashes or for multi-vehicle crashes although there was a trend towards an association between having completed training and involvement in multiple vehicle crashes.

2007 – “Effectiveness of Motorcycle Training and Motorcyclists’ Risk-Taking Behavior”

In this study a 2005 sample of Indiana motorcyclists was used to estimate statistical models of the effectiveness of existing training programs in reducing accident probabilities. The findings showed that those individuals who took beginning rider training courses were more likely to be involved in an accident than those who did not and that those who took the beginning course more than once were much more likely to be involved in an accident.

2006 – “Rider Training and Collision Avoidance in Thailand & Los Angeles Motorcycle Crashes”

Both the Thailand and Hurt studies concur that the time from the precipitating event that begins the collision sequence to the impact itself is so short – less than three seconds in the great majority of cases – that even a well-chosen, well-executed evasive action is unlikely to be effective. This suggests that rider training should emphasize teaching riders the knowledge and skills needed to prevent a precipitating event from occurring, rather than how to react after it has already occurred.

2005 – “Review of Motorcycle Licensing and Training”

This research suggests that any safety benefits of motorcycle licensing and training probably result more from reductions in the total amount of riding than from reductions in crash risk per kilometer travelled. The system proposed should lead to improved safety outcomes because of the increased minimum age, longer provisional period and the greater duration of training.  

2005 – “ Identifying Best Practices States in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing”

This study evaluated the government-sponsored training programs in each state on the basis of three main categories; administration, education and licensing.  There was a wide range of scores, and according to the authors, this variance represents differences in the effectiveness of each state’s programs.  The same curricula, when presented at different training sites, can differ in effectiveness.  However, states with higher rating scores were correlated with lower fatality rates.  

2003 – “Evaluation of Bikesafe Scotland”

Abstract.  The evaluation finds that after taking the program, there was an improvement in the proportion of participants who never or rarely braked too rapidly on a slippery road or nearly lost control on bends. Defensive riding was also successfully promoted by the program. However, some riders may have increased their speed outside built up areas as a result of the course.  Therefore it is suggested that the course should be modified to take more account of motorcyclists' attitudes.  

2001 – “Evaluation of the California Motorcyclist Safety Program”

This paper describes the evaluation activities undertaken to assess the program's impact on motorcycle accidents in California.   In addition, the paper begins with a summary the key characteristics and conclusions of matched-sample studies conducted since the early 1980s. The report concludes "By any measure, the CMSP is a cost-effective Program that pays for itself many times over in saved lives and reduced accident rates. " Training makes You Better, Not Safer - Debunking the Billheimer Myth. This is a PowerPoint presentation debunking the Billheimer study conclusion.   The presentation is by the National Motorcycle Institute.