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.

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

2018 – 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.

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.

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.  

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.