Motorcycle safety tips, rider education courses available at ISU

June 21 2007

With summer officially here, and motorcyclists rolling their wheels out of winter storage and onto the roads, an Indiana State University driver safety expert offers tips for an accident-free riding season.

Stan Henderson, associate professor of health and safety, and program coordinator for the driver education instructor training program, says new as well as experienced riders should freshen up their riding skills.

The state of Indiana’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Education Program at ISU can help riders at all levels.

In the Basic Rider Course, those who have never ridden before can test the waters to see if motorcycling is for them; and new riders seeking a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license can gain credits which lead to a waiver of the skills test at the bureau of motor vehicles.

In the Experienced Rider Course, cyclists can obtain their motorcycle endorsement if they’re still riding on a permit; and those who already have their endorsement can increase their knowledge of motorcycle dynamics and street-riding strategies, and practice advanced street-riding skills on their own motorcycle in a controlled environment.

Fatalities from motorcycle accidents in Indiana have been cut in half since the voluntary Motorcycle Safety Program began. In 1987, the year legislation was approved for the rider education program, riders had a one in 794 chance of being involved in a fatal crash; which is 12.6 fatalities per 10,000 registrations. Last year, riders had a one in 1,670 chance of being involved in a fatal crash; which is only six fatalities per 10,000 registrations.

Over the past 20 years, nearly 72,000 riders have been trained, with the past two years setting records for the most trained annually. In 2005, a record 7,404 riders were trained; and in 2006, the second-highest number of riders, 7,336, went through the program.

ISU is one of only three institutions contracted by the state of Indiana to offer Motorcycle Safety Program classes, along with the Kokomo School Corp. and ABATE of Indiana.

PLAYING IT SAFE ON TWO WHEELS

Henderson, who was honored this year by the Indiana Department of Education for 40 years as a motorcycle safety instructor, says cyclists need to always be on alert because other drivers on the road are not necessarily looking out for motorcycles.

“Frequently, a vehicle will hit a motorcyclist because they don’t see them,” Henderson said. “This is partially due to the fact that they aren’t looking for them, but also because motorcyclists are just harder to see. This is why we have the law that motorcyclists have to have their headlight on all the time. It’s important for cyclists to be as conspicuous as possible.”

There are several things riders can do to keep their excursions safe and enjoyable, according to Henderson:

- Gear: Wear light colors, with reflective materials on the upper body at night. Newer materials, such as mesh, keep the body cooler.

“We used to recommend leather,” Henderson said, “and while that provides protection, it also tends to hold in the heat.”

Body armor made with newer fabrics has key padding where a person might contact the roadway if they go off the cycle, Henderson says, and it’s not as hot.

Riding gear not recommended includes: shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, and flip-flops.

“If there is a crash, your bare skin is going to collide with the pavement, and we know which loses,” he said. “This will cause increased trauma to the body and there will be a less likely chance of full recovery.”

- Helmet: If the operator is riding on a learner’s permit or is under 18, they are required to wear a motorcycle helmet. Helmets are designed to protect people after they are in a crash, but they are not a cure-all, Henderson says. He recommends wearing a helmet, but says a rider should not depend upon it to keep them perfectly safe.

“Even more important than a helmet is avoiding a crash in the first place by having the right attitude toward riding �" being alert, drug-free and focused on the traffic, rather than doing risky things with the motorcycle, or talking to a passenger or on a cell phone,” he said.

For those in cars and other vehicles, Henderson says there is a role they can play as well in keeping everyone safe.

“Be patient. If you see a group of cyclists who have spaced themselves out, be courteous and don’t cut into the group,” he said. “It’s not appropriate to pass a large group of cyclists. Technically, you’re not supposed to pass more than one vehicle at a time unless you’re on a multi-lane highway.

“If you know where the cyclists are, yield the right of way when appropriate. If we act courteously to all highway users, most likely they will act courteously to us.”

LOCAL MOTORCYCLE AWARENESS EVENTS

- A Motorcycle Extravaganza is being held at Thompson’s Honda on June 22-23, to increase awareness about motorcycle options and safety skills.

- In the display cases in the first-floor browsing area of Cunningham Memorial Library at ISU, the history of motorcycling is being featured with various regalia and available resources on display.

- There are still openings for the Motorcycle Safety Program classes being held at ISU in late summer and early fall. To register for either the basic or experienced rider education class, contact ISU’s Office of Continuing Education at (812) 237-4011 or 800-234-1639. To find out more, go to: www.indstate.edu/driver/motorcycle_courses.htm. ISU’s Motorcycle Safety Program also will have a booth at the Motorcycle Extravaganza.

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CONTACT: Stan Henderson, ISU associate professor of health and safety, and program coordinator for driver education instructor training program, (812) 237-3074 or (812) 240-1897 or hshend@indstate.edu

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

With summer officially here, and motorcyclists rolling their wheels out of winter storage, ISU driver safety expert Stan Henderson offers tips for an accident-free riding season. ISU is one of only three institutions contracted by the state of Indiana to offer Motorcycle Safety Program classes.

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