Dueling press releases: MSF adds more courses while IIHS says mandatory training results in more crash claims for those under 21

First—the Institute of Insurance Highway Safety’s press release that dealt with the conclusions from three separate studies the Institute had found regarding anti-lock brakes, helmets and rider training. It found that ABS brakes and helmets resulted in less collision claims—no surprise there. However, its finding about rider training may surprise those who aren’t regular readers of this blog: “The frequency of insurance collision claims for riders younger than 21 is 10 percent higher in states that require riders this age to take a training course before they become eligible for a license to drive a motorcycle, compared with states that don’t require training.”

This finding supports other studies that examined broader age groups: rider training with Motorcycle Safety Foundation curriculum may lead to greater—not lesser—crash involvement. The IIHS release nor it’s newsletter nor the Highway Loss Data Institute Bulletin.

This doesn’t mean, IIHS, hastened to say that training isn’t needed as the article in the institute’s in-house newsletter clarified, “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.”

“Although this difference isn’t statistically significant, it contradicts the notion that 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.”

Iow, just as we’ve discussed over a series of entries on this blog, MSF training is once again implicated not just in ineffectively preparing riders but putting at least younger ones at greater risk.

Now on to the MSF’s press release:

In a press release dated March 31, 2010, Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) President Tim Buche said, “We’re presenting a new, and much improved, way forward for all riders and raising what is generally perceived as the minimum threshold of motorcycle riding competence. We want better-prepared riders capable of higher levels of thinking out on the streets.”

The press release goes on to explain that a beginning rider needs three courses to do what MSF claimed to motorcycle rights activists, state representatives and state and federal agency officials that one course did in the past—get a rider trained enough to ride in traffic:

“Essential CORESM Curriculum,” [is what] the MSF recommends as the minimum training for every beginning rider. The Essential CORE Curriculum includes the current MSF Basic RiderCourseSM, the new Street RiderCourse that takes students into real-world traffic, and the new Basic Bike-BondingSM RiderCourse that features skill drills to help students handle their own motorcycles.”

Iow, MSF finally has come around to doing exactly what I’ve been writing about since 2004 and insisting was needed.

Buche’s statement and MSF’s tripling of minimum requirements marks an abrupt turnaround of what MSF has claimed for almost 40 years, MSF has claimed that it’s basic riding training course was sufficient to train riders to such a degree that they could—and should—get a motorcycle endorsement on their licenses for passing the course. In fact, MSF spent hundreds of thousands of man-hours and dollars to get states to give endorsements to riders upon completion of its basic training program.

Iow, at almost the same moment that IIHS says that young riders who took rider training had more collision claims, MSF says that two more courses are necessary before riders are really ready for the road.

It would appear, then, that MSF agrees with IIHS—the standard training for riders in the USA is not doing what it’s supposed to do.

One wonders exactly why MSF extended the Discovery Project one more year than it was supposed to. Did they find out what IIHS did and hope to fix it with more courses and another year to hope to find different results?

Explore posts in the same categories: Motorcycle crashes, Motorcycle licensing, Motorcycle Safety, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Motorcycle Training

27 Comments on “Dueling press releases: MSF adds more courses while IIHS says mandatory training results in more crash claims for those under 21”

  1. Big Wayne Says:


    ………. it’s = possessive (it’s your fault )

    ………. its = contraction of it + is . . .


  2. Big Wayne Says:

    ——— i get so jangled when i read it’s (instead of its ) that i got ’em backwards myself !

    ——— it’s = it is and its = the possessive, “its appearance rankles…”


  3. Big Wayne Says:

    ———- iow, electrons are cheap. why use abbreviations when you’re not being limited by space constraints ? . . .


  4. Jim Says:

    The development of a motorcyclist.
    (assuming a 6 month riding season and a few thousand miles of riding per year)
    Year 1 – Newby struggles to keep the bike upright, smoothly operated the clutch, brake and throttle and to keep the bike between the ditches. The year ends with the rider thankful only to be scared several times.

    Year 2 – Focus on street skill, lane positioning, understanding traffic flow and anticipating potentially dangerous situations. Begins thinking and understanding skills like swerving and emergency braking. Scared less often

    Year 3 – improved cornering, confidence, maybe bravado.

  5. DataDan Says:

    A mere 10%, which “isn’t statistically significant”, is absolutely no grounds for asserting that “MSF training is once again implicated not just in ineffectively preparing riders but putting at least younger ones at greater risk.”

    There are other possible explanations. Trained riders ride more, post-training, than do untrained riders. That was one of the findings of the California Program Evaluation.
    Of the matched pairs of riders who either took the BRC or did not, the trainees logged 50% more miles in the year after training. With 50% more miles, that’s 50% greater exposure to crash risk.

    I would also like to know which states were involved. California requires training for <21 riders, and Florida requires training for all riders. These are the #1 and #2 states in motorcycle registrations, and both are year-round riding states (mostly). So exposure to crash risk is higher, per year, than in, say, Pennsylvania, the #3 state, which has no training requirement.

    Finally, you imply that MSF training specifically leads to greater crash involvement. As you well know from the study done for the Australian Capital Territory, which you reported on recently: "There is no strong evidence in support of training leading to marked improvements in rider safety." This is a well-known puzzle that goes back many years, it has been observed all over the world, and it applies to driver training as well as rider training. I see no justification for singling out MSF curriculum.

  6. DataDan Says:

    Oops. PA is #4 in US motorcycle regs, behind TX (based on 2008 FHWA data). Texas, BTW, requires training for riders <18.

  7. Dave B Says:

    Maybe States will only grant the road test waiver after a student takes all three courses???

  8. gymnast Says:

    Big Wayne, I have a word for you and it’s possessive, for it owns you. After reading this essay and the your three inane comments one can only conclude that you are a sycophant. If you are a sycophant that rides a motorcycle (as opposed to an ordinary monkey humping a roller skate sycophant) you are not the first nor will you be the last to attract scorn.

  9. wmoon Says:

    DataDan, If you had read the hotlinked material, you’d know what states were used. It’s unknown how many claims were examined and if, for example, one state or another was over-represented–or underrepresented, etc. There’s many states that require training for under 18–but for some reason IIHS didn’t include them.

    And studies show that exposure is not the simplistic model you suggest–more miles=more crashes. It’s a curvilinear relationship.

    As you know, 10% is statistically significant–and IIHS doesn’t explain why it isn’t this time. And yes, the abundance of studies does find that–at best–MSF trained riders are no better or worse than untrained riders–and, at worse–have a higher rate of crashes.

    I single out MSF curriculum because it’s the only curriculum used in state programs in all but two states. And, according to MSF, Oregon’s and Idaho’s curriculum is based on the MSF one.

    Why on earth–when you’ve read the summaries of all the studies and when there’s absolutely no proof that it is effective–would you defend MSF’s curriculum?

  10. wmoon Says:

    Jim, I think that some–particularly young men–are overachievers and manage to do in one what others take three years to accomplish. ; )

  11. wmoon Says:

    Dave, That would be yet another drastic turnaround since MSF has claimed no riders will take training if it isn’t as short as possible (even to the extent that they approved one-day courses in Colorado). And that was the whole rationale of the driver’s license-waiver–the course had to be short, but the riders would be both trained and licensed–and therefore short.

    So if MSF now thinks riders should take three courses to be ready for the road–and therefore meet the meaning of the licensing laws–that’s exactly opposite of what they’ve led folks to believe. And it’s opposite of what they’ve claimed–that riders won’t take the courses and therefore won’t be licensed.

  12. Mark Weiss Says:

    Hi Wendy,

    25+ years ago, MSF’s basic curricular offering did include the first two components of the CORE list. The MRC consisted of basic instruction (equivalent to the BRC) and street riding units (equivalent to the SRC). The street riding units were open to those students who had successfully completed basic instruction.

    The MRC followup was the Better Biking Course, which was essentially a “bike bonding” component.

    Insurance costs eliminated street riding from most program’s options. I don’t know that the new course is any more affordable to offer.

    The BBC was no more popular than the old ERC, or its current descendant. How do you persuade people to WANT training?


  13. wmoon Says:

    Mark, yes–the first BRC and then the MRC had much more real content (and practice time) than the later version, the MRC:RSS which had more than the BRC. MSF has finally discovered what instructors/administrators have said for a long time–the BRC was dumbed down too far. And now they’re putting back what they had deemed unessential. It reminds me of their turnaround about how much leeway the instructors have. When the BRC came out, the instructors were encouraged to make the wording their own to deal with each student’s learning style, blah, blah. Then a a few years–and rider training deaths later–suddenly all instructors are supposed to just read what’s on the cards and no more.

    The whole thing reminds me of Toyota–and now the mining company in the news–cutting corners too far to save money or time ends up with bad things happening.

    You ask how you persuade people to WANT training? I suggest asking Lee Parks and Walt Fulton (Streetmasters) and Keith Code, Reg Pridmore, et. al. And, as I understand it, TEAM Oregon has no problem filling it’s post-basic training courses.

    Clearly there are folks that WANT training, then. They just don’t WANT MSF’s extra training courses. When people find value in something, they want it–it’s only human. That there are a plethora of additional training courses of one kind or another that manage to not just stay in business but make a profit show there is a market, it’s just one that, in an actual free market, MSF is unable to compete in because people don’t perceive there’s value there–as opposed to easily seeing the value in other post-basic training.

    And, frankly, I think MSF knows that if there was any possible and feasible alternative to basic training in a state, people would prefer that as well.

  14. Jeff Brenton Says:

    Yes, there are people who want added training. But, can anyone say whether those who want more advanced training, but “cannot find it”, are over or under represented in crash statistics?

    Lee Parks TC/ARC is still not an on-road course. Although I recommend it highly to anyone who asks, it still does not address “street smarts”, which is what I feel is the number one issue for riders.

    Current courses, I feel, adequately cover the mechanics of riding. On-road course can show the importance of planning your course of action. We can spend hours in the classroom discussing what to look for and how to process it. But it is solely the rider who can apply the techniques, when she or he decides to do so.

    Just last night, I watched a rider willingly put himself in potentially lethal situations 3 times in 10 blocks, when safe alternatives to his actions were endless. The errors this rider committed are covered in high school driver’s education, and yet, he “missed” learning them somehow. What changes to rider education would fix this? None that I can think of…

    To paraphrase the proverb, “You can lead a rider to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.”

  15. DataDan Says:

    Jeff Brenton wrote: “Lee Parks TC/ARC is still not an on-road course. Although I recommend it highly to anyone who asks, it still does not address ‘street smarts’, which is what I feel is the number one issue for riders.”

    AFAIK the only proven crash risk reducer is experience (and it’s not real clear to me which of its several effects convey the key benefits).

    So when we talk about teaching street smarts to a new rider–and I absolutely agree that is the #1 issue–what we’re talking about is somehow imparting the benefits of experience. Without, of course, the years of unpleasant surprises, close calls, and actual crashes it seems to take to earn the coveted Street Smarts merit badge.

    The hoped-for benefit of on-road training is that the rider will get a leg up toward attainment of street smarts under the watchful eye of an instructor. But I am becoming increasingly pessimistic that this is even possible. Is there a model outside of motorcycling and driving that shows how the benefits of experience can be distilled and taught?

  16. wmoon Says:

    Data Dan, I’d suggest that there are models out there–not perfect ones but ones that offer some similarities. For example, Navy SEAL training and the FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) both have high stress/pressure training that offer, imo, many insights into how rider training can be improved–and put the lie to many things MSF says training should and shouldn’t be. Sky diver training also is interesting to examine and so is piloting a plane.

    All of these are activities that offer real life/real time risks. FLETC involves officers that have already undergone training (for example, they already know how to fire a gun). But here’s the thing–you think experience is key–you may want to read this paper from FLETC:

    I’d be interested in what you think of it and how it could apply to training students.

  17. Jim Says:

    “Jim, I think that some–particularly young men–are overachievers and manage to do in one what others take three years to accomplish. ; )”

    Nah, the bravado simply sets in sooner.

  18. Mark Weiss Says:


    Looking at the success enjoyed by Code, Pridmore, Parks, & others. One has to wonder about the chicken/egg situation. Are these other courses successful because they are innovative and exciting, stimulating riders’ interest, or are they successful because their creators saw an open niche and designed a course to fit. Created programs that would appeal to those who already want additional training experiences?

    Then there’s the question of Safety. It’s part of Streetmasters, somewhat in the background with Code, how about the others? I’ve been through several other programs and found that while raising the bar on skill is definitely a key component (fun too!), that road safety rarely seems to be a major concern. People are willing to pay a lot for fun (just check the fees for the Schwantz school, or one of Code’s “camp” schools) but is that really what they need to be better riders? How do you persuade riders to want Safety?


  19. wmoon Says:

    Mark, Safety is a big message in TEAM Oregon’s Advanced Rider Training course. From what I hear it’s a big part of why people take Lee Park’s course. I have to agree with you about track days and schools that emphasize techniques that are better left on the track. However, from those I know who have taken them, riders are well aware of of where those techniques are meant to be used. But I certainly can’t expect that’s universal. I certainly can’t speak to why track days were designed those a Brit friend of mine who researches these sorts of things for a living found that over there a perceived demand gave rise to the first ones and success to imitators.

    I would suggest that MSF, just like with the basic courses, imitated its betters when it came up with the sportbike course and in traffic course and getting familiar with your own bike course. There are always those who take advantage of others’ ingenuity…

    How do you get people to want safety? That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Especially when MSF marketed its basic course as being all the safety one needed…

  20. Dave B Says:

    OK. I’ll throw my $.02 in….I think if you lay the groundwork during the BRC for additional courses, a percentage of students who complete the BRC will take additional training. (Probably the case in Oregon) .

    The downside to the MSF additional courses is that they aren’t offered that often (at least that’s the case here in NJ & NY). The providers don’t make that much money from offering the ERC. The BRC is the money maker. ERC’s are offered maybe every 3-4 months.

    The MSF Sport Bike Course (for sport bikes and crusiers) should be a hit with the BRC graduates but the downside is that not every provider can offer it since you need a different (larger) range.

    Lee’s course and others promote trail braking and leaning off the bike. That’s an interesting hook, one that hooked me several years ago since the MSF never mentioned the two. I do use both techniques in turns for the additional traction.

    Years ago, one of the providers I taught for offered a 2-part patch – one patch for taking the RSS and another matching patch for taking the old ERC. Students took the ERC to get the additional patch. Rider’s Edge is now offering something similiar to this – if you take both courses (BRC & ERC) you get a patch & pin, and dealership and corporate mailings before the general public does. Seems to work.

  21. Mark Weiss Says:


    Considering that MSF has had at least one level of safety curricula beyond their basic course for at least the past 26 years, when was the basic level course marketed as “all the safety that one needed…”?

    Dave B. should note that conserving ground clearance by leaning off of the bike was included in MSF’s 1986 Experienced RiderCourse. It’s also been in the “Guide to Motorcycling Excellence”. I’d never heard that leaning off created additional traction though.



  22. Dave B Says:


    You’ve been teaching a lot longer than I have (I started in 1996) and have been involved in many of the MSF test studies. I enjoy your insights on the MSF List Serv.

    Question: If you minimize your lean angle in a turn(outside, inside, outside or lean your body off the motorcycle to keep the motorcycle more upright, doesn’t it give you more traction/traction reserve?

    That’s what my Total Control instructor stated. Interested in your thoughts….

  23. Jeff Brenton Says:

    Question: If you minimize your lean angle in a turn(outside, inside, outside or lean your body off the motorcycle to keep the motorcycle more upright, doesn’t it give you more traction/traction reserve?

    Not really. Traction remains a factor of the friction of the contact patch on the surface. If the patch is approximately the same size at different lean angles, then the available traction is the same.

    But, leaning in will allow you to compensate for parts of the bike hitting the ground and (a) adding drag, requiring more traction be used for driving force, as well as (b) lifting the tires off the ground, shrinking the contact patch, reducing available traction.

  24. Mark Weiss Says:


    Traction is the product of Force and Coefficient of friction. Force is the result of the normal downward pull of gravity. Cf is a combination of the tire and the road surface. Lean angle does not change any of the factors which determine traction available.

    Traction Reserve is different. If you reduce a force that is using traction, then you have more traction held in reserve. Lean angle itself does not consume traction, but cornering force does. If you reduce cornering speed, traction used is reduced and you have more in reserve. Changing lean angle, via adjustments in body position, without changing speed, does change the amount of ground clearance but does not change traction use.

    The only way to increase traction reserve in a turn is to ride the curve at a lower speed.


  25. Mark Weiss Says:


    The size of the tire’s contact patch to the road surface plays an indirect role in traction generated. While the size of the patch does not directly affect either of the two factors which determine traction, the size of the contact area can affect the quality of the contact between the tire and the road. A small contact patch is much more readily compromised by faults in (or on) the road surface, or even with the tire itself. Large contact areas are more readily able to bridge such defects.


  26. Mark Weiss Says:

    Looks like we’ve taken a wild tangent here (mostly my fault). If the discussion of traction should go further, it should probably pop over to the RETSORG forum? It might be interesting to find out what others know (and don’t know).


  27. Bill Says:

    “The MSF Sport Bike Course (for sport bikes and crusiers) should be a hit with the BRC graduates but the downside is that not every provider can offer it since you need a different (larger) range.”

    Huh? The Military Sportbike Rider Course used a standard range. Thought the civilian version was basically the same.

    I always liked the idea of taking the BRC to get your permit and after 6 months supervised (relative, friend) riding on the permit taking the ERC, then getting your license. I posted that idea before and some folks said they didn’t have another rider available, but as discussed here, just another niche some enterprising people would fill.
    Would like to think that when there is another person with little experience under the care of a licensed rider, that the licensed rider would make safety a priority. So far this year, the group ride post reports I have read say that is not always the case with inexperienced riders crashing due to “trying to keep up”.
    As for traction, Mr. Jim Davis has some interesting articles on his website. Right Gymnast?

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