Do you have a motorcycle license? There seem to be a lot of riders who have never gone to the trouble of getting one. It’s not surprising in one sense, many will do whatever they can get away with and if they can buy a bike and ride without a license, that’s what they do. In the U.S., motorcycle licensing doesn’t seem to be as strictly enforced as elsewhere, once you have a driver’s license you’re good to go even though the necessary knowledge of how to operate a motorcycle is no part of learning to drive a car. If you get stopped for a traffic violation you will probably get charged for not having the motorcycle classification but that’s the only time it will be a problem. This may vary from state to state but getting that certification really shouldn’t be optional.
In other countries, not only is there a strict licensing requirement to begin with, the license works under a tiered system where new riders can only ride lower displacement bikes until they have had a certain amount of experience. I have to admit, that isn’t a bad idea. Here, once you get a license, you have nothing to stop you from laying out the cash and riding off on a brand new Hayabusa, even if it’s your very first bike.
Another side to this argument, though, is that riding time doesn’t equal skill. Some young riders with high interest and lots of practice can quickly master the most powerful bikes, the limit in these cases is the maturity and individual responsibility to keep it under control on the street. Some riders with years under their belts should never progress beyond a 250cc beginner bike because they have no self control or just never quite get the hang of it.
Are motorcycles any different in this sense than cars? A new driver with sufficient cash can buy a Viper or Vette, too. The same laws of physics apply and a heavy right foot without sufficient maturity can launch that car into a tree quite easily and injure and kill a lot of other people along the way. Motorcycles can certainly be dangerous to the inexperienced rider but cars can be dangerous to a lot of others as well.
Tighter licensing requirements, tiered licensing and all sorts of extra controls on riders and drivers is a subject that periodically comes up for debate. Periodic re-examination might be a good idea for drivers of all tyes of vehicles but I’m not sure we need to get too strict to begin. There are many arguments in favor of tightening up but I think good enforcement of traffic laws on the roads can get the really troublesome riders and drivers off the street. After all, some people up front may look like a bad risk and yet turn out to be excellent riders while the perfect candidate for a bike may end up in multiple accidents or get repeated violations. Licenses and certifications can’t see into the future.
Here at The Kneeslider, we strongly endorse the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and their rider training courses held throughout the country. Usually, successful completion of the course will result in a motorcycle certification for your license. In the very least, we need to do that. But do we need a lot more? That’s open to debate. Thoughts?