David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator
Now that I have looked at motorcycle safety from behind the handlebars I have to admit that my perspective has expanded. As Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, I am well used to looking at motorcycle safety as a critical part of our mission to reduce motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. In fact, in recent years motorcycle safety has been particularly critical to our mission since numbers for nearly every other road user were declining and motorcycle deaths continued to increase. But after having taken the MSF Basic RiderCourse recently, I now see this part of our mission from several directions.
I signed up for the Basic RiderCourse because I wanted to experience rider training in the same way as those half-million or so others who make this choice every year. I felt that if motorcycling is that important to my mission, I should understand it from every angle. Basically, I wanted to walk a mile in their motorcycle boots. What I found was a course that gave me a real sense of accomplishment and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And I was encouraged to see that the course was not only physically demanding but also mentally challenging.
I was most impressed by the quality of the trainers. In the classroom, they continually reinforced the importance of wearing proper protective gear, riding unimpaired, obeying traffic laws, respecting the traffic and pedestrians around you, and making safe decisions on the motorcycle. The instructors were very skilled, not only with teaching the technical aspects of riding, but also in caring for an eclectic group of new riders – including several like myself who had never been behind handlebars – and helping us decide whether we and motorcycling were a good match.
Taking the BRC gave me a new appreciation for the motorcycle training community, and their dedication and patience in introducing students from all walks of life – and varying levels of anxiety and self-doubt – to safe motorcycle riding. I was also surprised by just how challenging it is to ride a motorcycle. Riding safely is much more difficult than it looks and I now understand why the safety fundamentals, like wearing a quality helmet that meets federal standards and riding sober, show up so clearly in our crash data. But moreover, spending a weekend on a bike gave me an appreciation of why riders are so passionate about motorcycling.