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Unendorsed Riders In Washington State

The Impact of Non-Endorsed Motorcyclists

It's estimated that between 28% and 33% of motorcyclists riding today in Washington State do not have Motorcycle Endorsements. This is undeniably the largest issue facing our motorcycling community today.

Ever wondered why it takes 3-5 months to get a reservation for a Motorcycle Safety Course? The reasons are many, but one major issue is that the program is underfunded and supply doesn't meet demand. It's a catch 22. Someone wants to take the course, but the wait is so long they ditch the idea and start riding. Some go ahead and get the state required endorsement, others do not.

Watch the Department of Licensing (DOL) administer the moving test for motorcycle endorsements sometime; you'll know which of the riders skipped the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class and went straight for an endorsement. As soon as the cones come out, riders are putting their feet down and blowing the exam. A number of them are there because they didn't want to wait up to five months to learn proper riding skills through an MSF safety course. Would you?

Taking the percentage from the first paragraph and turning it into a number means approximately 35,000 motorcyclists are riding in Washington state without an endorsement. Those of us who get an endorsement every five years pay an additional $25 to do so, and that money funds the state safety program. $170,000 is lost each year as a result of those who ride, but are not endorsed.

The fine for riding without an endorsement is a measly$71, and although it seems meager when compared to the cost of a $271 carpool violation (driving a car in the carpool lane with no passengers),it's not the only cost. Unendorsed riding impacts everyone by increasing the danger posed by the number of unskilled riders, and a $271 fine would do a lot more to incite a rider to get an endorsement. And what could we do with that additional $200? Let's pump it into the Safety Program.

If dollars are what impact your decision making process and the $71 fine isn't enough incentive, consider this: Washington State Patrol (WSP) claims they are liable for your safety if you're caught riding without an endorsement. Without that endorsement, they are required by law to have your motorcycle towed. (In other words, if they let you go and you crash driving away, the liability is on the state.) So on top of your $71 fine you pay to get the bike out of impound. A WSP spokesperson guarantees they will uphold this. Some riders say they don't. Would you want to find out first-hand if they do?

Other costs aren't monetary. Many non-endorsed riders are lethal weapons. "My friend showed me how to ride when I was a kid and I've been riding ever since, but I don't have an endorsement" is a common line. Could such a person pass the written or moving test? Could such a person get out of a jam without the learned basic skills? "Home schooled" doesn't work when you understand that motorcycle riding requires twice as many motor skills as operating an automobile. Uncle Billy Bob didn't teach you everything you need to know in that there cornfield, parking lot, or side street.

You can spot unendorsed riders when there's a group ride. They typically don't grasp the concept of diagonal positioning (staggering each other left-then-right with a second or more of space between them and the rider in front). Instead they are right behind you, right on your tail, or attempting to ride directly to the left or right of you. That works nice for police squadrons in parades, but is highly dangerous in non-exhibition riding.

Unendorsed riders also account for 28% of the riders killed each year in motorcycle related accidents. In many cases these riders are dangerous weapons to both themselves and others around them, regardless of whether the accident is their fault, or how long they have been riding.

Another line I've hear is "�the DOL didn't recognize my endorsement when I moved here from another state, and I don't have time to take the moving exam." OK, do you have time topay $71 violations and pull your bike out of impound? Do you support funding the MSF program so that more potential riders get the training they need? Washington state currently allows endorsements from 32states to be grand-fathered onto a Washington license; that excludes only 18states and those out-of-state programs are currently being reviewed. It's expected that more states will be accepted in the near future.

If you know a non-endorsed rider here's a few things you can do:

  1.  Encourage them to get the proper state endorsement.
  2.  Send them this article by email, or print out a copy for them. Perhaps it's the first time they'll realize the risks of riding illegally and the funds they are impacting.
  3.  If you are part of a riding club or group, take a poll to see how many members have proper endorsements. You'll probably be surprised at the high rate. Does your group's insurance policy cover non-endorsed riders? Probably not.
  4.  For your own safety, refuse to ride with unendorsed riders until they have obtained a motorcycle endorsement. Would you ride in a car with an unlicensed driver?

Do I sound a bit sharp here? Perhaps. Shorting the state safety program $170,000 a year and having 35,000 loose canons riding around is something that concerns me enough to bring it to your attention.

If you're riding unendorsed, please take the time to get an endorsement byway of signing up for the MSF program, or passing the written and moving tests the DOL provides.

TM/Fall 01


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