2017-08-11 / Community

Motorcycle training program turns 30

Two CHP-accredited courses in county
By Hector Gonzalez


STREET SMARTS—California Highway Patrol is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the state’s Motorcycle Safety Program, which has provided motorcycle skills and safety training to more than 1 million riders since it began. The two CHP-sanctioned training courses offered in Ventura County are in Simi Valley and Camarillo. STREET SMARTS—California Highway Patrol is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the state’s Motorcycle Safety Program, which has provided motorcycle skills and safety training to more than 1 million riders since it began. The two CHP-sanctioned training courses offered in Ventura County are in Simi Valley and Camarillo. When 39-year-old Noe Morales slammed his motorcycle into a brick wall between two houses on Hartnell Street in Camarillo two weeks ago, he became the first person killed in a motorcycle collision in the city this year. Morales wasn’t wearing a helmet, according to police.

Helmeted or not, 254 people were killed or injured in motorcycle crashes in Ventura County in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available on state websites.

More recently, two motorcyclists suffered major injuries in separate collisions on the 101 Freeway this past Monday, Aug., 7. Both riders drove into vehicles that had stopped in freeway lanes, California Highway Patrol officials said.

For thousands of riders, hitting the open road on a motorcycle is the ultimate expression of freedom, but it’s also dangerous.

Motorcyclist deaths occurred 27 times more frequently than fatalities in other types of vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported, based on 2014 data.

And while training programs like the California Motorcyclist Safety Program operated by the CHP have been shown to reduce motorcycle crashes and fatalities, the challenge is to get motorcyclists to take the training, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

“There’s a huge difference between teaching yourself how to ride in a parking lot and taking a formal training course where you learn skills like emergency braking and keeping your head level and eyes up in a curve,” said Officer Eric Iverson of the CHP’s Motorcyclist Safety Program in Sacramento.

First offered 30 years ago, on July 1, 1987, in Sacramento, the motorcycle training program has since educated more than 1 million motorcyclists, CHP spokesperson Fran Calder said.

“Novices and experienced riders can benefit” from taking the course, Iverson said. “We’ve had guys who’ve been riding for 30 years who have taken our course and said they ended up learning new skills.”

Although it’s impossible to accurately say how many licensed motorcyclists driving on the roads today have gone through the CHP training, each year about 55,000 to 65,000 riders complete the course, which allows the new riders to skip the driving portion of the DMV exam when applying for a motorcycle license.

Last year, around 57,000 people received the CHP waivers, out of about 109,000 new motorcycle licenses granted by the DMV, Iverson said

Riders 21 and older are not required to take the motorcyclist safety program to get a motorcycle license; only those 20 and younger are required by law to take the safety course.

“We wish everyone would,” said Newbury Park resident Bob Drummond, 38, a CHP-certified instructor who teaches the state safety course at Learn to Ride VC at Camarillo Airport.

Although the CHP is responsible for overseeing motorcycle training in the state, the agency contracts with Total Control Inc., a Victorville-based company that subcontracts smaller firms like Learn to Ride VC to provide the training at about 125 locations across California.

In Ventura County, Learn to Ride VC is one of two training facilities that offer the 15-hour CHP-sanctioned motorcycle safety course, which includes 10 hours of class instruction and five hours of driving instruction. MRE Corp., based at Simi Institute for Careers and Education in Simi Valley, offers the other CHP-approved motorcycle training program in the county.

“The training is the same wherever you go,” Drummond said. “It’s a CHP course. The CHP has oversight of the program.”

Learn to Ride’s course for minors 21 and younger costs $180; for adults it’s $258.

Driving a car and riding a motorcycle require different skills and knowledge, said Jose Padron, 27, who teaches at Learn to Ride VC.

“Your entry speed going into a curve is very important,” said the Oxnard resident, a CHP-certified instructor for three years. “Going into the curve—that’s where a lot of bikers will run into problems.”

Driving too fast for road conditions and exceeding their skill level are the two biggest causes of crashes involving motorcyclists when no other vehicle is involved, Drummond said.

“In 70 percent of the motorcycle crashes it’s the driver’s own fault,” he said. “In crashes with other cars, it’s usually the other driver’s fault. But overall, when it’s a solo motorcycle crash, it’s usually the motorcycle driver who is at fault.”

Although the state safety program covers the basics, advanced courses are available for more experienced riders. Drummond and Padron regularly brush up on their skills by taking advanced classes, they said.

“You have to continue learning,” Padron said. “Just like any sport, the way you get better is by training.”

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