Do You Ride Without A Motorcycle Endorsement?

Do you ride your motorcycle without an endorsement? If you do, you’re not alone.

After 35 years of riding, I got pulled over last summer and hit with a ticket for riding without an endorsement, and while it was annoying and cost me a little cash, it got me thinking about what the additional consequences of riding without the official imprimatur of the The Man might be.

An investigation of motorcycle crashes in Washington State found out how many un-endorsed motorcycle riders are being killed in crashes, and the facts are shocking to say the least.

According to Washington State Patrol records, during the five years from 2005 to 2009, crashes accounted for the deaths of 364 motorcyclists in Washington State, and those records also show that during the same period, nearly 40 percent (141 riders) did not have a legal motorcycle endorsement.

Those 141 un-endorsed riders may have held a permit, but since they never completed a motorcycle skills test to ensure that they had the minimal skills to operate a motorcycle on Washington roads, they were riding without the official government Seal of Approval.

A motorcycle permit is pretty easy to obtain in most states. To get one in the state of Washington, you only have to visit a Department of Licensing office, pay a $5 application fee, pass a basic knowledge test and upon passing the test pay $15 for an instructional permit. The permit is valid for 90 days and can be renewed as many times as you’d like.

The bad news is that almost  40-percent of riders killed in crashes only make it through the initial permitting process and fail to complete the full licensing process. While some riders find it sufficient to renew a permit than to finish out the process by passing an approved motorcycle safety course or riding test at a DOL office and many riders opt out of passing a very basic riding skills test and instead ride on the street unlicensed, at least statistically speaking, those riders are quite possibly on the road to ruin.

Riders who opt for this path might not have long to stay their course. The ability to infinitely renew a temporary motorcycle permit may be changing for Washington State riders.

Senator Phil Rockefeller (D-Kitsap County), introduced Senate Bill 5141 limiting the number of times a motorcycle instructional permit can be obtained without completing the full licensing process. The bill limits riders to two permit renewals – period. A third renewal would be allowed, but only if the rider presents a proof of enrollment in a motorcycle safety course.

That bill passed 44 to 2 in the Washington State Senate in February, 2011 and was referred to the House Transportation Committee the next day.

DOL records show that more than 127,000 new motorcyclists received endorsements from 2005 to 2009.  Of all newly endorsed riders, 64-percent took a motorcycle safety course. These riders took a single weekend out of their busy schedules to learn motorcycle skills. These skills are very basic, but they are the building blocks to enjoy a lifetime of motorcycling.

Motorcycling can, and we all know it,  be a high-risk activity. Of all the ways you can reduce the risks involved, the best way is to actually complete the process and pass a simple motorcycle riding skills test.

The Washington State Patrol says that riding without a motorcycle learner’s permit or violating the provisions of a permit could result in a $124 ticket (in Michigan, my ticket resulted in me shelling out $75 bucks), and it might also mean something far, far worse…

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