Motorcycle License Skills Testing Update:
INDIANA RIDER SKILLS TESTS UNCERTAINTY
ABATE of Indiana is disappointed to announce that we are unable to conduct Rider Skills Tests (RST) at this time. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has dramatically altered the structure of this test without any research or testing and ABATE is concerned about the safety of applicants. ABATE continues to offer the highest quality rider education courses statewide, continuing a 44 year tradition with nearly 150,000 students trained.
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ABATE of Indiana has been conducting skills examinations for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for almost 20 years. The BMV asked ABATE to take over all motorcycle endorsement testing statewide in 2005.
Originally, the Alternate Motorcycle Operator Skills Test (Alt-MOST) was the “device” that was utilized as it was the standard in use across the country. This was ultimately replaced by the Rider Skills Test (RST) around 2014. Neither of these, nor any other testing mechanism, were expected to create “safe” riders. The intent was to identify those applicants (historically 10% - 20%) that truly did not belong on the road at that time. They could then be counseled to practice more, enroll in a formal training program or reconsider their decision about riding a motorcycle.
Passing a skills test to obtain an endorsement never meant that the rider was an expert, or even safe. It merely demonstrated that the rider had basic control of the motorcycle by meeting the standards of some minimal tests of skills so that they could continue to practice and gain experience.
These simple, basic tests did not train the rider, but only evaluated them utilizing a uniform, minimum standard. Enrolling in a rider course (where approximately 15 hours would be spent actually learning about motorcycling and strategies to manage risk while being evaluated and coached during 10 hours of practice riding) has always been the best way to reduce the likelihood of a crash and produce a safer rider.
Rider education (training courses) and licensing (skills tests) are both critical elements of the overall plan for motorcyclists‘ safety. However, they are distinctly different and were designed to be that way. Training someone using a building block process to develop skills and techniques, is vastly different from testing someone to evaluate if they indeed possess those skills.
Examinations (tests) are objective and only record that someone does, or does not, meet a minimum standard. Education is dynamic and is about teaching the “how” and developing techniques, which happens through evaluation, coaching and repetitive practice. Throughout a class, the students have things repeatedly explained to them, whereas applicants for a test are only given specific direction.
Early in 2022, the BMV issued the skills test contract and had included a cornering test. While we applaud the idea, since the majority of single vehicle motorcycle crashes occur in corners, it simply was not ready. There had been no research or testing and there were no materials or updated training for personnel (examiners). ABATE advised the BMV of these concerns and after several weeks, and debate that went all the way to the commissioner, the BMV agreed that the test was not ready and cancelled the contract. In issuing a new contract, the BMV suggested that they would want to introduce the cornering test in the future.
Fast forward one year and it’s deja vu all over again. The BMV again issued a contract with a cornering test. The only reference in the contract to this alteration are two pages photocopied from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) end of course evaluation from their Basic Rider Course (BRC). The photocopied information was written for people that just finished receiving instruction and coaching for 10 to 15 hours.
ABATE has asked countless times for the BMV to provide any research or testing that has been conducted in preparation for, or support of, this major change. They say nothing in response, indicating that there is no evidence. They have admitted to excluding ABATE from discussions about this subject, despite the fact that ABATE is the primary provider of these tests since 2005 which predates the tenure of those involved in this decision at the BMV.
It is important to note, that no other state in the country has done this. The MSF, which owns the RST and the BRC, had looked into something similar but concluded that they could not accomplish it.
In addition to presenting potential danger, this mutation of the RST will also reduce access to testing facilities. ABATE will immediately lose two RST sites based on the space required for the new test. Additionally, several sites would not be able to offer tests on weekends (the most popular dates) due to schedule conflicts with existing training classes.
Meanwhile, Indiana has maintained the same 30’x75’ footprint for a testing range since motorcycle endorsements became required in the 1980’s. This provided for a true “standard” with each facility being exactly the same size. It also allowed more access to testing, since parking lots of this size are more readily available. This meant that new riders wouldn’t have to travel so far to take a test.
All of that has changed with this alteration. The size of a testing range (based on the contract from the BMV) requires a larger area than many of the training ranges in use by other providers.
The only information the contract includes, other than a diagram, is as follows:
Rider Skills Test Evaluation #5 -Cornering
- Begin with your front tire patch between the start cones
- Ride through the curve path and reach a speed of at least 20 miles per hour in the straightaway
- Do not cross a line or touch a cone
- Continue through the curve path until you reach the stop area
- When signaled return to the parking area
- Begin on my signal
- No re-runs are permitted
- Stalling is not scored
- A boundary violation occurs when one tire touches or crosses a boundary line for the 180 degree curve
The four existing “tests” within the RST are referred to as “exercises” #1 through #4, while the cornering test is “evaluation” #5. At the beginning of the RST applicants are advised that “Points are assessed if you stall your engine at any time during any exercise.” These are just a couple of the inconsistencies with how this is to be presented, per the contract.
There are two other evaluations that have a speed requirement. The “Quick Stop” and the “Obstacle Swerve” both advise the rider to “Stabilize your speed between 12 - 18 mph”. In the introduction to the test, riders are told that “The final two tests involve speeds of about 15 mph.” There is also an opportunity for a re-run if the speed is too fast or too slow.
If an applicant asks for clarification, examiners have been directed to re-read the instructions verbatim. With the new Evaluation #5, if a rider asks what speed they should travel, they should be told “at least 20 miles per hour”. Since there is no re-run and no cap for a maximum speed, we are concerned that applicants will be riding at a higher speed that could result in a significant crash. With no evidence to dispel this suspicion, and in the interest of rider safety, ABATE of Indiana cannot conduct this untested, one of a kind experience which has not been researched.
Other contractors have also decided not to offer skills tests based on changes by the BMV.
We continue to discuss this issue with the BMV and are hopeful that the safety concerns can be addressed. If ABATE of Indiana’s Motorcycle Safety Division Committee and Board of Directors can gain confidence that the test can be conducted in a manner that is not unsafe, we will promptly and gladly resume offering Rider Skills Tests across the state.