There has been a remarkable increase in registered motorcycles in the United States. This may be attributed to the lower cost of the vehicle and the high mileage available from each gallon of gas in comparison to a car.

However, as the popularity increases, so does the accident rate. Per registered vehicle, the fatality rate for both motorcycle operators and passengers is 5.5 times higher than that for passenger car occupants. The primary reason is that they provide less protection in an accident than automobiles. With the number of U.S. motorcyclist deaths jumpng 78% to 5,154 in 2007 from 2,897 in 2000, a recent University of Southern California study points to the wearing a helmet as major factor in surviving a motorcycle crash. It is true that many of the causes of motorcycle accidents are the same as those involved in auto accidents but numerous ones are attributed to lack of training or failure to stay within the operating limitations, which required special precautions.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSES 16-602, 16-603, 16-103
The MVA provides a Motorcycle Safety Program as part of the Highway Safety Program of this State. The purpose of the Motor Vehicle Administration’s Motorcycle Safety Program is to improve the safety of motorcyclists through rider education and a public awareness effort that benefits all highway users. The program operates training centers throughout the State that conduct beginning and experienced rider courses.

The Beginning Rider Course is designed for the new rider. The course includes eight (8) hours of classroom sessions and approximately twelve hours of “on motorcycle” practice. Students learn the basic operating skills, street strategies and accident avoidance skills. Training motorcycles are provided. Students who have held their learner’s permit for at least 14 days and successfully complete the Beginning Rider Course may take their driving tests at the training center on a training motorcycle.

The Administration may not issue a Class M license to an individual under 18 years of age unless that individual has also completed, satisfactorily, a motorcycle safety course approved by this administration.

Remember, a motorcyclist using the streets and highways has to abide by the same traffic rules and regulations as other motorists in addition to the special requirements regulating them. The following are a few of the most important laws regarding motorcycles:

All motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane.
The operator may not overtake and pass in the same lane, occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or rows of vehicles.
Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast (side by side) in a single lane.
The operator must have a valid class M license. Under Maryland law, motor scooters are not considered to be motorcycles and therefore are not subject to state motorcycle laws. Motor scooters are defined as having a seat for the operator; two wheels, of which one is 10 inches or more in diameter; a step through chassis; a motor of 2.7 brake horsepower or less; and an internal combustion engine of 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement or less; and have an automatic transmission.
The law requires that persons driving a motor scooter carry a driver’s license or permit issued by MVA while operating the scooter.
Normal rules of the road apply to the operation of a motor scooter. The maximum speed at which a motor scooter is permitted to travel is 30 mph. Operators of motor scooters are not required to wear helmets, with the exception of an individual who is under the age of 16.

Cycle drivers will have to place greater reliance for protection on the kind of clothing they wear.
The helmet will be the most important for protecting against head injuries.
Eye protection is recommended even if the cycle has a windshield. Bugs, dirt or other airborne matter entering the eye is a continuous threat for blinding the vision. Even the wind can cause tearing and blurred vision.

Proper footwear, gloves, jackets and trousers are also important for protection.

It is desirable that the color be eye-catching by brightness and reflection. A high percentage of car-to-cycle collisions occur because the driver of the vehicle failed to see the cyclist in time to avoid the accident. Using the headlights continuously, day and night, may help prevent someone from not seeing you.

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In this section you will learn about the laws regarding accidents, alcohol and drugs, as well as some general information concerning passing and turning.