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Illinois Ponders New Licensing Requirements for Larger Motorcycles

Larger Motorcycle Licensing in IllinoisInstructors of motorcycle safety classes in Illinois are realizing many of their graduated students are buying large racing bikes with the capacity to travel at high speeds, even though the riders are not trained properly to handle it. The power and weight of large motorcycles are often very challenging to operate, especially at high speeds. Passing tests performed on smaller motorcycles does not provide adequate training for a larger bike.

As a result, the state of Illinois is contemplating creating an additional license class for large motorcycles. Currently, the state provides two specific motorcycle license classifications including one specifically for engines smaller than 150 cc (cubic centimeters) in size. This class handles small bikes including scooters and off-road motorcycles.

The other class is for motorcycles of every other size. If the new law were enacted, Illinois would start providing a third category specifically for larger motorcycles, likely for engines 600 cc or larger. Adding a third category would require drivers to be tested on the size of motorcycle they intend to ride.

The Need for Better Training

The proposal to add a third category class for motorcycle licensing is in response to the near historic levels of Illinois motorcycle fatalities occurring in the past 36 months. The increasing numbers are in direct contrast to a decrease in nationwide motorcycle accident-associated deaths.

Oddly, state legislators and motorcycle associations are continuing to avoid action on passing mandatory helmet laws. In fact, Illinois shares the distinction with only two other states to allow motorcycle riders to travel the streets and highways without a helmet. However, it is the responsibility of lawmakers to look for any solution for reducing motorcycle accident death counts.

The Costs Involved

Some worry about the additional costs of providing state-sponsored classes on motorcycle safety. Currently, the Illinois Department of Transportation is providing free safety courses. Funding for this program provides approximately $5 million every year obtained in full though motorcycle registration fees. However, riders are trained on smaller motorcycles (200 cc or 250 cc) because of their ease of handling and lower costs for the state to procure and maintain.

Surprisingly, the state of Illinois already provides access to advanced courses for larger motorcycles. However, beginning students tend to avoid the course. Illinois is looking for guidance at programs offered in other states. As an example, the state of Utah offers four distinct motorcycle classes based on the size of the bike. Students testing on larger motorcycles are then issued a license to operate any size cycle.

Pushback from Rider Groups

Some rider groups are pushing back on the state’s desire to impose a new motorcycle license classification. Some believe that even though the new classification appears to be a sensible solution, motorcycle riding is not just focused on the size of the engine, but how the bike handles by its design and weight. As an example, a sport motorcycle has the capacity to outperform any large touring bike, which renders any comparison to their engine sizes as meaningless.

In response, safety advocates see other issues that seem to be a factor in the increasing number of motorcycle deaths. This includes “super sport” motorcycles that are increasing in popularity with the younger crowd. In addition, “returning” middle-aged motorcyclists are once again taking up the sport after being off a motorcycle for many years. In 2012, the 50 to 54 age group had the highest number of motorcycle accident related deaths in Illinois.

Whenever a motorcycle rider or automobile motorist maximizes their safety when operating a moving vehicle, it is good for everyone on the road. The state has significant riding safety issues including dealing with motorcyclists inappropriately trained to handle large bikes along with riding without a helmet.

As proponents of increasing safety and better training for large bikes continues to push for the new proposal, legislators and motorcycle groups will need to find common ground to help reduce the motorcycle accident deaths in northeastern Illinois.