If there are things you wanted to know about PAMSP, or Motorcycling in general, feel free to ask.

“Why are there no PAMSP Classes”/”Why are PAMSP Classes so hard to find”:

This is an easy one to answer.

If you have 70 sites and 0 Instructors you are not going to have very many classes.
That was the situation starting in 2018 with the new Program Administrator.
That’s a pretty steep hill to climb – look for more details in my Blog.

If you don’t have enough Instructors to ‘open’ classes to the public it creates scarcity as those classes are never available to sign up. In the past it wasn’t really a problem, it started around 2017 – and no, it is not the fault of the current Program Administrator who was trying to fix the problem and was on schedule for 2020 to open a ton of classes.

In addition to not having enough Instructors is the situation when you have sites that are closed/can’t open classes causing students migrate to other sites. This creates additional scarcity for available classes as people from outside the traditional service area are now taking up local seats. It creates a snowball effect – but PennDOT mandates sites be opened… even if they can’t. This simply exacerbates the problem.

So how did we get here? When you disenfranchise a lot of Instructors over 5 or more years how many do you think want to come back. Yep, not a lot.

How long does it take to find, vet, train & hire new Instructors?
About a year.

How many Instructors does PAMSP need to run the Program, how many does it have?
Needs about 400, has about 220.

The way a class is scheduled is that all Instructors must take all shifts to “open” the class, have it posted on line for registration. Let’s take a full BRC class for example. There are (6) total shifts requiring a minimum of 2 Instructors, maximum of 6 Instructors. Take a site scheduling 200 classes for a season – that’s 1,200 shifts. Over 70 sites? That’s 84,000 shifts state wide – just for BRC… (it’s a SWAG, just for illustration).

If Instructors don’t fill the available slots the class is never posted for public registration. If you have a low number of Instructors, and/or a number of Instructors who don’t work often (some work more than others) classes are never posted for that site. No classes posted also creates a scarcity.

Add to that the fact that sites are asymmetrically staffed so you may have a rural site with a low student demand fully staffed while you have a suburban site with high student demand barely staffed.

Myth: PAMSP “Pushing” Helmet use 4/30/2020:

What many people may not realize is that Pennsylvania has a mandatory helmet Law.
Yes, PA has a mandatory helmet law.

There are (3) exceptions to this law which do not require Operator use of a helmet:
– Operators over 21 years of age & possessing a Class M License for +2yrs
– Operators over 21 years of age & having successfully completed the PAMSP BRC/IRC
– Operator of a 3 wheeled enclosed vehicle
– Note: Passengers of exempted riders, over (21), can also elect to wear a helmet or not

This is in keeping with both ABATE of PA & American Motorcyclists Association positions on helmet use – they support voluntary use without mandates. In fact, ABATE of PA was instrumental in passing the helmet law changes in September, 2003 that led to the existing exceptions in the Law.

Regardless of the curriculum used in PA none “push” helmet use. The PA Law specific information is reviewed and approved by PennDOT and other resources and represents the current Law, it’s requirements as well as it’s exceptions.

The curriculum does provide an overview of how to properly select, fit and wear a helmet. This is to ensure that students are informed consumers if they so desire to purchase a helmet – which can be a very expensive endeavor.

As an Instructor it’s unfortunate that we have to tell students their expensive personal helmet may be too large, reducing it’s effectiveness, potentially impacting their budget. The current curriculum gives students helmet shopping tips to assist them, new since 2018, to ensure they can identify those who can assist them in fitting and selecting a helmet. At no point do we, as Instructors, compel students to purchase a helmet. We present information and the Law. Compliance, as with other Laws, is their responsibility.

Instructors are not “forced” to wear helmets at all times, but as with protective foot and eye ware requirements at other places of employment they are required to wear certain protective gear to, from and while on the job. This is known from before they become Instructors. It is clearly communicated from day one, including in multiple documents and they either agree to abide by the requirement and become an Instructor or don’t and return to the riding public, their choice.

Instructor gear use/requirements include:

  • “Always wear protective gear* (motorcycle specifc jacket, long and durable pants, motorcycle-specific gloves, sturdy boots that cover the ankles and a
    DOT-compliant helmet) when riding to, from and during motorcycle education courses.” [Code of Conduct]
  • “Protective gear is required on the range for the students and PAMSP Personnel. Protective gear includes all of the following items for PAMSP Personnel – Motorcycle specific jacket, long durable pants, sturdy over the ankle footwear, protective eye ware/face shields, full fingered motorcycle specific gloves, at DOT approved minimum 3/4 helmet.”. There are some differences for students, long sleeved shirt/jacket, leather vs motorcycle specific gloves, student helmet choices for IRC & ARC, etc. [Policy & Procedure]
  • The only time an Instructor must wear a helmet, street motorcycle specific gloves and street motorcycle specific jacket other than riding to/from class is while conducting a demo ride. Unlike prior curriculum there are only (6) of them in the BRC, (2) the first day, (4) the second.

Just as going to a shooting range requires you to wear the proper safety gear – eyes & ears – the same goes for Motorcycle training: you have to wear the proper safety gear while training. Same thing goes for attending a track day – you must safety prep your bike, participate in safety briefings, adhere to on track rules and wear the required gear. This is to ensure safety as well as to eliminate the potential concern of injury that students would have if they were not wearing protective gear. So while you’re in class, you have to follow “da rulz”.

Reducing the concern of injury, the potential results of different types of injuries, is a benefit of wearing the proper gear. This allows students to reduce distraction, allowing greater focus on the task at hand. This goes for every rider, conscious or not.

BTW, all of this is called Risk assessment and management and it’s included in every curriculum where risk is involved. Including any type of Motorcycle training curriculum.

As a Motorcycle Safety Professional if you want to be seen not practicing what you are teaching in off hours, that is up to you and your credibility. As a Motorcyclist if you elect not to wear protective gear, that also is up to you and your risk tolerance. In PA you have a choice while you are riding the Commonwealth – and the Program – makes that clear.

As you may have noticed that this point there is no push – it’s just information.

Look, let’s be honest, no one in MotoGP is riding around in t-shirt, shorts, flip flops and a bandanna. There is a reason for that. And they don’t have other cars, trees, pedestrians, animals and other roadway hazards to deal with.

If you think you can take take a cicada in the face at 60mph without distraction or your melon into tarmac or t-bone a deer at 50mph without injury you may want to revisit the math on that one. In PA it’s a choice that many people make every time they ride but if we didn’t talk risk while talking motorcycles it would be like ignoring radioactivity while talking about nuclear plant workplace hazards or the toothy maw of lions while teaching big cat feeding techniques to new zoo workers.

Fact is ~90% of PA motorcycle accidents end up in injury or death so if you can reduce your injuries, which different types of proper riding gear can do, great. If you can stay focused while riding you will be able to make better choices with available information, process risks more effectively, keep yourself and your passenger safer, reducing the number of accidents – a net benefit for all. There still is no push here – your choice.

While not discussed in class according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmet use is 37 percent effective at preventing motorcycle fatalities and unhelmeted riders are 3 times more likely than helmeted ones to sustain traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash. Take that for what it’s worth.

As mature, informed riders we review those risks every time we ride. That’s the way it should be in Pennsylvania, according to the Law & the freedom of personal choice.

So the next time someone says “PAMSP is pushing helmets”, push back.

PAMSP Training Locations (4/29/2020):

Although a PennDOT program did you know that PennDOT doesn’t provide, locate or maintain PAMSP training locations?

PAMSP Training locations occasionally may take place on a PennDOT property but the vast majority of them are on public or private property, located by Instructors or other Program staff, occupancy negotiated and either rented or allowed to be used by the property owner to conduct PA Motorcycle Safety Courses.

In 2011 the PA Vehicle Code, § 7911, was amended to exempt from liability any land owner who authorizes their property to be used for the purposes of an approved Motorcycle Safety Program.

As per the 2017 RFP and the Program Administrators responsibilities include
“obtain and maintain training facilities and equipment” and in both the 2013 and 2017 RFP have similar language that “The Selected Offeror will be responsible for contacting and maintaining the sites with the exception of PennDOT [sites]”.

The Program loses sites for many reasons. For example the Valley Forge Site (built for the 1975 Bi-Centennial) will eventually close due to PA Turnpike expansion. In one of the most densely populated, motorcycle-rich areas of Pennsylvania no accommodation had been made in the Turnpike plans to relocate the ranges there, even after other local ranges have also closed.

Should a site need to move, a new site brought up? Needs PennDOT approval. Should a PennDOT storage shed need to be moved to a new site? The Program Administrator must pay for that move and “will be responsible for all costs to relocate the storage sheds from existing sites to their approved sites, should the locations change” [2017 RFP].

If you are wondering why you can’t get into a PAMSP class it’s not just that the Instructor Corps had been depleted before the 2018 season started – it just might be that there are no sites for classes to be held near you…

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