Motorcycle Safety Program: Washington State

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Motorcycle Safety Program

Expanding Opportunities for Training

Special to Sound RIDER! from Dave Wendell

Is the 3-6 month wait to get into a motorcycle safety course too long? Would you be willing to pay full price for the training if you could get into a class sooner? If these questions got your attention, please read on.

The Washington Motorcycle Safety Program (WMSP) is undoubtedly one of the best in the country. This statement is borne out by all the awards the program has won since its inception in 1982. One of the benefits of the WMSP has always been its low cost to students. (Washington has the third lowest cost for an MSF course in the nation.) Anyone desiring training by the WMSP can register for a course with only $100.00, although the training actually costs between $150.00 to $250.00 per student (depending on location and several other factors). Where does the rest of the money come from? It comes from motorcycle endorsement fees.

When you renew your motorcycle endorsement you pay $25.00 for a five-year endorsement. We all know that putting the "M3" on your WA drivers license doesn't cost that much. So where does the rest of the money go? It is deposited in a protected account known as the Rider Education Fund. This fund is administered by our state legislature, and allocated to the Department of Licensing, WMSP, by the Senate Transportation Committee. The course providers (Puget Sound M/C Education, Evergreen Motorcycle Safety Training, Kitsap County M/C Programs, Peninsula M/C Education, Vancouver Parks & Rec., Wenatchee Valley College, and Spokane ATV/Motorcycle Safety Education) receive a subsidy payment for each student from the WMSP after the student completes the class. So the training is subsidized by motorcyclists, for motorcyclists, and no money to support the program comes from the general tax fund.

This all works just fine as long as there is sufficient money in the Rider Education Fund, and the Senate Transportation Committee allocates enough of it to allow the training providers to operate. Unfortunately that's not always the case. Throughout the year the waiting list to get into a class is anywhere from 3-6 months long; and several times over the last 19 years training has been completely halted due to a lack of funding availability from the WMSP. This happens despite the fact that training locations are already set up, training motorcycles are sitting there, Instructors are available to teach, and people are waiting in offices to take your phone calls and do all the necessary paperwork for you.

As I write this, most of the providers are not operating to full capacity because they are restricted in how many students they can teach based on the money available from the WMSP. Course providers were not allowed to offer courses outside the auspices of the WMSP. This has been an ongoing problem for the entire 19 years the WMSP has been in existence. That problem may finally have a solution.

The Attorney General's office recently ruled that motorcycle safety training could be held without the support of the WMSP if the course providers could meet certain conditions. A few of the providers are able to meet those provisions immediately and can begin training to full capacity. However, because no support (subsidy money, books, completion cards, etc.) will come from the WMSP, this training, although identical to the training at the subsidized sites, will cost the student the full price of the training. Because it will be more expensive, you may be able to get into a non-subsidized course MUCH sooner than one funded by the WMSP. If the course provider can meet the conditions outlined by the Attorney General (and unfortunately, not all of them can); this will keep training sites from sitting empty and unused due to lack of funds. It's not an ideal solution, but it IS a solution.

If you don't want to wait several months for an MSF approved course, and you're willing to pay the full price, call your local course provider and inquire as to whether they have a non-subsidized course available. For a list of the course providers, their addresses and phone numbers visit the WMSP website at:

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