Nevada motorcycle licensing madness (in one case)

assuming I converted my newly-minted and presumably-valid motorcycle safety training credential into an “endorsement” on my drivers license (an american/Nevada affair, these days), I am 007 – officially licensed to kill (myself).

That was the summary and debriefing from the rather excellent but second group of trainers, as they gave me the passing grade. In summary:- Urr….don’t actually ride on the road… (even though you passed). They both sighed with relief when I revealed that the ride I took just (to pass the exam) was probably the last ride I’ll ever take – unless perhaps I go on holiday to some exotic island and want a little fun ride.

Now comes some material that I’m tempted not to write or disclose since its publication – like an advert for scotch – will surely increase the killing rate. Since I’m talking to and about those who think they are uniquely exceptional based on their various exceptional national processes (which includes full disclosure of facts along with endless prattling and mouthiness), as a non-exceptional I can hardly be blamed, however, for inappropriateness; should I emulate my betters by opining…

…that on this and the previous course, everyone was a liar (with small number of exceptions). Shush! They had all ridden countless hours before (illegally, for the most part). Perhaps, much as illegal immigrants to the USA might be denied public hospital care given their status, folks who evidently can ride might now be denied access to a novice course by the instructors upon initial evaluation (aiming to be fair to all, remembering that this is American fairness – somewhat elitist and inequitable, by European standards). A course for actual novices – defined as folk who have NEVER RIDDEN a motorcycle – it was not. A course to get a DMV license, having met minimums, it was. Fortunately, the folks on the second course had a level of teaching skills that do NOT place them that class of teachers, typically found in private schools, who are expert – about teaching “examination technique”, along with the curriculum.

My first teacher was a clearly a superior classroom teacher; and was good at getting folks through both the written and skills exams. With bad luck, Id have passed the skills test under him (despite being entirely unprepared for riding a parking lot safely let alone a road with other vehicles). Only a total screwup up on one test, under this techniques caused me to have too many demerits (to become licensed). A split second decision  on my part let me FAIL! It could easily have gone the other way (and I have been licensed by Nevada, while incompetent).

It was ego that induced me to try again at a second run of the course (since obviously I could pass, should luck flow the other way). So I signed up again, and went through 40 more hours of american style drill training – that mostly focused on drill based learning of skills (rather than examination technique). And so I passed, with a wide margin (though with some personal caveats, as mentioned in the introduction). Played the second time, the course was what I expected: thorough, professional, skilled at skill teaching, and one that used formats and (rider coach) team work to real advantage!

So here is the part you may NOT want to read.

There are examination things you MUST NOT DO, to avoid large numbers of demerits. put another way, here is EXAMINATION TECHNIQUE that minimizes getting demerits:

1. The test, for swerving, always has you swerve to the right. So AIM for the right cone, and don’t worry too much if you swerve a foot too early. The demerits for this are FAR BETTER to incur than hitting the (virtual) obstacle – particular when super nervous in test mode. Thanks to the policeman, on the same test, for the advice (that I ignored the first time around). As I say, America really is FULL OF  EXCEPTIONALS (playing the rules, for killing with guns or motorbiking alike).

2. the test for emergency stop has some nasty demerits for something almost irrelevant to the apparent testing criteria (stopping, before hitting the kid). You get 5 demerits for failing to stop in first gear (the kid is alive… but who cares. first gear is more important…). So, no matter what you do, sacrifice stopping distance for doing the first gear.

Yes, I know, I know. Folks who had “properly internalized” the skills would be doing each of the above (without needing to cheat). But that’s not my point. learning examination technique COULD be putting you more at risk, as you show off your nice new shiny motorcycle license (which is a formal license to kill yourself, in more than one case, from what I observed).

Ok, I’m whining about american processes, and not  giving much positive. As always, it’s the usual caveat, which applies to lots and lots of american’isms; what I see is the best of an inherently bad lot. Which is actually praise (from an Englishman). You are the best (and that includes lying, cheating, over tutoring, and making licensing money from licenses to kill). Its also the best in a more positive vein: american drill process was excellent (assuming you are used to it, which I’m not).

so what would I improve?

Well, the instructors I had were not internet savvy. They failed to use many props and failed to use videos or simulators – to convert words into skill. It took me 40 hours to figure that “press” (in american) means “push” (in English). A simple prop, with a bicycle would never have allowed that! In my first run through the course, I kept trying to press (down) – rather than given a quick pushing shove on the handle, that tips the bike over a bit to help one lean. Sigh!

Washington State’s evidently similar program had an excellent DMV-based video series, that trained some, perhaps like me who are academically enabled and thus NOT particular well adapted any longer to drill training,  to see HOW one measures skill (and why the testing is designed, given lots of testing tradeoffs). And their videos did it in a manner that was not about “playing the examination game,” either. It was simply an academic presentation of the skill levels being expected, talking to an audience in a way that would resonate.

In Nevada schools for biking, however, biker culture reigns (perhaps because of the excellent biking geography). Thus, it is folk lore (as enacted through word/phrase correctness, drill and repetition-style training) that dominates; since that’s the operative culture. If your brain, as with puberty, was irreversibly altered by getting to the higher academic levels, you, like me, might not respond well to drill based learning (in motorcycling or any other area).

Should an academic, from a good private school that trained me up to respect examination technique, be saying this to folks at risk?

You decide! I’m VERY happy on my powered bi-cycle, maxed out at 20mph doing the same manoevres as a real motorbike (using a machine that is REALLY easy to LEARN TO handle).

All in all, in honor of my excellent teachers, today, I may now wave a little at the bikers – as a fellow road user at horrendous risk, due to the nature of “shared road”. Wonder if they will wave back or just scowl at the impudence!?


About home_pw

Computer Programmer who often does network administration with focus on security servers. Sometimes plays at slot machine programming.
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