RICHLAND, Wash. - 83 people died on Washington roads last year in motorcycle accidents and the majority of those were the riders fault.
It has been a year since the State Department of Licensing changed the motorcycle skills test. The DOL found that most serious and deadly accident could be prevented by teaching riders better skills and testing them more rigorously.
"I think it gives riders a little more realistic view of their skills or lack of skills," said Dusty Powers, the owner of Motorcycle Training, Inc. in Richland. He's been an instructor for six years and said these changes were a long time coming.
"I think in the DOL test, the old test, you could stumble across a pass. This test, you've got to be able to demonstrate skills in operating a motorcycle in order to pass it," Powers said.
In the last five years more than 400 people have died in motorcycle crashes in Washington. The DOL studied data on these crashes and found the majority were caused by either rider impairment or failure to negotiate curves.
"We wanted to build a new test that better represented the skills necessary to perform motorcycle maneuvers in curves," said a DOL Spokesperson, Brad Benfield.
"This test is on a much larger footprint. It's done at much higher speeds. It concentrates more on technique rather than just your ability to paddle your bike around and keep within the lines," Powers said.
The old test stayed the same for a number of years with no updates or changes. It used to be heavily focused on things like U-turns and weaving.
"We put more weight on the life-saving skills. The braking, the swerving, the cornering. That's where most of our riders in Washington are dying, is in curves, so we weigh that fairly heavily," Powers said.
The DOL said there is no way to track the impact of these changes just yet but at this point there have been seven fewer motorcycle fatalities this year than there was at this time in 2012.