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DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLESDISTRICT OF COLUMBIAMOTORCYCLEANUAL

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIADEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLESMOTORCYCLE OPERATOR MANUALIn the District of Columbia, you must have a valid driver’s license with motorcycle (M)endorsement to operate a motorcycle.DC law refers to a motorcycle as a 2 or 3 wheeled motor vehicle that has one or moreof the following characteristics: Piston displacement of more than fifty (50) cubic centimetersCapable of traveling over 35 miles per hour on level groundMore than one and one-half (1.5) brake horsepower (S.A.E. rating)Wheels under 16 inches in diameterManual transmissionNote: If your 2 or 3 wheeled motor vehicle has none of the above 5 characteristics, it falls under thedefinition of motorized bicycle and may be operated by a person holding a provisional operator's permitor a driver's license (provided the vehicle passes inspection, is registered, and is insured).You may obtain a motorcycle (M) endorsement on your DC driver’s license if you: Are at least 18 years of ageHave a valid DC driver's licensePass the DC motorcycle knowledge testPass the DC DMV motorcycle demonstration skills test or provide a motorcycledemonstration course certificate of completion approved by Maryland orVirginia.Service LocationsTo take the DC DMV motorcycle knowledge test, you may visit any DMV service center.You must obtain a DC motorcycle learner’s permit after passing the motorcycleknowledge test, if you are taking the DC DMV motorcycle demonstration skills test.To submit MD or VA Motorcycle Certificate of Completion, you must visit the BrentwoodRoad Test Facility to obtain your DC driver license with motorcycle (M) endorsement.To schedule a motorcycle demonstration skills test, you may schedule online or call(202) 727-5000.Rev. 07/2007

PREFACEOperating a motorcycle safely intraffic requires special skills andknowledge. The Motorcycle SafetyFoundation (MSF) has made this manualavailable to help novice motorcyclistsreduce their risk of having a crash. Themanual conveys essential safe ridinginformation and has been designed foruse in licensing programs. Whiledesigned for the novice, all motorcyclistscan benefit from the information thismanual contains.The original Motorcycle OperatorManual was developed by the NationalPublic Services Research Institute(NPSRI) under contract to the NationalHighway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) and within the terms of acooperative agreement between NHTSAand the MSF. The manual and relatedtests were used in a multi-year study ofimproved motorcycle operator licensingprocedures, conducted by the CaliforniaDepartment of Motor Vehicles undercontract to NHTSA.The purpose of this manual is toeducate the reader to help avoid crasheswhile safely operating a motorcycle. Forthis edition, the MSF has updated andexpanded the content of the originalmanual.These revisions reflect: The latest finding of motorcyclesafety research. Comments and guidance providedby the motorcycling, licensing andtraffic safety communities. Expanded alcohol and druginformation.In promoting improved licensingprograms, the MSF works closely withstate licensing agencies. The Foundationhas helped more than half the states inthe nation adopt the Motorcycle OperatorManual for use in their licensingsystems.Improved licensing, along withhigh-quality motorcycle rider educationand increased public awareness, has thepotential to reduce crashes. Staff at theFoundation are available to assist state,private and governmental agencies inefforts to improve motorcycle safety.Tim BuchePresident,Motorcycle Safety Foundation2 Jenner Street, Suite 150Irvine, CA 92618-3806www.msf-usa.org

CONTENTSPREPARINGTO RIDEWEAR THE RIGHT GEAR .4Helmet Use .4Helmet Selection .4Eye and Face Protection .5Clothing .6KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE .6The Right Motorcycle for You .6Borrowing and Lending .7Get Familiar with theMotorcycle Controls .7Check Your Motorcycle .8KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES .9RIDE WITHINYOUR ABILITIESBASIC VEHICLE CONTROL .10Body Position .10Shifting Gears .10Braking .11Turning .11KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE .12Lane Positions .12Following Another Vehicle .13Being Followed .14Passing and Being Passed .14Lane Sharing .16Merging Cars .16Cars Alongside .16SEE .17INTERSECTIONS .18Blind Intersections .19Passing Parked Cars .20Parking at the Roadside .20INCREASING CONSPICUITY .21Clothing .21Headlight .21Signals .21Brake Light .22Using Your Mirrors .22Head Checks .23Horn .23Riding at Night .24CRASH AVOIDANCE .24Quick Stops .24Swerving or Turning Quickly .25Cornering .26HANDLING DANGEROUS SURFACES .27Uneven Surfaces and Obstacles .27Slippery Surfaces .28Railroad Tracks, Trolley Tracksand Pavement Seams .29Grooves and Gratings .29MECHANICAL PROBLEMS .30Tire Failure .30Stuck Throttle .30Wobble .30Chain Problems .31Engine Seizure .31ANIMALS .31FLYING OBJECTS .32GETTING OFF THE ROAD .32CARRYING PASSENGERSAND CARGO .32Equipment .32Instructing Passengers .33Riding With Passengers .33Carrying Loads .33GROUP RIDING .34Keep the Group Small .34Keep the Group Together .34Keep Your Distance .34BEING IN SHAPETO RIDEWHY THIS INFORMATION ISIMPORTANT .36ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS INMOTORCYCLE OPERATION .36ALCOHOL IN THE BODY .37Blood AlcoholConcentration .37ALCOHOL AND THE LAW .38Consequences ofConviction .38MINIMIZE THE RISKS .38STEP IN TO PROTECT FRIENDS .39FATIGUE .39EARNINGYOUR LICENSEKnowledge Test .40On-Motorcycle Skill Test .413

PREPARING TO RIDEWhat you do before you start a trip goes a long way towarddetermining whether or not you’ll get where you want to go safely.Before taking off on any trip, a safe rider makes a point to:1. Wear the right gear.2. Become familiar with the motorcycle.3. Check the motorcycle equipment.4. Be a responsible rider.WEAR THE RIGHT GEARWEAR THE RIGHT GEARWhen you ride, your gear is“right” if it protects you. In anycrash, you have a far better chance ofavoiding serious injury if you wear: An approved helmet. Face or eye protection. Protective clothing.HELMET USECrashes can occur —particularly among untrained,beginning riders. And one out ofevery five motorcycle crashes resultsin head or neck injuries. Headinjuries are just as severe as neckinjuries — and far more common.Crash analyses show that head andneck injuries account for a majorityof serious and fatal injuries tomotorcyclists. Research also showsthat, with few exceptions, head andneck injuries are reduced by properlywearing an approved helmet.Some riders don’t wear helmetsbecause they think helmets will limittheir view to the sides. Others wearhelmets only on long trips or whenriding at high speeds. Here are somefacts to consider:4 An approved helmet lets you seeas far to the sides as necessary. Astudy of more than 900 motorcyclecrashes, where 40% of the riderswore helmets, did not find evenone case in which a helmet kept arider from spotting danger. Most crashes happen on shorttrips (less than five mileslong), just a few minutes afterstarting out. Most riders are riding slowerthan 30 mph when a crashoccurs. At these speeds, helmetscan cut both the number and theseverity of head injuries by half.No matter what the speed,helmeted riders are three times morelikely to survive head injuries thanthose not wearing helmets at the timeof the crash.HELMET SELECTIONThere are two primary types ofhelmets, providing two differentlevels of coverage: three-quarter andfull face.Whichever style you choose, youcan get the most protection bymaking sure that the helmet:

EYE AND FACE PROTECTIONA plastic shatter-resistantfaceshield can help protect yourwhole face in a crash. It alsoprotects you from wind, dust, dirt,rain, insects and pebbles thrown upfrom cars ahead. These problemsare distracting and can be painful.If you have to deal with them, youcan’t devote your full attention tothe road.Goggles protect your eyes,though they won’t protect the rest ofyour face like a faceshield does. Awindshield is not a substitute for afaceshield or goggles. Mostwindshields will not protect youreyes from the wind. Neither willeyeglasses or sunglasses. Glasseswon’t keep your eyes from watering,and they might blow off when youturn your head while riding.To be effective, eye orfaceshield protection must: Be free of scratches. Be resistant to penetration. Give a clear view to either side. Fasten securely, so it does notblow off. Permit air to pass through, toreduce fogging. Permit enough room foreyeglasses or sunglasses, ifneeded.Tinted eye protection shouldnot be worn at night or any othertime when little light is available.5EYE AND FACE PROTECTION Meets U.S. Department ofTransportation (DOT) and statestandards. Helmets with a labelfrom the Snell MemorialFoundation give you an addedassurance of quality. Fits snugly, all the way around. Has no obvious defects suchas cracks, loose padding orfrayed straps.Whatever helmet you decideon, keep it securely fastened on yourhead when you ride. Otherwise, ifyou are involved in a crash, it’s likelyto fly off your head before it gets achance to protect you.HELMET USEHELMETS

CLOTHINGTHE RIGHT MOTORCYCLECLOTHINGThe right clothing protects youin a collision. It also providescomfort, as well as protection fromheat, cold, debris and hot and movingparts of the motorcycle. Jacket and pants should coverarms and legs completely. Theyshould fit snugly enough to keepfrom flapping in the wind, yetloosely enough to move freely.Leather offers the most protection.Sturdy synthetic material providesa lot of protection as well.Wear a jacket even in warmweather to prevent dehydration.Many are designed to protectwithout getting you overheated,even on summer days. Boots or shoes should be high andsturdy enough to cover your anklesand give them support. Solesshould be made of hard, durable,slip-resistant material. Keep heelsshort so they do not catch on roughsurfaces. Tuck in laces so theywon’t catch on your motorcycle. Gloves allow a better grip andhelp protect your hands in a crash.Your gloves should be made ofleather or similar durable material.In cold or wet weather, yourclothes should keep you warm anddry, as well as protect you frominjury. You cannot control amotorcycle well if you are numb.Riding for long periods in coldweather can cause severe chill andfatigue. A winter jacket should resistwind and fit snugly at the neck,wrists and waist. Good-qualityrainsuits designed for motorcycleriding resist tearing apart orballooning up at high speeds.6KNOW YOURMOTORCYCLEThere are plenty of things on thehighway that can cause you trouble.Your motorcycle should not be one ofthem. To make sure that yourmotorcycle won’t let you down: Read the owner’s manual first. Start with the right motorcycle foryou. Be familiar with the motorcyclecontrols. Check the motorcycle beforeevery ride. Keep it in safe riding conditionbetween rides. Avoid add-ons and modificationsthat make your motorcycleharder to handle.THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLEFOR YOUFirst, make sure your motorcycleis right for you. It should “fit” you.Your feet should reach the groundwhile you are seated on themotorcycle.1Test YourselfA plastic shatter-resistant faceshield:A. Is not necessary if you have awindshield.B. Only protects your eyes.C. Helps protect your whole face.D. Does not protect your face as wellas goggles.Answer - page 40

Headlight, taillight andbrakelight. Front and rear brakes. Turn signals. Horn. Two mirrors.BORROWING AND LENDINGBorrowers and lenders ofmotorcycles, beware. Crashes arefairly common among beginningriders — especially in the firstmonths of riding. Riding anunfamiliar motorcycle adds to theproblem. If you borrow a motorcycle,get familiar with it in a controlledarea. And if you lend yourmotorcycle to friends, make sure theyare licensed and know how to ridebefore allowing them out into traffic.No matter how experienced youmay be, ride extra carefully on anymotorcycle that’s new or unfamiliarto you. More than half of all crashesoccur on motorcycles ridden by theoperator for less than six months.GET FAMILIAR WITH THEMOTORCYCLE CONTROLSMake sure you are completelyfamiliar with the motorcycle beforeyou take it out on the street. Be sureto review the owner’s manual. This isparticularly important if you areriding a borrowed motorcycle.If you are going to use anunfamiliar motorcycle:MOTORCYCLE CONTROLSLight Switch (high/low)Choke (varies)Turn-SignalSwitchIgnition Key(varies)Engine Cut-OffSwitchElectricStartButtonHorn ButtonClutch LeverThrottleSpeedometer& OdometerFuel Supply Valve(if equipped)Gear-Change LeverFront Brake LeverTachometer(if equipped)Rear Brake PedalKick Starter(if equipped)7KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLEAt minimum, your street-legalmotorcycle should have:

CHECK YOUR MOTORCYCLE Make all the checks you wouldon your own motorcycle. Find out where everything is,particularly the turn signals, horn,headlight switch, fuel-supplyvalve and engine cut-off switch.Find and operate these itemswithout having to look for them. Know the gear pattern. Work thethrottle, clutch and brakes a fewtimes before you start riding. Allcontrols react a little differently. Ride very cautiously and beaware of surroundings. Accelerategently, take turns more slowly andleave extra room for stopping.CHECK YOUR MOTORCYCLEA motorcycle needs morefrequent attention than a car. A minortechnical failure in a car seldom leadsto anything more than aninconvenience for the driver.If something’s wrong with themotorcycle, you’ll want to find outabout it before you get in traffic.Make a complete check of yourmotorcycle before every ride.Before mounting the motorcycle,make the following checks: Tires — Check the air pressure,general wear and tread. Fluids — Oil and fluid levels. At aminimum, check hydraulic fluidsand coolants weekly. Look underthe motorcycle for signs of an oilor gas leak. Headlights and Taillight —Check them both. Test your switchto make sure both high and lowbeams are working. Turn Signals — Turn on bothright and left turn signals. Makesure all lights are workingproperly.8 Brake Light — Try both brakecontrols, and make sure each oneturns on the brake light.Once you have mounted themotorcycle, complete the followingchecks before starting out: Clutch and Throttle — Makesure they work smoothly. Thethrottle should snap back whenyou let go. The clutch should feeltight and smooth. Mirrors — Clean and adjust bothmirrors before starting. It’sdifficult to ride with one handwhile you try to adjust a mirror.Adjust each mirror so you can seethe lane behind and as much aspossible of the lane next to you.When properly adjusted, a mirrormay show the edge of your arm orshoulder—but it’s the road behindand to the side that’s mostimportant. Brakes — Try the front and rearbrake levers one at a time. Makesure each one feels firm and holdsthe motorcycle when the brake isfully applied. Horn — Try the horn. Make sureit works.In addition to the checks youshould make before every trip, checkthe following items at least once aweek: Wheels, cables, fasteners andfluid levels. Follow your owner’smanual to get recommendations.2Test YourselfMore than half of all crashes:A. Occur at speeds greater than35 mph.B. Happen at night.C. Are caused by worn tires.D. Involve riders who have riddentheir motorcycles less than sixmonths.Answer - page 40

“Accident” implies anunforeseen event that occurs withoutanyone’s fault or negligence. Mostoften in traffic, that is not the case. Infact, most people involved in a crashcan usually claim some responsibilityfor what takes place.Consider a situation wheresomeone decides to try to squeezethrough an intersection on a yellowlight turning red. Your light turnsgreen. You pull into the intersectionwithout checking for possiblelatecomers. That is all it takes for thetwo of you to tangle. It was thedriver’s responsibility to stop. And itwas your responsibility to lookbefore pulling out. Neither of youheld up your end of the deal. Justbecause someone else is the first tostart the chain of events leading to acrash, it doesn’t leave any of us freeof responsibility.As a rider you can’t be sure thatother operators will see you or yieldthe right of way. To lessen yourchances of a crash occurring: Be visible — wear properclothing, use your headlight, ridein the best lane position to see andbe seen. Communicate your intentions —use the proper signals, brake lightand lane position. Maintain an adequate spacecushion — following, beingfollowed, lane sharing, passingand being passed. Scan your path of travel 12seconds ahead. Identify and separate multiplehazards. Be prepared to act — remainalert and know how to carry outproper crash-avoidance skills.Blame doesn’t matter whensomeone is injured in a crash. Thereis rarely a single cause of any crash.The ability to ride aware, makecritical decisions and carry them outseparates responsible riders from allthe rest. Remember, it is up to you tokeep from being the cause of, or anunprepared participant in, any crash.9KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIESKNOW YOURRESPONSIBILITIES

RIDE WITHIN YOUR ABILITIESThis manual cannot teach you how to control direction, speed or balance.That’s something you can learn only through practice. But control begins withknowing your abilities and riding within them, along with knowing andobeying the rules of the road.SHIFTING GEARSBODY POSITIONBASIC VEHICLECONTROLBODY POSITIONTo control a motorcycle well: Posture — Sit so you can use yourarms to steer the motorcycle ratherthan to hold yourself up. Seat — Sit far enough forward sothat arms are slightly bent whenyou hold the handlegrips. Bendingyour arms permits you to press onthe handlebars without having tostretch. Hands — Hold the handlegripsfirmly to keep your grip overrough surfaces. Start with yourright wrist flat. This will help youkeep from accidentally usingHOLDING HANDLEGRIPSRIGHTWRONG10too much throttle. Also, adjust thehandlebars so your hands are evenwith or below your elbows. Thispermits you to use the proper musclesfor precision steering. Knees — Keep your knees againstthe gas tank to help you keep yourbalance as the motorcycle turns. Feet — Keep your feet firmly onthe footrests to maintain balance.Don’t drag your feet. If your footcatches on something, you couldbe injured and it could affect yourcontrol of the motorcycle. Keepyour feet near the controls so youcan get to them fast if needed.Also, don’t let your toes pointdownward — they may get caughtbetween the road and the footrests.SHIFTING GEARSThere is more to shifting gearsthan simply getting the motorcycle topick up speed smoothly. Learning touse the gears when downshifting,turning or starting on hills isimportant for safe motorcycleoperation.Shift down through the gearswith the clutch as you slow or stop.Remain in first gear while you arestopped so that you can move outquickly if you need to.

BRAKINGYour motorcycle has two brakes:one each for the front and rear wheel.Use both of them at the same time.The front brake is more powerful andcan provide at least three-quartersof your total stopping power. Thefront brake is safe to use if you useit properly.Remember: Use both brakes every time youslow or stop. Using both brakes foreven “normal” stops will permityou to develop the proper habit orskill of using both brakes properlyin an emergency. Squeeze the frontbrake and press down on the rear.Grabbing at the front brake orjamming down on the rear cancause the brakes to lock, resultingin control problems. If you know the technique, usingboth brakes in a turn is possible,although it should be done verycarefully. When leaning themotorcycle some of the traction isused for cornering. Less traction isavailable for stopping. A skid canoccur if you apply too much brake.TURNINGRiders often try to take curves orturns too fast. When they can’t holdthe turn, they end up crossing intoanother lane of traffic or going off theroad. Or, they overreact and brake toohard, causing a skid and loss ofcontrol. Approach turns and curveswith caution.Use four steps for better control: SLOW LOOK PRESS ROLL SLOW — Reduce speed beforethe turn by closing the throttle and,if necessary, applying both brakes. LOOK — Look through the turnto where you want to go. Turn justyour head, not your shoulders, andkeep your eyes level with thehorizon. PRESS — To turn, the motorcyclemust lean. To lean the motorcycle, press on the handlegrip inthe direction of the turn. Pressleft — lean left — go left. Pressright — lean right — go right.Higher speeds and/or tighterturns require the motorcycle tolean more.11TURNINGIt is best to change gears beforeentering a turn. However, sometimesshifting while in the turn is necessary.If so, remember to do so smoothly. Asudden change in power to the rearwheel can cause a skid.Also, using the front brakeincorrectly on a slippery surfacemay be hazardous. Use cautionand squeeze the brake lever, nevergrab. Some motorcycles have integratedbraking systems that activate thefront and rear brakes togetherwhen applying the rear brakepedal. (Consult the owner’smanual for a detailed explanationon the operation and effective useof these systems.)BRAKINGMake certain you are ridingslowly enough when you shift into alower gear. If not, the motorcycle willlurch, and the rear wheel may skid.When riding downhill or shifting intofirst gear you may need to use thebrakes to slow enough beforedownshifting safely. Work toward asmooth, even clutch release,especially when downshifting.

ROLL — Roll on the throttlethrough the turn to stabilize thesuspension. Maintain steady speedor accelerate gradually through theturn. This will help keep themotorcycle stable.In normal turns, the rider and themotorcycle should lean together atthe same angle.NORMAL TURNS3Test YourselfWhen riding, you should:A. Turn your head and shoulders tolook through turns.B. Keep your arms straight.C. Keep your knees away from thegas tank.D. Turn just your head and eyes tolook where you are going.KEEPING YOURDISTANCEAnswer - page 40LANE POSITIONSThe best protection you can haveis distance — a “cushion of space” —all around your motorcycle. Ifsomeone else makes a mistake,distance permits you: Time to react. Space to maneuver.LANE POSITIONSIn slow tight turns, counterbalanceby leaning the motorcycle only andkeeping your body straight.SLOW, TIGHT TURNS12In some ways the size of themotorcycle can work to youradvantage. Each traffic lane gives amotorcycle three paths of travel, asindicated in the illustration.Your lane position should: Increase your ability to see and beseen. Avoid others’ blind spots. Avoid surface hazards. Protect your lane from otherdrivers. Communicate your intentions. Avoid wind blast from othervehicles. Provide an escape route.Select the appropriate path tomaximize your space cushion andmake yourself more easily seen byothers on the road.

LANE POSITIONSFOLLOWING ANOTHERVEHICLE“Following too closely” couldbe a factor in crashes involvingmotorcyclists. In traffic, motorcyclesneed as much distance to stop ascars. Normally, a minimum of twoseconds distance should bemaintained behind the vehicle ahead.To gauge your followingdistance: Pick out a marker, such as apavement marking or lamppost, onor near the road ahead. When the rear bumper of thevehicle ahead passes the marker,count off the seconds: “onethousand-one, one-thousand-two.” If you reach the marker beforeyou reach “two,” you arefollowing too closely.A two-second following distanceleaves a minimum amount of space tostop or swerve if the driver aheadstops suddenly. It also permits abetter view of potholes and otherhazards in the road.A larger cushion of space isneeded if your motorcycle will takelonger than normal to stop. If the13FOLLOWINGIn general, there is no singlebest position for riders to be seenand to maintain a space cushionaround the motorcycle. No portionof the lane need be avoided —including the center.Position yourself in the portionof the lane where you are most likelyto be seen and you can maintain aspace cushion around you. Changeposition as traffic situations change.Ride in path 2 or 3 if vehicles andother potential problems are on yourleft only. Remain in path 1 or 2 ifhazards are on your right only. Ifvehicles are being operated on bothsides of you, the center of the lane,path 2, is usually your best option.The oily strip in the centerportion that collects drippings fromcars is usually no more than two feetwide. Unless the road is wet, theaverage center strip permits adequatetraction to ride on safely. You canoperate to the left or right of thegrease strip and still be within thecenter portion of the traffic lane.Avoid riding on big buildups of oiland grease usually found at busyintersections or toll booths.

BEING FOLLOWEDFOLLOWINGpavement is slippery, if you cannotsee through the vehicle ahead, or iftraffic is heavy and someone maysqueeze in front of you, open up athree-second or more followingdistance.Keep well behind the vehicleahead even when you are stopped.This will make it easier to get outof the way if someone bears down onyou from behind. It will also give youa cushion of space if the vehicleahead starts to back up for somereason.When behind a car, ride wherethe driver can see you in the rearviewmirror. Riding in the

In the District of Columbia, you must have a valid driver’s license with motorcycle (M) endorsement to operate a motorcycle. DC law refers to a motorcycle as a 2 or 3 wheeled motor vehicle that has one or more of the following characteristics: Pist

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