Honda's Commitment to Rider Safety and Training

9/1/2004 9:10:00 PM

Honda's approach to rider safety and training can be summed up in a single sentence: Top-quality products combined with responsible, skilled riding result in the most enjoyable motorcycling experience possible. The firm's actions over the years back up that statement. Honda has consistently led the industry in developing and distributing training videos, brochures and classroom materials, and in promoting and supporting rider education programs, courses, open houses and demonstration rides.

Honda's commitment to rider safety and training is an integral part of the company's recognition of its social responsibility and its commitment to its customers, the industry and the communities where it does business.

Honda's efforts in the U.S. began decades ago and grew rapidly. In the 1970s the company first formed the Motorcycle Safety Department, which was to later become the Rider Education and Recreation Department. Today, the Rider Education Department is involved in a broad range of activities.

This group is composed of rider education specialists who combine their years of motorcycling experience with specialized rider training skills. They actively support rider and instructor courses around the country, as well as work to improve existing programs and establish new training programs throughout the U.S. They also assist dealers, clubs and schools in training new riders, and they provide training information, materials and motorcycles through Honda's nationwide dealer network.

What's more, Honda actively promotes innovative programs for motorcycle rider safety and training. Specifically, Honda created the first rider instruction and training center for public use, the Colton Rider Education Center (REC), in August 1988. During the following two years, Honda opened three additional RECs in Irving, Texas; Alpharetta, Georgia; and Troy, Ohio. The Colton REC and its sister RECs were the first of their kind to be built by any manufacturer--multi-use facilities that provided training classrooms and ranges to teach street, ATV and off-road riding skills to riders on all brands.

These locations were chosen based on vehicle registrations, with the RECs sited where the populations of motorcycle and ATV riders were largest. Start-up costs topped $7.5 million--a telling figure that ably demonstrates the depth of Honda's commitment to educating riders of all brands. The RECs serve as model, state-of-the-art training centers for state agencies and private concerns looking to form their own rider training programs.

The motorcycle training curriculum used at the RECs was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and is administered by the individual state agencies responsible for public motorcycle training in their states. Similarly, the ATV training curriculum was developed by the MSF's sister organization, the ATV Safety Institute (ASI). ASI training is administered nationally by ASI. Not coincidentally, Honda played a significant role in the creation of both the MSF and ASI.

Each REC offers the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's two-and-one-half-day Motorcycle RiderCourse: Riding and Street Skills (MSF:RSS), the one-day Experienced RiderCourse (ERC), as well as the ATV Safety Institute's half-day ATV RiderCourse. The Colton and Alpharetta RECs also offer the MSF's half-day Dirt Bike School (DBS) for those who are interested in off-road rider training, with Alpharetta providing training both for new riders and for those with intermediate skill levels.

While each REC offers the same basic rider curriculums, each center is also regional in nature, serving to promote the awareness of training both in their home states and throughout the states surrounding the RECs. The REC administrators fulfill this goal through extensive contact with local, state and federal regulatory agencies and elected officials.

Although all four centers seek the same goals and provide similar facilities, each one is unique. Colton, for instance, was Honda's first REC and the only one for which land had to be purchased; the others were all built on property already owned by Honda. In addition, Colton now features the OHV & Environmental Learning Center (OELC). Unveiled in 2001, the OELC is the only educational facility in the U.S. that provides state-of-the-art rider safety and training and environmental education within the same facility.

The Troy, Ohio, REC is the only Honda facility located in a rural county, and as such has become a key Honda partner working closely with the 4H ATV Community Safety Program at national, state and local levels.

In 1993, Alpharetta offered the public the first off-road training program in the country using a curriculum originally developed by the MSF for the military. Today, using the MSF's current program, it is one of the most active dirt bike training facilities in the country.

The REC in Irving is one of the highest-volume training centers in the nation, a reflection on its strategic location.

Honda's four RECs make their classrooms available for other purposes beyond MSF and ASI rider training. Not surprisingly, both industry groups employ the centers to train new instructors. The convenient proximity of classrooms, training ranges and training vehicles permits the RECs to serve as laboratories for the MSF and ASI to develop, evaluate and put into use the latest instructional theories and teaching techniques for rider education.

Police and military agencies also use the centers on a regular basis to conduct their own specialized rider training programs.

In a concerted effort to become supportive community partners, the RECs support youth programs for the Police Activities Leagues (PAL), and the National Youth Program Using Minibikes (NYPUM), programs that seek to positively influence the lives of at-risk youth through the experience of off-road motorcycle training. A variety of government agencies, as well as riding clubs and school organizations, also use the centers' classrooms for meeting space.

Honda's goal is to deliver quality to its customers--quality that exceeds their expectations. This translates to a commitment to build high-quality products and to provide state-of-the-art rider education to as broad a spectrum of people as possible. By helping riders of all brands learn how to get the most from their motorcycle or ATV safely and responsibly, Honda delivers on the promise to provide a quality riding experience. Because the more skilled and the more aware the rider becomes, the more fun the ride will be.