New motorcyclists in Saskatchewan will soon have to go through a graduated system before earning a full licence, the government announced Tuesday.
The new graduated driver's licence for motorcycles, to be implemented in 2011, will be similar to the system applied to beginner car drivers, where road privileges are restricted to certain times and progress to fewer limitations as a blemish-free driving record is established.
The motorcycle licence will have four stages: Learner, Novice 1 and Novice 2 will precede a full M-class licence. Progression through the stages requires no incidents, such as an at-fault accident or a riding infraction, for three years.
"What we've heard is that motorcycles and motorcycle organizations around the province have been calling for this," Ken Cheveldayoff, the cabinet minister responsible for Saskatchewan's licensing agency, told CBC News on Tuesday. "It's something that's overdue."
According to Saskatchewan Government Insurance, or SGI, statistics from 2008 show there were 283 accidents involving motorcycles in the province, with five deaths and 221 injuries. The agency is expecting those numbers to come down, based on its experience with a graduated licensing system for cars and other passenger vehicles.
"Base on the program that we've introduced, we've seen an 18 per cent reduction," Kwei Quaye, assistant vice-president for traffic safety and driver services at SGI, told CBC News. "So we are quite positive that with introducing the graduated driver's licence... for new motorcyclists, we will see some benefits."
Police departments were quick to endorse the government's move.
"You can write a simple exam and go out and buy the motorcycle, a powerful motorcycle,... and hop on it and never have demonstrated any skill in riding that machine," Clive Weighill, chief of police in Saskatoon, noted about the current licensing regime.
Currently, anyone with a valid car licence can write an exam and obtain a motorcycle learner's permit allowing them to drive a motorbike alone, during daytime and within 100 kilometres of their home. Passing a subsequent road test on the motorcycle earns the driver a full M-class licence.
The government said the new system will not kick in until 2011, in part to allow for the safety industry to train more instructors.
Safety is already important to students taking riding courses from Darrell Kroeker, an instructor at Trans Industrial Safety Training in Saskatoon. He told CBC News that he is booked solid this summer, even though such courses are not currently mandatory.
"What we teach is to ride in control, within the boundaries, within the speed limit," Kroeker explained to CBC News.