Teenagers looking to cruise the streets on two wheels will have to spend a few extra hours in the classroom - and on a motorcycle - before obtaining their licenses.
The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program's Basic Rider Course, once an optional safety program from motorcyclists completing their permit or license tests, is now mandatory for 16- and 17-year-old riders, officials said.
"The Basic Rider Course goes over all kinds of safety things," PennDOT spokeswoman Pam Kane said. "It's geared toward motorcycles, but any person, even if they don't ride, seriously should take this course because it gives you a completely new awareness of motorcycles."
Participants spend five hours in a classroom setting and 10 hours behind the handlebars learning fundamental motorcycle skills. The program, course materials, safety gear and motorcycles are provided free of charge, Kane said.
In Blair County, classroom sessions are held at Seltzer Power Sports, 433 Sabbath Rest Road, and the riding lessons are conducted in the Altoona Mirror parking lot, 301 Cayuga Ave., safety liaison Steve Seltzer said.
The law requiring teens to complete the Basic Rider Course is "absolutely" a good idea, Seltzer said.
"I think the new law is there to help protect young people, people who are just learning to ride," Seltzer, president of Seltzer Power Sports, said.
Riders under 18 must complete 65 hours of riding time while on their permit. The 15-hour Basic Rider Course counts toward the 65-hour requirement, Seltzer said.
Once the safety program and riding time requirements are completed, riders under 18 years of age will be eligible to apply for the motorcycle skill test in order to obtain their license. They must first have a valid Pennsylvania driver's license to obtain a motorcycle license, Kane said.
Successful completion of the course for motorcycle permit holders 18 and older results in an immediate approval of a motorcycle license, Kane said.
A motorcycle helmet is still mandatory for all riders under the age of 21 and all riders on a motorcycle permit, PennDOT said.
But individuals who have had their motorcycle license for two years or have completed the Basic Rider Course are not required to wear a helmet, according to PennDOT's motorcycle helmet law fact sheet.
A 2005 graduate of the Basic Rider Course, Seltzer said holding the safety program in Blair County is beneficial to riders of all ages and skill levels.
Seltzer estimated about 250 riders have passed through the course this year. While classes end in October, Seltzer said sections are routinely full and the demand is expected to continue when classes resume in March.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.