PHOENIX — There are more than 5,000,000 licensed drivers in Arizona and every year more motorists make the choice to ride a motorcycle. But that doesn't mean they have the proper training. There is one non-profit trying to make every driver safer, but especially those on two wheels.
There's no better way to experience Arizona than cruising the open road on a motorcycle, at least if you ask Mark Weiss.
"There is so much you miss when you're inside a car."
His curiosity about bikes as a teen turned into a calling. He now manages Harley Davidson's Desert Wind Riding Academy in Mesa and he's seen it all.
"Every walk of life. Every profession. Across the spectrum, age groups."
While there may not be a stereotypical, "Easy Rider" style biker in 2019, there is a disturbing and deadly trend.
Last year 161 people were killed in motorcycle crashes in our state and there's one consistent theme.
"Too much speed is really, really, really common and that's a choice that we make as riders," says Weiss.
ADOT statistics show nearly a quarter of all motorcycle riders who crashed in 2017 were just going too fast. That's troubling when you consider the latest "Crash Facts" report that shows a steady increase in motorcycle registrations. The number in 2017 was 15 percent higher than four years before.
There's no denying the ever-increasing popularity of motorcycles here in Arizona. What might shock you, though, is that a third of those who train here have never ridden a motorcycle before.
Mick Degn is Executive Director of the Arizona Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Foundation or AMSAF; a non-profit educating everyone on how to share the road.
"It's the motorcyclist looking out for the car and the car looking out for the motorcyclist."
For drivers and riders to coexist safely, Mick told me training is vital, but it isn't cheap.
"We want to financially help people get into training because the individual is looking at a budget and where does safety fall? A lot of times, unfortunately, safety falls at the bottom of the pile."
The typical tuition for a 20-hour course varies by school but may run you a few hundred dollars. Mick's mission is to cut that bill down dramatically to ultimately reduce the number of crashes and deaths dramatically through education.
You can learn more about their scholarships at www.amsaf.org