When Pat Hahn was 21 years old, he decided he wanted to know more about motorcycle safety than anyone he knew. Fast forward about 30 years to 2022, when the State Motorcycle Safety Association confirmed he met his goal.
Pat, a motorcycle trainer and communications manager with Team Oregon, received SMSA’s highest recognition, the Outstanding Contribution award, which recognizes the breadth and depth of work by a group or individual in motorcycle safety at the local, state or national level.
Over the years, Pat applied his energy, curiosity and creativity to multiple opportunities impacting motorcycle safety, including training and mentoring students and instructors, designing and deploying statewide communications and training programs, publishing five books, and evaluating state motorcycle safety programs in nine states and counting.
One of his proudest accomplishments is creating eRider, an online classroom for motorcycle training. To train Oregon riders, which number upwards of 10,000 students each year, Team Oregon provides classroom instruction and partners with community colleges, public schools and businesses to use their large, outdoor paved surfaces for training. In 2020, activity at those sites stopped, and like the rest of the country, the organization had to create plan b. Luckily, eRider was in place.
“Since we already had the eRider online classroom available, we continued training and returned in-person the moment we had permission to get back on the parking lots,” Pat says. “And thanks to our instructors, who braved the pandemic uncertainty for the public good, we were one of the first programs in the country to continue in-person training. If it weren’t for eRider, we’d have been trying to teach motorcycle safety on Zoom.”
The biggest challenge faced during the pandemic was ensuring compliance with health protocols for instructors and students alike, including masking, social distancing and sanitizing motorcycles, helmets, pencils, clipboards and other equipment, which added complexity to an already tight training schedule.
Nevertheless, instructors like Pat made it work – and learned a few things in the process.
“We learned we can provide classroom training completely online without sacrificing equity, access and effectiveness. That first year, only four individuals were unable to successfully complete eRider out of more than 6,000 total.
“Those students were simply mailed a workbook and knowledge test to prepare for the riding sessions. The rest had the same test scores and pass rates as those in a traditional classroom. Still, we resumed in-person classroom in 2022 for those who prefer it.”
Team Oregon, which began in 1984 as an injury-prevention program, is now a nationwide leader in rider education and an outreach program in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. According to Pat, the organization’s fit in the college is a good one because of the training’s impact on the public’s health.
“We know our graduates are less likely to be involved in fatal crashes,” he says. “We estimate Team Oregon graduates make up two-thirds of the Oregon riding population, but only one-fifth of those killed in crashes. That’s encouraging and needs more study.
“We also emphasize the CPHHS vision of ‘every person, every family, every community’ to our instructors in the field. Although an instructor’s role is to train individual riders, we remind them they also serve riders’ families, their employers and their communities, who depend on those riders to be there every day, and to make it home safely every night. It’s good to recognize the bigger picture.
“Motorcycling is risky. Even in training, students can get hurt. A recurring question is ‘Why do we do this? Why do we take on this risk?’ The answer is because somebody needs to stick their neck out for riders.
“OSU employs the finest motorcycle instructors in the country, and our riders need us. Their families, their employers, their communities – they need us. Public health and well-being are why we do this.”
Team Oregon typically trains 9,000-11,000 students a year, all in small groups of 10-12 riders. That equals about 1,000 classes, 2,000 instructor assignments and 20,000 instructor hours a year.