Harper College administers the state's Motorcycle Safety Training Program for all of Cook County, serving about 5,000 riders annually.
The state program is available to newbie and veteran bikers alike and aims to reduce deaths and injuries -- and it's free. More than 34,000 motorcyclists were killed and an estimated 1.2 million people treated for motorcycle-related injuries between 2001 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Everybody benefits from a program like this because it makes the roads safer," program Supervisor Scott Mochinski said. "Yet, people don't know about it."
More than 500 basic, intermediate and advanced courses run March through October. Motorcycles and helmets are provided at the courses, which take place at 11 training sites throughout the county including Harper's main campus in Palatine.
Two instructors lead classes capped at 12 students. Those who finish the course receive a completion card that waives the written and riding portions of the Illinois Secretary of State's motorcycle license exam.
Program stats show that newly licensed riders who've taken the safety training program have a lower accident rate than those who haven't.
In addition to safety, Mochinski said students learn to respect all vehicles on the highway and develop an appreciation for motorcycle culture. He's seen people in their 80s enroll, just so they can enjoy the thrill of riding once in their life.
"It's like riding a motorcycle is on their bucket list, and they absolutely love it," he said. "Private courses cost hundreds of dollars, so this program is perfect whether you just want to ride once or you've got years of experience."
Registration for fall classes is open. For information, call (847) 925-6803 or visit harpercollege.edu/motorcycle.