Get Endorsed or Get Towed


Michigan’s “Shadow Rider” Initiative

In the Fall of 2012 and after analysis of past and present motorcycle rider crash data in Michigan, it was determined that the “unendorsed” operator was far over represented in motorcycle crashes in Michigan. Unendorsed operators of a motorcycle made up over half of all crashes and fatalities that involved a motorcycle. Further analysis of all the registered motorcycles (nearly 250,000) with the state of Michigan, Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) revealed that approximately 20 percent of all registered motorcycles in Michigan (nearly 50,000) were being operated by an unendorsed motorcyclist. It was theorized the reason for this over representation was a lack of proper motorcycle training by riders and the Motorcycle Safety community desired to know if proper motorcycle training can reduce crashes involving a trained motorcycle operator.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) coordinated an initiative with the support of several Michigan motorcyclist safety partners, to contact every known unendorsed operator of a registered motorcycle in Michigan with a strategically planned message. In early spring of 2013, nearly 50,000 individuals were mailed a postcard style mailing informing them of the benefits of becoming a properly trained and endorsed motorcyclist and to “Come out of the Shadows”. The message strongly encouraged these individuals to seek out training and get endorsed.  

The motorcycle crash data and SOS records were analyzed in the fall of 2013, nearing the end of the Michigan riding season to determine if the spring mailing had a positive effect. Although it was ultimately determined that the unendorsed population was minimally improved, it was also gleaned that the first analysis missed a large population of unendorsed operators (nearly an additional 10,000) the first time around. This was because the peak of registered motorcycles in Michigan was not captured at the most optimal time of the Michigan riding season. This meant that there was still about 20 percent of the motorcycling population who continued to ride unendorsed and now made up nearly 55 percent of all crashes involving a motorcycle in Michigan.

OHSP continued the effort to contact the unendorsed population by mail again in the spring of 2014. This time a stronger message was used, informing those motorcyclists of some of the consequences of riding untrained and unendorsed. 

Analysis of all the registered motorcycles in Michigan in the fall of 2014 revealed that the unendorsed riding population had potentially received the message. It was calculated that the unendorsed now made up about 16 percent of the registered Michigan motorcycling population, a 4 percent decrease from the previous year and a 13 percent decrease in the total number of unendorsed operators. It was further determined that of those that were mailed a postcard in the spring, over 5,400 (13 percent) had in fact obtained their endorsements sometime during the season. Preliminary 2014 crash data has not yet been analyzed to determine the number of unendorsed operators involved in a motorcycle crash, injury, or fatality. Preliminary analysis of all crashes involving a motorcycle in 2014, currently show that motorcycle crashes in Michigan are predicted to be less than the previous riding season.

OHSP has moved forward with a third mailing in the spring of 2015 to the nearly 41,000 remaining unendorsed operators of a registered motorcycle with the State of Michigan.  A modified version of this postcard was developed for a fourth mailing in mid-summer of 2015. It again reminded those who continue to operate a motorcycle in Michigan unendorsed of the consequences of riding untrained and unendorsed.

This project will continue in 2016, as its efforts have seen results the past four years. With the goal of bringing unendorsed riders down to zero in the state of Michigan, a fifth mailing was sent in the winter of 2016. The focus of this mailer was to emphasize the importance of obtaining the training and endorsement as a necessary part of a rider’s preparation for the riding season. A sixth mailing is planned for distribution in mid to late summer of 2016.

It is our firm belief that this effort is having a positive effect on the number of over represented, unendorsed motorcyclists involved in a crash or fatality in Michigan. If you should have any questions about the “Shadow Rider” initiative, please feel free to contact Motorcycle Safety Program Coordinator, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. 

In the fall of 2016, new legislation was passed and signed by the Governor, that increased the penalties for operating a motorcycle in Michigan without the proper endorsement. It has been a misdemeanor in Michigan for many years, but the penalty was seldom enforced. Starting with the riding season in 2017, a person's first violation of the updated law, is punishable by a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail, or both. A persons second offense is a fine of $1000 and/or 1 year in jail, or both. The 2017 Shadow Rider mailer being sent to nearly 38,000 unendorsed riders in Michigan is written to stress this message and to encourage them to seek out training and to get their endorsement. 


Approximate Number of Unendorsed Riders & Postcards Mailed Postcard Mailing Date
38,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2018 May 2018
30,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2017-2 July 2017
38,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2017 March 2017
39,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2016-2 June 2016
39,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2016 February 2016
41,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2015-2 June 2015
41,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2015 March 2015
47,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2014 March 2014
50,000 Shadow Rider Postcard 2013 March 2013