MADISON (WKOW)-- After an unusually high year for motorcycle fatalities in 2012 with more than 100 deaths on Wisconsin roads, instructors are working even harder these days to promote safety.
Three years ago the Transportable High End Rider Education Facility, or REF for short, was created through a mix of federal and state transportation dollars. The mobile classroom is a one of a kind tool that frequently travels to motorcycle events across the state.
Wednesday night the classroom made a stop in Middleton.
"It was definitely something that keeps people more aware and just another helpful tool," motorcyclist Joe Pepper says after trying out the simulator.
Pepper is just one of the hundreds of motorcyclists who attended Wednesday night's motorcycle event at Quaker Steak and Lube in Middleton. Like many riders he's had his fair share of close calls.
"When I first got my license I was just pulling into a gravel parking lot and I took it a little too fast and had to dump it," Pepper says.
It was an experience that taught him a valuable lesson, to respect his bike and respect the road.
"It definitely woke me up to remember that nobody is, you're never invincible," Pepper says.
While crashes overall in Wisconsin are on a 5-year decline, going from 36,048 in 2007 to 28,065 in 2011, crashes involving motorcycles have stayed the same. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 2012 was one of the deadliest years with 102 motorcyclists dying on Wisconsin roads.
"Unfortunately they've been going up a bit, which is very discouraging," motorcycle instructor Tom Westrick says.
Westrick is one the instructors who travels with the REF mobile classroom. He says the simulator isn't only for beginners, but even expert riders can pick up a new skill.
"It just kind of gives the people a little idea of some of the things they have to be aware of when riding a motorcycle," Westrick says.
They're life-saving lessons like how to keep yourself visible to other motorists and how to avoid obstacles in the road you wouldn't have to worry about while driving a car.
"When you do have a little refresher it kind of reminds you of what you're supposed to be looking for out there when you're on a ride," Pepper says.
The REF mobile classroom will make a 3-day stop at the Buffalo County Fair. After that it will stop by a handful of other events across the state.
To find out where the classroom is going and where it has been, you can visit: http://www.zeroinwisconsin.gov/TheREF/Schedule.asp
For more information: http://www.zeroinwisconsin.gov/TheREF/
To sign up for safety classes at Madison College visit: