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Motorcyclists cannot automatically take up their two-wheeled passion overseas just because they have stateside motorcycle licenses or authorizations, Navy officials say.

They must take courses given by their bases on local driving conditions, said Jim Dickinson, traffic safety specialist and lead motorcycle instructor at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

Recently, it became apparent that some motorcyclists moving to Naples were unaware of the policy mandating a local driving course — leading some officials to think Americans were driving in Naples without a proper license.

“You have to take the motorcycle safety course here before you can drive on your own, whether you have taken a course someplace else or not,” Dickinson said.

With 18 motorcycle fatalities this year Navy-wide, officials at bases the world over stress road safety, particularly for riding on two wheels.

In addition to the basic safety course, the Naples safety office instituted a motorcycle mentorship program in March, requiring motorcyclists new to driving in Italy to undergo a series of accompanied rides before setting off on their own.

New motorists must go through the base’s three-day course to get a license and register a motorcycle or scooter with the Motor Vehicle Registration Office. The basic course includes classroom and range training. It’s recognized by 41 states, but not valid in others, including California, South Carolina and Virginia, which require motorcyclists to take the state-specific training.

Newly licensed drivers must ride with a mentor on a highway, in a crowded urban area and a rural road before riding on their own. Already licensed motorcyclists moving to Naples must take either the experienced riders course or the nine-skill motorcycle skill test and ride twice with a mentor.

Naples has reported three motorcycle incidents this year, all minor, Dickinson said. Even though accident rates historically have been low, those low numbers weren’t enough to convince leaders to leave it at that.

Southern Italy’s often erratic, aggressive drivers challenge even experienced riders, Dickinson said. Driving through cities, especially, isn’t for the meek.

Elsewhere, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in Rota, Spain, last week held a basewide rally attended by 135 of their motorcyclists. Attendance was mandatory for everyone who operates a motorcycle or a scooter in Rota.

Naples’ last motorcycle fatality was in 2004, the same as in Rota, which recorded five motorcycle fatalities that year, officials said.

Since the foundation’s course was made mandatory a few years ago, there have been no fatalities, base officials noted.

“We have been very fortunate,” Chief Petty Officer Gilbert Gifford, an MSF-certified instructor, said in a statement. “Spain is the best place in the world to ride on two wheels. It’s a way of life for Spaniards and those on base.”

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