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Motorcycle Safety – A Matter of Belief?

Published by Idaho STAR Program on Friday, October 31, 2014
We’ve published articles about riding skills, riding judgment, rider training, protective gear, impairments, preparation, and even performing successfully in the ‘moment of truth.’ This article is a little different – I’m suggesting that a significant portion of motorcycle safety depends on what you believe.

Belief is not the same as facts.  Sometimes beliefs are in alignment with the facts, sometimes not. Sometimes there aren’t facts available, so all we have is our belief. Whatever the case, our choices and behaviors are often based on what we believe.  Here are some examples from my life (some motorcycle related…some not):



I believe that my mother and my grandfather having diabetes puts me at higher risk.

I limit my sugar intake and see my doctor twice a year to check on it.

I believe that what my son sees me do is at least as important as what I tell him.

I try to ‘lead by example’ in the things I want him to learn.

I believe that even with all my knowledge and training in motorcycling, I could still be involved in a crash.

I scan actively for hazards, practice my skills regularly, ride sober, and gear up on every ride.

I believe that my chances of being injured (or worse) in a crash are higher than if I were not a rider.

In addition to gearing up, I carry good health, disability, and life insurance (I hope never to use it, but it’s there for my family – just in case).

Sometimes, our choices and actions are more out of habit than directly a result of our beliefs. Some of our habits are in line with the desire for health and longevity, and some are not. If you are a rider, I challenge you to take some time to ask yourself what you really believe about things like:

  • The risk posed by distracted car drivers who can turn in front of you
  • The hardness and abrasive quality of the roadway (and how well your skin would stand up to it)
  • Your ability to respond to emergencies if you are cold, wet, tired, or otherwise impaired
  • Your ability to successfully perform a quick stop or swerve in an emergency/panic situation
  • What other motorcycle-related beliefs do you have to add to this list?
Now that you’ve thought about what you believe, what choices or behaviors make sense to you based on those beliefs? What habits would you like to have? Please share in the comments section. The riding season is winding down – let’s keep our last few rides of the year crash and injury free. 

Ride well, ride safe.



Jae commented on 01-Nov-2014 03:29 PM
Great message, Ax! Nicely done.
Ron commented on 03-Nov-2014 11:07 PM
I ride all year long. The preparation, the attention to detail, the thrill, the therapeutic value. These are the reasons I ride. I absolutely concur with your Beliefs and Actions regarding Motorcycle Riding and I follow the same rules. Every day,...let me say that with more enthusiasm... EVERY DAY as I ride from Nampa to East Boise I see people texting while driving. At least once a week someone talking on a cell phone changes lanes into the space where I am riding. Once I was almost hit by an off-duty Ambulance!

Riders must be careful. I am all for scientific studies regarding motorcycle safety. For instance, there is currently a lot of postings regarding "Lane Splitting" and the relative safety/risk. Many people spout opinion while few are looking at the studies that have been done.

I, for one, wish that it was an option here in Idaho for those of us that choose to ride. Getting stuck in sweltering heat (or freezing cold) during the great Rush-Hour Parking-Lot is no fun. One of the benefits of riding should be the ability to move around parked cars.

It just seems odd to me that our state will allow us to go without head protection but NOT let us maneuver around obstacles. Go figure.
Anonymous commented on 09-Nov-2014 05:29 PM
I saw something today that I've never seen before and I am curious if this is a new trend and is it legal?

I was traveling West on Franklin from Five Mile to Cloverdale with traffic in both westbound lanes. In my rear-view mirror, I noticed flashing lights. I double checked and didn't see red or blue, but continuous flashing lights. I hastily made my way between two cars in the right-hand lane thinking it was an emergency vehicle. When we stopped at the light at Cloverdale, I realized it was not any kind of emergency vehicle, just a motorcycle with flashing headlights. I rolled down my window and asked why his lights were flashing and he responded, "So people can see me!"

I fully agree that motorists need to be diligent in watching for motorcycles and I completely sympathize with the motorcyclists in this dilemma. However, this new feature nearly caused me to create a traffic hazard by hastily making my way to the right lane.

This was not a simple little flashing light, these were two headlights about 4 to 5 inches in diameter on each side of the main headlight. Is this a new safety feature that more motorcycles will be using? Is this a legal use of headlights?

Any clarification you can give would be much appreciated.
Ax commented on 10-Nov-2014 04:37 PM
Thanks for the question about the flashing headlights. Based on your description, I believe what you saw was a motorcycle with a headlight modulator. This is a device that can flash the headlight between about 20% and 100% of full intensity. The purpose is to increase how well a motorcycle is seen in traffic. Modulators are legal in Idaho.

While we are not aware of any scientific studies showing the headlight modulator to be an effective motorcycle safety device, there is some research that suggests modulators may increase a motorcyclist's visibility. (Olson, P.L.; Halstead-Nussloch, R.; Sivak, M. (1979). "Development and Testing of Techniques for Increasing the Conspicuity of Motorcycles and Motorcycle Drivers".

Does this give you the info you wanted?



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