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You’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel Lucky?”

Published by Idaho STAR Program on Friday, October 03, 2014
We all remember Inspector Callahan’s famous quote from “Dirty Harry” (1971). We may not often think of it this way, but there is a certain amount of ‘luck’ involved in riding a motorcycle and whether or not we are involved in a crash. Motorcycle rider training folks like me typically focus on the factors that are within the rider’s control, but the reality is that there is a ‘luck’ element to our crash risk.

Consider our natural response when we hear someone is involved in a car crash. Among others, I’ll bet that we all feel or think some version of:
• “I guess they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
• “That’s really unfortunate/unlucky/too bad. I hope they are OK.”
• “The way traffic is nowadays, it’s not surprising. Glad they weren’t hurt.”
• “With so many texting or drunk drivers out there, it’s a wonder we all don’t get crashed into.”

Similarly, when people hear of a motorcycle crash, the reaction is often some version of:
• “Must be those damn cagers!” (For those not familiar with the term, “cager” is a colloquial term for ‘car driver.’)
• “Was there gravel on the road? Or maybe a car turning left in front of him?”

Certainly there are also reactions that involve something the driver or rider may have been doing that led to the crash (speeding, drinking, texting, etc.). But the fact that the above questions even come up is evidence that we intuitively accept that there is an element of luck in the mix.

I was riding up Highway 55 last month on a lovely sunny day. As I approached a blind right hand curve, I was considering this ‘luck’ factor. The river was to my left, and a steep hillside was just outside the fog-line to my right. Since the curve was blind, I reduced my approach speed to be ready. If an oncoming car was drifting over the centerline, or there was a stalled car in my lane just around the curve, I would be prepared to respond. I’ve trained for those scenarios and felt pretty confident that if those things did happen, I could handle them. But then I thought of another scenario – an unlikely one, but one that does happen (I think we’ve all seen it at least once). Suppose there was an oncoming car in their lane AND another oncoming car trying to pass it (so they’d be in MY lane). Hmmm…not feeling so confident about my ability to navigate this one without ending up in the ditch (which, by the way, is WAY better than a head on collision).

As I mentioned, this scenario is unlikely, but cars do sometimes pass in ‘no passing’ zones and around corners. And it would be ‘unlucky’ (but certainly possible) for a rider to be there when it happens. This is just one of many possible scenarios involving bad luck (or at least bad timing). My point here is not to freak anyone out, but simply to encourage some thought about the ‘luck’ factor in motorcycle riding. Yes, we can prepare ourselves by practicing our mental and physical riding skills, scanning well ahead, predicting hazards, and taking action early to reduce those hazards.  We can lower our risk, but we can’t eliminate it.

Because I know that the risk is there (and that I simply can’t reduce it to zero), I choose to do some additional preparation. I wear full riding gear on every ride, I carry good motorcycle insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance. AND, I always call my wife when I get there to let her know I have arrived safely (not doing that would be an entirely different type of risk…)

As our riding season winds down here in Idaho – enjoy those last few rides. Do what you can be prepared for hazards and minimize your risk. You can do a lot to boost your safety, but please remember that the ‘luck’ factor is always present. Sometimes it’s in your favor and sometimes not.

Ride Well, Ride Safe, 



Gary Weninger commented on 03-Oct-2014 05:24 PM
Here's another scenario, this happened to me today going through Wolf Greek Canyon near Helena Mt., dear in the road,. Just luck...
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