News Room

We Need to Get More Kids into Knife Juggling

Published by Idaho STAR Program on Sunday, January 04, 2015
Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve often heard riders recommend or at least suggest that we encourage more people to ride motorcycles, under the theory that if there are more riders out there, drivers will be more likely to get used to looking for motorcycles or that having the experience of riding a motorcycle makes people better drivers. Similarly, I’ve heard calls for getting teenagers to ride dirt bikes (to help prepare them for street riding as they get older, if they choose), or street bikes (so they learn to be aware of motorcycles as they learn to drive).

While these ideas may sound good on the surface, I have to say that I categorically disagree with encouraging ANYONE to ride motorcycles. That may sound odd coming from someone who runs a state motorcycle safety program, so let me elaborate.  

While there is data to indicate that riders make better drivers, I am not aware of any data to suggest that drivers who have riding experience are less likely to be involved in car-motorcycle crashes. Even if drivers with riding experience ARE less likely to be involved in those crashes, I am very skeptical that any resulting reduction in crashes would come anywhere close to making up for the increase in risk (and crashes) caused by turning non-riders into riders (see next paragraph).

More importantly, according to NHTSA data, motorcycling is 33 times more dangerous than driving. 33 TIMES! Let’s pause a moment on this statistic. We can get our minds wrapped around 10% more, 25% more, or even 100% more (twice as dangerous), but the concept of 33 times more dangerous is hard to really comprehend. Here’s an analogy that helps me process that staggering number. 

A Grande White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks will cost you $4.35. If that mocha was 33 times more expensive, it would cost you $143.55. 
Another way to think about this is that you could have one crash for every 1,000,000 miles of driving, or one crash for every 30,300 miles of riding (numbers for illustrative purposes only). 

From a ‘motorcycle safety’ perspective, I cannot in good conscience encourage or recommend to anyone that they should ride a motorcycle. To me, it would be like encouraging more young people to take up knife juggling. It may bring more attention to the activity, but at significant added risk to the participants.

Having said all of that, we completely understand the desire that many people have to ride and the passion many have for the sport. For those who have already decided to ride a motorcycle, the Idaho STAR Program (and rider training and motorcycle safety programs across the country and around the world) stand ready, willing, and able to work with riders so they have the skills, strategies, riding gear, attitudes, and make the choices and commitments to themselves and their loved ones to lower the risks of riding, and to reduce the consequences of crashes.

To all of those who work in the industry of motorcycle safety – I salute you. To all who feel the desire and passion for motorcycling – take advantage of the opportunities provided by programs like Idaho STAR . You can’t eliminate the risk of riding, but there is much you can do to reduce it.

Let’s make 2015 the best riding season yet!

Ride Safe,



Jon DelVecchio commented on 05-Jan-2015 11:26 AM
Ax and Co.

Thanks for the "knife juggling" article. I fully agree with the concept of not dragging people into riding. I have two teens [son (15) and daughter (17)]. My wife doesn't like riding at all. I haven't pushed the issue and ride without my family. That's sort of a bummer, but to me the risk is enormous and I'm not willing to expose them to it causally. Many riders don't see it that way.

Unless someone really understands the risk, it's not something to force people into. I see young girls on the back of sportbikes and think why? Well, they just don't consider the risk, and their operator hasn't either. Think about all the basic rider courses where a woman says, "my husband wants me to learn to ride". As instructor, I've had women cry after failing the basic course, mostly worried about how their husband will react to the news.

If my children ever approach me to teach them to ride (my son might and there's a Ninja 250 in the garage), I think I'll be more terrified than excited. Of course, I'm better prepared than most to teach him, but there is so much to learn! I couldn't imagine starting over myself on two wheels.

Thanks for the great e-newsletter. You're perspective in Idaho is always different from conventional safety blather and interesting.

Jon DelVecchio
Rochester, NY
Reg commented on 14-Jan-2015 11:56 AM
Your article smacks of motorcycle elitism. It's too dangerous for someone else because you are an experienced and trained rider. Were you that way from the first day you rode? No. You gained it not only from training but also experience. Experience riding, no?

When I took my first course about 10 years ago, the instructor was so negative that it was a horrible experience. I didn't ride for a year or so because of his "I am going to make you not want to ride" (yes, that's what he said to the class).

Luckily, I retook the class and it was a much more positive experience- rather than scaring the students they wanted to make them SAFER.

I become a better rider and learn every day I ride. By NOT encouraging people to ride and experience and LEARN you are doing riders a disservice to them and depriving them of something they may love.

Even worse you are making our numbers smaller. According to my last course we are already < 2% of licensed vehicles (not sure what level that is). Cutting it to 1%, even if more seasoned riders smacks of elitism.
Ax commented on 18-Jan-2015 07:17 AM
Dave, Thank you for commenting. Here is the reference for the study: 'NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 Data' (published in 2013) -

Reg, I appreciate your perspective on the article. I understand how the article can be taken as 'elitist.' That was not my intent. I teach, and I believe I am very positive about riding and helping people learn to ride safely so they can gain the experience and skill you mentioned. While I agree with you that 'scaring' people out of riding isn't the best approach, I do believe in being honest about the risks as well as ways to reduce that risk.

To be clear on my intent, I am not suggesting we talk people out of riding. Having said that, I do believe that motorcycle safety is not served by talking people into riding who otherwise do not have any interest in riding - that was my intent with the article. If someone has decided that they want to ride (or at least want to learn how and try it out), I welcome them with open arms and will encourage them to learn skills and strategies as well as about protective gear and other choices they can make regarding risks. I intended no elitism.

Thanks for being a reader and submitting your comments.

Ride safe,

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