Making choices before the ‘moment of truth’ can make all the difference
We all know deep down that riding motorcycles carries a significantly higher level of risk than driving a car. We all know deep down that when a crash happens involving a motorcycle rider, the chances of injury or death are much higher than for someone in a car. This higher risk is not something that riders talk about very much (hey – I get it, if we are at a rally, group ride, fundraiser, bike show, etc. talking about crashing and getting hurt is a real downer…). One of the less pleasant aspects of my job is reviewing motorcycle crash reports. Seeing those crash reports keeps that knowledge of higher risk front and center in my mind.
No one plans to crash, but we know that crashes happen (about 500 are reported each year in Idaho) Based on the work of the Idaho Strategic Highway Safety Plan Motorcycle Committee, we are learning what factors are associated with fatal motorcycle crashes. Here are some of the findings from an analysis of 5 years of data (2009-2013; 127 fatalities):
- 75% - Cruisers or touring bikes
- 70% - Riders 40 years old and older
- 67% - Fatalities associated with rider error
- 41% - Riders running off the road in a corner
- 33% - Alcohol/drug involvement by riders
- 21% - Car violating a rider’s right-of-way
The Idaho STAR Program is dedicated to helping riders prevent and survive crashes (prevention is best, but if a crash does happen we want riders to survive that crash with as little injury as possible). In the moment of truth, it’s you – the rider – responding to the hazard, making decisions, and taking action. We encourage all riders to make some deliberate choices and preparations to be ready for those moments of truth Here are some ideas:
- Take a rider training course (STAR has 6 courses for experienced riders, in addition to our ‘learn to ride’ classes)
- Read articles and books about safe and smart riding (you can get a free PDF copy of the workbooks used in Idaho STAR courses here)
- Practice your skills in cornering and maximum braking
- Ride sober
- Keep your eyes looking well ahead and searching for hazards
- Take early action to avoid potential hazards (like slowing down or changing lanes before you get to the hazard)
- Take breaks to help your eyes and brain stay alert
- Expect other drivers NOT to see you
- In corners, keep you upper body relaxed, arms bent, lean your body with the bike, and keep your eyes looking through the turn
- Gear up – in a battle between the human body and asphalt, the asphalt usually wins. Your head, your face, your arms and hands, your legs and feet, your chest, shoulders, and stomach are all vulnerable to impact and road rash – protect what you value.
- Dress to be seen – bright colors and retro-reflective materials on your jacket, helmet, and/or motorcycle can help you be seen (but remember, this doesn’t mean they WILL see you – it just improves your chances)
Not only will you appreciate arriving home safe and sound at the end of your ride – your family and loved ones will too. We wish you many seasons of crash-free riding!
Ride well, ride safe,