News Room

Preventing and Surviving Crashes

Published by Idaho STAR Program on Thursday, July 31, 2014
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)
Do you HAVE to do these things?  No, the choices are up to you. Each choice you make brings potential consequences with it (and choosing not to think about it IS a choice). We hope you choose to take these actions - because we know that taking these actions and making these choices will increase your odds of preventing and surviving crashes. You might also check out our “Smart Rider Commitments for some other choices and commitments that you can make to help you be ready for those moments of truth. 

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,



eoin commented on 01-Aug-2014 07:56 AM
Thanks for the article. I'm looking at the figures showing that 75% of crashes involve cruisers or touring bikes, and I wonder: What portion of all the bikes on the road are cruisers or touring bikes?
The answer to that would help us understand whether cruiser or touring bike riders are disproprotionately more (or less) likely to be in a crash, or if it's just that most of us ride cruisers or touring bikes.
I have the same question about the figure showing that people age 40+ represent 70% of crashes.
Sean commented on 01-Aug-2014 08:15 AM
Interesting stats, but also potentially misleading. For instance, the author reports that 75% of motorcycle crashes involve cruisers. In order to claim that number as statistically significant, the percentage of bikes owned that are cruisers should also be included. If cruisers are 75% of the total bikes on the road, then this is just a reflection of averages, and expected!

Keep up the good work STAR. I really have enjoyed the classes that I took.
~Ax commented on 01-Aug-2014 11:06 AM
Thanks for the comments, folks. The percentages presented in the article are from the raw data. No intent to mislead; just to report. We don't have the data on exposure (how many miles they ride) by age or bike type, or on ownership (how many of each bike type are owned in Idaho).

The facts are presented to help combat the common belief that 'it's those kids on sportbikes' that get into crashes. It very well may be the case that riders over 40 on cruisers and touring bikes constitute a large portion of the riders. Whether this is the case or not, our goal is to inform the riders about the factors associated with fatal crashes in an effort to help them stay out of those crashes.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment - we appreciate our loyal readers! Ride well, ride safe.

Chanda Eidson commented on 10-Apr-2017 09:54 PM
How's thing, on occasion I see a 404 error when I view this webpage. I thought you would like to know.

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