According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more often than passenger car occupant fatalities in 2016 traffic crashes. Are motorcycle riders persuaded by such sobering statistics? No. However, here are four proven ways to reduce your risk of becoming a crash statistic.
1. PREPARE FOR THE DANGERS OF RIDING IN TRAFFIC
NHTSA also reports that when motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it’s usually because a vehicle violated the motorcyclist’s right of way.
Three factors—unaware drivers, visual challenges, and aging drivers—make it dangerous to be a motorcyclist in traffic. First, because there are far fewer motorcyclists in the mix, most drivers aren’t planning for an encounter with you. Second, the relatively small size of you and your motorcycle makes you less likely to be noticed and more likely to be obscured by a blind spot, object, or poor weather conditions. Third, our aging population means that you may encounter someone in traffic who has impaired eyesight, hearing, or reflexes.
You can compensate, however, by always (night OR day) riding with headlights on; wearing brightly colored reflective, protective apparel; slowing down, scanning the road farther around and in front of you; and thinking strategically.
2. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
If you pay close attention, your intuition can sometimes warn you of danger. For example, an active 29-year-old rider (and helicopter pilot) from Colorado thought nothing could stop him. One day, however, he was nearing an intersection and noticed two cars approaching—one on the right who was beginning to stop and one on the left who was clearly going to run the stop sign.
Rather than slowing down, he continued and soon realized he was going to collide with the car on the left. He did—and he broke a thumb and then his knees before going airborne and landing head first on the vehicle’s windshield. His full-face helmet saved him from suffering massive injuries or death, but it took months to recover.
This rider said the experience taught him that he should have trusted his intuition, which told him the vehicle on the left was not going to stop. He now tries to avoid busy intersections and ALWAYS assumes people don’t see him.
3. GET THE RIGHT TRAINING, PRACTICE, AND EQUIPMENT
A rider from Virginia had a steep learning curve on this topic. He and some friends—three of whom were competitive motorcyclists—were going to ride in a California desert the morning after a bachelor party. His friends gave him a motorcycle, boots and pants, a chest protector, a leather coat, and some gloves. They then spent an hour covering the basics of how to ride.
The problem was that this occurred after a night of drinking, and the young Virginia man was not a skilled rider. He had fun riding over some hills and sandy areas, but he soon approached a ditch without the skills to jump it. The bike’s front wheel dropped into the ditch, which flipped the bike into the air. It landed on his foot, breaking it in five places.
The experience taught him to ride only in situations within his skill level, always get adequate training, never mix alcohol with riding, and “dress for the crash, not for the ride.”
4. REMEMBER THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
The reality of what happens when a human body—traveling at 30, 50, or 75 mph—collides with a solid object without the protection of a metal frame, seatbelts, and air bags is far worse than most people realize.
Another Colorado rider realized that when he was following shortly behind his friend on a ride. The friend in front, who swerved to miss a dog, hit a truck head on. The friend’s arms, collarbones, ribs, and legs were all broken; his face was unrecognizable; and his brains were splattered on the truck that hit him.
The laws of physics dictate that when you’re riding a motorcycle, death and serious injury are much more likely for you than for drivers and passengers in vehicles. You have only one body and brain. Don’t become a “statistic” by disregarding commonsense motorcycle safety.