Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Motorcycle Safety is Everyone's Resposbility

As mentioned in a previous post, I am now writing speeches as a member of Toastmasters International. I'm going to be giving my third speech in 2 weeks. I thought I would share the content of that speech since being an advocate of motorcyclists is what I intend to do with my speaking skills.
Here is what I plan to say. Your feedback is much appreciated.

I‘m an avid motorcyclist. Motorcycling to me is a thoroughly enjoyable pastime. My philosophy is a bike on the road is worth two in the shed. Yet when people discover that I ride a motorcycle, the first thing they say to me is “that it’s so dangerous!” I never know how to respond to this.  In part because I have no idea what they know or don’t know about motorcycling. And their experience or lack thereof is the perception of motorcycling from which they make this statement. Sometimes I’m tempted to say “sure motorcycling can be dangerous, but so is barreling down the highway at 70 mph in 2 tons of metal. Yet we do it every day.”

And that is the point really. Yes, there is risk. The reality is most things we do in our life involve risk. Skiing, swimming, and boating for example. Whether we may be consciously aware or not, each of us understands, evaluates, and try to minimize those risk for ourselves. Ultimately accepting some level of the risk involved. 

When people want to talk to me about the dangers of riding I tell them “anybody can ride a motorcycle, but not everyone should.” The first thing a person contemplating riding should ask themselves is “what kind of driver am I?” A person who has had several “close calls” or is prone to fender benders should think more than twice about riding a motorcycle. The type of driver you are doesn’t change what kind of rider you will be. And a fender bender on a motorcycle is a lot more serious than in a car.

Let me asking this question. How many of you would let your teenage son or daughter driver the family car without any driver training? Not many people would. Yet every day someone gets on a motorcycle without any basic rider training and don’t think twice about it.
In truth 92% of riders involved in accidents are essentially without training, are self-taught, or learned from a family or friend.  In addition these riders were significantly without motorcycle license, without any license, or have had their license revoked. Of these riders 96% are males between the ages of 16 -24. Which brings me back to question about your teen driving the family car without training.

One of the major hazards for motorcyclists are other vehicles. Statistically, people making left hand turns are the major culprits. The experts are still out on why this is so but have offered some theories on why. It may be that people look left, right and pull out without looking left again. They may misjudge the distance the bike is from them, or the speed at which it is approaching because of its smaller profile when compared to cars. Distracted driving is another cause of many accidents and not just for motorcyclist, although for us it’s more deadly. Despite new laws about cell phone use, and texting this law continues to be violated. I have a personal risk avoidance technique of my own. Whenever I see a car with a sticker that reads “baby on board” I stay well clear even when in my car. Unfortunately busy moms picking their kids up at daycare and racing home to fix the evening meal are in my experience the most distracted.

People who are close to me know that I am risk averse. How is it you might think that I even get on a motorcycle? I practice risk management. First I pay attention to the things I can control. 

  1. I don’t drink and drive. Alcohol and substance abuse is a major contributor to motorcycle crashes. Nearly 50 % of all riders killed being under the influence. 50%! People don’t seem to understand statistic and use them to there benefit, which is probably why they buy a Powerball ticket which has a 1 in 292 million chance of winning.  
  2.  I don’t ride when I’m fatigued or drowsy.
  3.  I don’t get on the bike when I’m upset, angry, stressed or emotionally troubled.
  4.  I don’t ride beyond my limits or practice aggressive riding. If you ride like there's no tomorrow - there won't be.

Next I try to minimize the risks I have no direct control over. These are my personal 4.
  1. I’ve taken the basic rider training course. Taking this course has shown to reduces my risk by 25%.
  2.  I practice being conspicuous. Tips on how to become more conspicuous are covered in the training.
  3.  I examine the bike before each ride.
  4.  I wear safety gear.

The month of May was motorcycle awareness month. I say every day is motorcycle awareness since people are riding nearly year round. Please, the next time you are tempted to remark to a rider about how dangerous motorcycling is, instead, ask this person if they’ve taken the Basic Rider training course. If not, encourage them to do so and tell them gray-haired riders don't get that way from pure luck. Then consider if we collectively are all doing everything possible to keep from being that danger. I’m pleased to report that the state of NH has added a section about motorcycle awareness to the new driver training manual. And that is good, because motorcycle safety is everyone’s responsibility.


RichardM said...

Great topic! Good luck on your presentation. Being comfortable speaking in front of a group is easier if you are passionate about the topic. It sounds like you are.

Unknown said...

Hi Patricia,

Your article is totally on-point! I hope you had a successful talk at Toast Master.
It's so true that motorbike safety is everyone's responsibilities. And safety also needs to come first no matter what style of riding one chooses.

By the way, I also have a motorcycling blog. Don't you mind checking it out some times?