“Watch out for bikers,” “Loud Pipes Save Lives” and other “be safe” riding campaigns get a lot of attention from motorcyclists.
But when you look at the science, these campaigns approach the problem from the wrong side. Studies show the greatest improvements in motorcycle safety are gained through better riding skills and awareness.
•The most common multiple-vehicle accident is caused by a car turning left in front of a motorcycle at an intersection—about two-thirds of multiple-vehicle accidents.
•The most common single-vehicle motorcycle accident is running wide in a turn and leaving the road or sliding out—about one- third of single-vehicle accidents.
•In about 40 percent of motorcycle accidents, one of the contributing or causative factors is the rider’s inexperience or lack of skills to evade or avoid the accident.
All of these are best addressed by the motorcycle rider through increased awareness and better skills.
Those popular riding campaigns mentioned earlier in this article are not supported by the science. They may be popular, and it’s easy to put the blame on cage (car) drivers, but it’s an ineffective approach.
How to ride safer
Riding a motorcycle in traffic is like a mouse running through a herd of elephants. Be alert and ready to take quick evasive actions or you’ll be crushed.
•Always ride like you’re not seen. Expect the most common accident — a car pulling out in front of you. Intersections, side streets and anything that obstructs the view tells you to get ready to react. Develop that second sense and practice spotting these hazards.
•Be ready to react. Ease off the throttle, get your hands ready to brake/clutch, get your feet off the highway pegs and down where you can get at the controls and position yourself to respond quickly.
•React. This is where most failures occur and where better skills make a significant statistical difference.
Getting it right
The science shows improving motorcycle riders’ skills is the most effective means of reducing accidents.
•Up your skills with practice. I can’t ever recall seeing anyone practicing motorcycle skills independently. One reason may be you need to find a secluded, safe location to do it so it happens out of sight. I have my own secret test track not far from home where I go to hone my skills on a regular basis; but then I’m a motorcycle instructor and demand a high level of personal performance so I can demonstrate skills well for my students.
Honestly, without such a motivation, I rarely practiced riding skills on my own previously in any serious manner. We all know we could be better with focused practice, but riding time is so precious that it’s tough to give up a fun ride for the rigors of working on skills and practicing technique. Let’s face it; it’s the rare motorcycle rider who ever does any independent practice.
•No pain, No gain. At least swap one type of pain for another. A little financial pain can save you a whole lot of potential physical pain, as well as the attendant monetary consequences that result from even a minor accident. Since we’re unlikely to practice skills on our own, force yourself to do it. Pay for it and you’ll be motivated to give up the time and get your money’s worth.
•Get-r-done. While there are plenty of things you can do to learn to be a safer rider—online sources, books, etc., or occasional practice on your own to improve skills—if you want to get the quickest, best and easiest results, find professional structured instruction. You’ll accomplish more in less time and progress more quickly to being a better, safer rider.
Are you going to be safe this summer?