Aug 282010

Posted in Wing World by: Jim Culp, Former Rider Educator for SC-A

When are you most “At Risk” to crash?

When asking the question “When are you most ‘at risk’ to crash?”, several possibilites come to mind….

Dawn or dusk conditions?  Those are potentially dangerous times but, again, what am I thinking.

Riding in heavy traffic?  Another potentially dangerous time but, again, not what I was looking for.

Riding in the mountains with all the curves and stuff?  Possibly a dangerous time, but no.

Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of motorcycle crashes (90% according to the Hurt Report conducted in the 1970’s) occur within the first hour of riding.  More interesting, however, is that 90% of the crashes happen within the first 6 minutes!  That’s, of course, also why most crashes happen within 5 miles of home.

Two main factors involved in these crashes are ATTENTION and CONCENTRATION.  That’s because, as a whole, we as humans don’t readily transition ourselves from one activity (like being at home or at work) to another activity (like riding a motorcycle).  So how focused can we be on the inherent hazards of riding when we are still waking up or thinking about problems at work?

That’s why becoming an ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) rider can be so valuable.  In my case, I have to go get the motorcycle key from the key box, take my riding suit off its hanger and put it on, put on my gloves, put on my helmet, take my gloves back off so I can fasten my helmet, put my gloves back on, walk out to the bike, take my gloves back off so I can un-zip my riding suit to get to the key that’s in my jeans pocket, etc., etc.

Yes, I’m a goofball who can’t remember to keep my keys out (I doubt that I’m alone here).  The point is that all these small steps take some time.  During that time, I’m unconsciously getting myself ready to ride.

Being ready to ride and having my head “In the game” helps me to ride more safely.  Are you consistently taking all the steps necessary to make yourself ready to ride?

THE “INVISIBLE” MOTORCYCLIST“I NEVER SAW HIM.  He came out of nowhere!”  Those are probably two of the most common statements heard at a collision between an automobile driver and a motorcyclist.  And they’re usually statements made by the operator of the auto because the motorcyclist is unconscious (or worse).

As riders we wonder, “How can they NOT see us? Are they just not looking?”

A lack of attention on the part of the driver does explain some of the car/bike collisions; the distracted driver (due to cell phones, unruly children, etc.).  All these can contribute: however, some responsibility belongs to the motorcyclists as well.

I know, I know.  That’s hearsay but let me explain.

  • Motorcyclists make up 3% of the “normal” traffic flow.
  • People “see” what they expect to see: things like cars and trucks.

Unless the rider does something to visually stand out, he or she can be easily overlooked.  After all;

  • Motorcycles, because of their smaller size, are much harder see than cars/trucks.  A motorcycle can easily be “lost” in the background, even with headlights on.
  • Many motorcycles are colors that lend themselves to blending into the environment, particularly dark-colored machines (black after all is the color of the pavement).
  • Many motorcyclists wear dark-colored helmets (or no helmets at all) and dark-colored clothing.  A number of studies in the US and abroad have shown that a light-colored (white, silver, yellow) helmet is more noticeable (during daylight hours) than a dark-colored (black, dark red, dark blue) helmet.  Why?  The driver sees this brightly colored “orb” floating above the traffic (most riders heads are higher than the hood/windshields of cars), so it’s different.
  • Lastly (and sadly), most motorcyclists are not skilled in emergency maneuvers.  Over 13% of the motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes made no effort to avoid the collision.  They didn’t brake, they didn’t swerve; they just rode right into the collision.  That’s because after many have gotten their license, they don’t practice those kinds of maneuvers regularly (or ever).  Motorcycling is a skill.  It takes practice.

So how can you NOT be the Invisible Motorcyclist?

  • Position your bike so it can be seen and identified in the traffic stream.
  • Wear bright colors.
  • Consider getting a brightly colored bike.
  • PRACTICE your emergency maneuvers!

Also you can take the advice I once got from a very experienced rider.  He told me not to “ride like I was invisible” but rather to “ride like they can see me and are actively planning to do something to take me out.”

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