Lethal Threat / A Subject Bikers Don’t Like to Bring Up
Riding motorcycles for close to 30 years in the New York City area, I know in the back of my mind, to expect the unexpected. I know riding a motorcycle comes with risks that could cause serious injury or even worse, end my life. I am not being dramatic, it is just a fact. There are ways to try to lessen the odds against you, but it is a statistical fact that motorcyclist deaths are on the rise in The United States. There is no way to be completely safe on a motorcycle, no matter your riding skills, type of motorcycle you ride or were you ride.
No matter the dangers, motorcyclist ride for the thrill of riding, the feeling of freedom, and the adrenalin rush of being on two wheels. It’s not a hobby or need. It’s a passion. So by no means of what I write here in this blog, is it to be taken as a discouragement to riding motorcycles. People will always ride motorcycles and life is full of risks out of our control. This blog is intended to offer some awareness of an issue we usually don’t talk much about.
Let’s take other vehicles out of the equation of motorcycle accidents to start with. Being on two wheels, as opposed to four, is the first most obvious risk factor over driving a car. Hazardous road conditions, bad weather, riding while impaired due to alcohol or other substances, vehicle or parts defects, animals, excessive speed causing the rider to loose control, and rider error are all reasons noted for motorcycle accidents not involving other vehicles. The dangers of these mentioned risks can be reduced by using your common sense, wearing the right protective riding gear and always seeking to improve your riding skills through an advanced riding course. The problem is that riders, me included, think it can never happen to them, unfortunately the risk of you being in a motorcycle accident are 28 times greater than you being involved in a car accident.
Some of the above mentioned causes for motorcycle accidents can be avoided. Driving while impaired is a choice you can control, along with using common sense while riding. Now for the factor out of your control, other vehicles. Now more than ever, cars pose a greater risks to a motorcyclist. Drivers are more distracted than ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that driver inattention is the most common cause for all crashes and near crashes in the United States. The report concluded that ‘Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the crash. Cell phone use, while driving, was the primary cause of driver in attention. Motorcycle riders are being killed by distracted drivers who are texting and using cell phones while driving.
Most traffic crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles are caused by drivers who fail to register the presence of the motorcycle while navigating road conditions. I can remember going for an early morning ride on a two lane parkway heading north. I see an old Cadillac merging onto the parkway at the same time I am approaching the parkway entrance. I pull into the left lane, to allow the car to merge into the right lane. While parallel to the car, an old lady driving the Cadillac, started coming into my lane pushing me towards the guard rail. I had to physically kick her car door while riding to get her attention and stop her from crushing me between the guard rail and her car. Luckily she swerved back into the right lane allowing me the chance to get the hell away from her.
All riders have experiences of close calls or incidents of cars almost killing them. So what can you do as a motorcycle rider? For one thing is to wear a DOT approved helmet. Wearing a helmet is a necessary evil. All the riders I know hate wearing a helmet, especially a full face helmet, but that helmet could be the difference of you surviving a motorcycle accident or not. In New York State, it is the law to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. When younger, my friends and myself would wear novelty helmets, and put a fake “DOT’ sticker on the back of the helmet. We all knew, that what we wearing on our head, would offer basically no protection in the case of an accident. It looked cool, and it was the closest thing to not having a helmet on. We would ride into Connecticut, and stop on the highway shoulder the minute we past the ‘Welcome to Connecticut” sign. We would rip off our “Brain Buckets” and ride without helmets while in Connecticut and reluctantly put them back on once we drove back into New York State.
To wear or not to wear a helmet argument has been going on for a long time. If you live in a state where you have a choice concerning helmet usage, the decision is yours and not imposed on you. You need to know that many states with the highest fatality rates among motorcycle riders, are states that do not require you to wear a helmet. It is a fact that a helmet can save your life. I still wear my novelty helmet on short rides, but I know I am being stupid!!
Nothing can come close to the thrill of riding a motorcycle. A little paranoia while riding is not a bad trait to have. It is when you become over confident on a motorcycle that things can go very wrong. Ride Safe, Ride Alert!
You can find this t-shirt here.