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Are you a Dangerous Motorcycle Rider?

Motorcycle safety is deadly serious. Imagine going outside, putting on your helmet, leather jacket, boots, and gloves, and then instead of getting on your motorcycle, run across your front yard and when you reach the curb, leap up into the air and land in the street on your chest. (No, no, you goof, don't actually do it, just imagine doing it.) OOF! That's hard. Now imagine the same landing, only at 30 or 40 mph, bouncing and hitting again a second and third time. Then imagine landing at 75 mph. Add some altitude and imagine abrasion, broken bones, blood, and maybe worst.

Shocked? Do I have your attention yet? Good, because crashing is no fun. Motorcycle safety is deadly serious.

If reading this stuff puts you off and makes you want to never, ever ride a motorcycle, well that's a good thing for you to do. If you are afraid of riding, I believe you will be a high-risk rider and you are better off staying in your car.

Personally, I want to know the details. I want to know the odds. I do not want to carry a morbid dread around with me, but I do want to always remember that this ride may be the one that ends up with an unhappy ending. For me, that keeps me focused on what I am doing. And keeping focused is my way of keeping safe. And when I know I am doing everything I can to ride safely, I enjoy the ride. (Check out my matrix.)

I went searching for statistics and I found the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. After crawling through statistic after statistic, I learned that.

· You are almost twice as likely to be in an accident riding a motorcycle than riding in a passenger car.

· Motorcycle accidents are four times more likely to be deadly than are passenger car accidents.

· There were 69.33 motorcycle fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles in 2004. This a total of 4008 motorcycle fatalities in 2004.

You can check it out for yourself by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They also provide some more motorcycle specifics.

  • More motorcyclist fatalities are occurring on rural roads.
  • High Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels are a major problem among motorcycle operators.
  • 1/2 of the fatalities are related to negotiating a curve prior to the crash.
  • Over 80 percent of the fatalities occur off the roadway.
  • Un-divided roadways account for most of the fatalities.
  • Almost 2/3 of the fatalities were associated with speeding.
  • Almost 60 % of motorcyclist fatalities occur at night.
  • Collision with a fixed object is a significant factor in over 1/2 of the fatalities.
  • Braking and steering maneuvers contribute to almost 25 % of the fatalities.
  • Helmet use among fatally injured motorcyclists below 50 %.
  • Almost 1/3 of the fatally injured operators did not have a proper license.

So, using these stats as a guide.

"...if I do not ride my motorcycle on a curved, un-divided, rural road, at night, after drinking, without a helmet, exceeding the speed limit and without a proper motorcycle endorsement on my drivers' license..." I will be riding safe.

Seriously though, in the motorcycle rider community, there is a saying, "It's not if you will go down, it's when you will do down." Everybody eventually goes down and not everybody gets back up again.

Whew, now I'm starting to get depressed. OK, suck it up Frank, and get on with it.

Baby boomers have even more at risk. As we get older, bones get more brittle and easier to break. Then they take longer to heal. My sixty-year-old brain is not as pliable as it was thirty years ago and if I get a good hit on my helmet (a tree or curb shot), it's going to cause a lot more brain damage to me than it would to my thirty-year-old counterparts.

Night vision is an issue, but I will assume that if you have a night vision issue, you have already taken steps to correct that while diving. "Correct that" means no driving at night.

Dangerous, no question, but look at these stats.

  • In 2005, motorcycle and scooter sales topped the one-million level for the third straight year. (Motorcycle Industry Council)
  • "Back in 1988, the average age for a biker was 32 years old. And in 2005, the average age of a Harley buyer is 48 years old," said Bernie Keller of Rockville Harley Davidson. "Now, ten percent of buyers are ladies." (NBC4News)
  • News4's Jim Vance reported that there are about 8 million bikers riding along U.S. roadways, with about one-third of them being over 50. (NBC4News)

Hmmm, dangerous sport but it seems like more and more folks are riding. What's up with this?

First of all, I like to put it all into my perspective. Don't forget that driving a car comes with its own set of risks. Using a step ladder to change out a light bulb has its risks. Swimming, walking along the side of a road, and in my case, getting the wife mad at me, all can be risky business. There are no guarantees in life, and we all choose what level of risk we want to accept by how we live our life.

And secondly, people are riding more every year, despite the statistical and real danger involved, because riding a motorcycle is fun. How simple can I be here? Riding a motorcycle is fun.

The ride has an individual allure for each rider. The feeling of freedom, the danger itself, the camaraderie, or the Zen-like tranquility of the ride, (OK, there is the gas mileage and the traffic maneuverability, happy?)

Some say that motorcycles scare the hell out of them, but you know what scares the hell out of me. It's the soccer mom, driving an SUV with a cell phone stuck in her ear. To a motorcycle rider, that is scary!