It won’t happen to me because…

Uncategorized Oct 29, 2016

In my home state, we have had several motorcycle crashes in the news lately. Some were fatal…some were not. The crash factors reported have been varied: animal strikes, gravel, tailgating resulting in a rear-end crash, running wide in a corner, car violating the rider’s right-of-way, etc. Some riders were wearing gear…some riders were not.

What I find interesting is that when these news stories are posted on line, people comment. A lot of those comments have the form of “Well, the rider was….” Or “That rider should have/shouldn’t have been…” and then all kinds of reasons come out. At first, I thought some of these comments were kind of harsh and were blaming the rider for the crash or for the injury – regardless of the facts of the situation. But then I stumbled on another thought…perhaps these comments represent our natural human tendency to come up with a reason that although these people crashed, we won’t.

All of us that ride KNOW – deep down – that riding a motorcycle carries a much higher risk of injury and death than driving a car. The fascinating thing about the human mind is that we know it’s more dangerous, we know that crashes happen (about 500 are reported every year in Idaho, for example), but we just don’t think it will happen to us.

So what is my point? My point is that it can happen to any of us. In my line of work (motorcycle safety and rider training), I know and have ridden with a lot of very skilled riders. Almost all of them have crashed at one point or another (including me). Some of the crashes were minor, some were major, and yes…some were fatal. It happens, and it happens to good riders, careful riders, new riders, experienced riders, trained riders, professional riders, cruiser riders, sport-bike riders, scooter riders, riders in full gear, riders in no gear, and it has happened to me. Maybe it has happened to you or some of your friends, too.

Each and every one of those crashes had an impact on the rider, their spouse and children, their parents, friends, and coworkers. There is a seatbelt billboard up in Idaho that makes the point about how family members can be affected by a crash (in the spirit of full disclosure, the little boy on the billboard is my son…)

Decisions about riding are as personal as they get, and the freedom to choose is held sacred by many riders. I don’t have any intention of telling anyone else what they should decide to do or not do. I also don’t have any intention of judging anyone else’s decisions. However, I do STRONGLY suggest that we all give some serious thought to the risks, who would be affected if we do crash, and then make some deliberate choices about how we will deal with the very real risk of crashing. Like I said, I’m not about to tell you what choices to make, but I will share my choices. Here are a few of the topics that I have given some serious thought to and what I have chosen to do – for my wife…for my son…for my parents…AND for myself.

  • Life and Disability Insurance – We have policies in place that would ensure that my wife and son will have a home and enough to live on if I am gone, or if I am injured to the point of not being able to work.
  • Medical Insurance – We have a policy that will provide pretty good medical/hospital coverage if I am seriously injured.
  • Riding Sober – Alcohol is involved in a very large number of motorcycle crashes. So I have a "zero-tolerance" policy for myself when it comes to drinking and riding. If I drink, I ride zero miles; if I’m riding, I have zero drinks. Simple (no math involved!).
  • Riding Skills – Many crashes can be avoided with good braking, cornering, swerving, and low-speed control skills. I practice all of these regularly and take on-going rider training. For me, it only has to save my life once to be worth it.
  • Riding Gear – If a crash does happen (and I’ll be honest here - I’ve been down a few times and my riding gear did its job each time), I want to increase my odds of walking away (and not being carried away). I always wear gear that protects my body, hands, feet/ankles, head/face, and is highly visible. The visibility and protection of my eyes and ears can help prevent a crash, and the rest helps if/when there is a crash. Since I have no idea which ride may end up in a crash, I am always prepared. Again – how many times does it have to save my life or prevent injury to be worth it?

We all know that choosing to ride is choosing to accept a certain level of risk. For some of us, that’s a big part of the appeal. I encourage all riders to think about that risk and make some choices about how we will deal with it – for our families…for our friends…for ourselves.

Be Crash Free,