Saturday, May 24, 2014

Managing MC risk

The following column was published in the Issaquah Press.


With spring weather quietly coming in “on little cat feet,” more and more motorcycles are disrupting the silence. In another month, they will be thicker than fleas on a hog’s back.

As they roar, whine or putt putt,(depending on the type) wiping out the delightful sounds of birds, frogs and crickets, a spouse or mother somewhere is arguing, usually to no avail, with a loved one about buying one of these death traps.

Rather than fight this losing battle, which will leave everyone feeling badly, why not take the risk management approach. With a little education, the risk can almost be eliminated, which is more than you can say for many other adrenaline producing sports.

Start by reading the Hurt Report. A good summary can be found on the internet: Google it. It is an old report (1976), but will serves our purpose well.

According to the report, three fourths of motorcycle accidents involve a collision with another vehicle, usually a passenger car.

The most common words out of a driver’s mouth after hitting a motorcycle are “I didn’t see it.” That means conspicuity becomes the motorcyclist’s best friend. Don’t buy a black motorcycle, black leather jacket, black chaps and a black helmet. If you want to manage this risk, go for bright colors when you chose a bike, riding clothes and a helmet.

So, a fourth of the accidents were single vehicle accident, with the motorcycle colliding with something as a result of rider error. You manage this risk by making sure the object of your affection is properly trained.

Fortunately, in this state (Washington)the best way to get licensed is to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course offered at many sites around the state. Most of the motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training. Ninth-two percent were self taught or learned to ride from family or friends. Just like I would not teach my own son how to drive a car, I would not teach him how to ride a motorcycle. This is best left to the professionals.

Almost half of the fatal accidents involved alcohol. How often do you see a black motorcycle, with a rider dressed in black, pull up to a bar?

Motorcycles that have been highly modified, think choppers, are overrepresented in the statistics.

The most deadly injuries were those to the chest and the head. So, make sure your loved one wears protective clothing, whether he or she likes it or not. That includes a DOT or Snell approved helmet, leather or heavy canvas riding pants (not chaps) and jacket, with proper armor built in if made of fabric, and leather boots up over the ankles. Make your loved one stand at attention before every ride, even the short ones, and repeats after you, ATGATT, all the gear all the time.

All the above applies to those cute little motor scooters and mopeds that young people love to cruise around town on. Because they appear like a toy it does not mean they are a toy, and the risk with them is just as great as it is for the grandpa on his big Harley or Goldwing.

Let’s summarize, bright colors, good gear, proper training and no alcohol and you have managed your risk so well that your chances of getting in trouble are now no greater than you neighbor walking her dog down a city sidewalk. I would encourage you to read the entire summary.

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