What Constitutes Motorcycle Safety? 


Recently, I was reminded of a motorcycle rider who believes that as long as you wear a helmet and equip your bike with a crash bar (engine guard), you are a safe motorcycle rider. We all know that this couldn't be further from the truth.

Below, I have tried to make a list of factors that contribute to motorcycle safety and have tried to add a weighted value to each factor. While this is a very subjective issue, I have found that once you start listing all the factors that can contribute to your demise, you realize how small a part a helmet actually plays. As we all know, many people dismiss the other factors and concentrate on the helmet issue. In fact, some legislators vote to reduce funds for motorcycle safety training because they feel a mandatory helmet law will protect the riders.

This is alarming and dangerous thinking and one of the many reasons why motorcyclists' rights organizations (MROs) are needed. We all know that 60% of all motorcycle deaths are caused by cage drivers running us over. That statistic, we will have to save for another discussion. This article is addressing our span of control. All of the below factors are important. Any one of them can cause a fatal crash. Which factors are most important in saving your life is subjective. You decide for yourself. Here is my shot at estimating their weight:

Physical: (40%)
20/20 vision (10%)
Normal hearing ability (8%)
Absence of alcohol, illegal drugs and impairing prescription medications (10%)
Enough upper body strength to control the weight of the bike (6%)
Healthy legs to hold up the weight of the bike (6%)

Mechanical: (10%)
Properly working motorcycle (brakes, tires, etc) (8%)
Crash bar (engine guard) to reduce injuries to lower legs (2%)

Proper skills training classes to AVOID accidents (40%)
RSS - Rider Safety Skills (30%)
ERC - Experienced Rider Course (10%)

Wearing proper riding attire to reduce injuries during a crash: (10%)
Lightweight helmet (4%)
Boots to protect feet and ankles (1%)
Gloves to protect hands (1%)
Riding jacket (2%)
Riding pants (2%)

Assuming the extra weight of a helmet does not contribute to breaking someone's neck in a crash, it will probably save skin, and may even reduce the chances of a brain injury. A crash bar will also be useful in reducing lower leg injuries if you should go down on the side of the bike. However, these items are not the complete story on motorcycle safety and should never be exaggerated into becoming a safety solution.

Poor physical condition, dulled senses, poor motorcycle maintenance, or a lack of rider skills training, will result in the rubber side leaving the road. Injury reduction is always welcomed. It has it's place in motorcycle safety. Unfortunately, far too many riders think they are safe because they are wearing a helmet, while they ignore the other, more important aspect of riding safety. This is the old debate between accident avoidance and injury reduction. Both are important and should be considered by all riders. However, never place more importance on injury reduction than you do on accident avoidance.

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NC A.I.M. Attorney - Robert Donat
7810 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, Suite 300 Charlotte, NC 28277
DonatLaw@aol.com Toll free at 866-377-5660
(704) 602-3040 Fax: (704) 602-3041 or 3042