Question of the Week

March 26, 2008


Different people choose to get a motorcycle for different reasons. Some like the feeling of not having the walls of a car around them. Others like the ease of parking. Still others like the good gas milage.

"Rising gas prices stand as yet another financial pressure squeezing consumers in an economy that some say is threatening recession. ... Retiree Les Duncan of Indian Land, S.C., said he doesn't need $4 a gallon gas to change his habits. He simply doesn't drive much anymore. When he does go out, he bundles his errands into one trip. And he'll drive his motorcycle, which gets 55 miles per gallon...."

Whatever their reason for choosing a motorcycle, millions of Americans have made the choice.

"There are over 4 million motorcycles registered in the United States. The popularity of this mode of trans- portation is attributed to the low initial cost of a motorcycle, its use as a pleasure vehicle and, for some models, the good fuel efficiency. Motorcycle fatalities represent approximately five percent of all highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent just two percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection in a crash. For example, approximately 80 percent of reported motor- cycle crashes result in injury or death; a comparable figure for automobiles is about 20 percent."

With no steel frame of protection, the motorcycle rider is more likely to meet with injury or death in the event of an accident.

"A 49-year-old man and 46-year-old-woman, both from Santa Cruz, were killed instantly Friday night when the 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle they were riding slid beneath a gas tanker, the California Highway Patrol reported today. The accident occurred at Mount Hermon and Graham Hill roads in Felton around 11:30 p.m. Friday. According to the CHP, the motorcyclists needed to veer right to remain in their lane, but their excessive speed prevented them from successfully making the turn. The motorcyclists turned too far to the right and fell onto their right side, sliding from the eastbound lane across solid double lines and ending up beneath the tanker in the westbound lane. The CHP reported the victims were killed instantly as they landed directly beneath the truck's rear set of double axles."

Some accidents would never have happened had the drivers been in cars, other accidents would have been just as fatal no matter what the drivers were in. Whatever the case, driving a motorcycle is different than driving a car.

"Operating a motorcycle can take more skill and concentration than operating a 4-wheeled motor vehicle. Training and experience are the keys to safe operation. ... The 16-hour Basic Motorcycle Rider course is designed for beginning riders and was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Instructors are certified by the MSF and Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). It is taught off-street, out of traffic, and motorcycles and helmets are provided. The course consists of 6 hours of classroom and 10 hours of on-cycle instruction. The Basic Rider Course covers preparing to ride, turning, shifting and braking, street strategies, special situations, increasing riding skills, maintenance and insurance. Almost all motorcycling groups recommend that you begin riding your motorcycle by taking a basic rider course. As an added advantage, successful completion of the basic course will qualify you for the class M (motorcycle) operators license without an additional Motorcycle in Traffic skill test. Trainees are provided with a helmet, eye protection and a motorcycle for use during the course."

While there are unique skills and awarenesses that motorcycle drivers need, there are also unique types of clothing and safety equipment that are used to provide as much safety as possible in lieu of the steel cage that a car provides.

"Studies show that the head, arms and legs are most often injured in a crash. Protective clothing and equipment serve a three-fold purpose for motorcyclists: comfort and protection from the elements; some measure of injury protection; and through use of color or reflective material, a means for other motorists to see the motorcyclist. ..."

Questions of the Week:
What do those who are considering a motorcycle need to know before they start driving one? What classes and licensing requirements are recommended and/or required in your area? What sort of protective clothing should be worn when driving (or riding as a passenger on) a motorcycle? What would be the best way to help your peers understand the dangers associated with riding a motorcycle, and what can be done to help improve the chances of a safe ride? For those who do not ride motorcycles, but are driving vehicles that share the road with them: what can the drivers of other vehicles do to help reduce the risk of having an accident that involves a motorcyclist?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

Request Question of the Week by email 
QoW Archives: 9/2002 - 8/2003 9/2003 - 8/2004 9/2004 - 8/2005 9/2005 - 8/2006 9/2006 - present

Custom Search on the AE Site