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
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
With no steel frame of protection, the motorcycle rider is
more likely to meet with injury or death in the event of an
"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
"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
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.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum