Why we stay wide on the road

There is no shortage of video clips out there of bike accidents. Many can be attributed to idiot motorcyclists, many can be attributed to idiot car drivers. To me, the best thing to take away from watching such videos is an understanding of what went wrong, how it might have been prevented, and then consciously adopting that in to your riding habits.

I hate drivers who can’t keep their vehicles in a 10 foot wide lane. And this is a prime example why you leave yourself enough space while riding to respond to emergencies.

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How do you respond to non-riders who say “motorcycles are dangerous”?

It’s difficult to explain the mental clarity and focus that comes with responsible riding to those that haven’t tried it. After some close calls, you begin berating yourself for lapses in attention or judgment. Then you start to realize that driving a car is also very serious business. Or at least it should be.

Paradoxically, the inherent increased risks of riding a motorcycle vs. driving a car seem to make me safer on my motorcycle than a car. Between ABS, traction control, airbags, etc., it’s pretty hard to get seriously injured in most car accidents. Even relatively serious accidents have people walking away from them with just bruises most of the time. This means people often take risks in a car that they wouldn’t on a bike. In a car you will gun it through the yellow light, or try to zip around another car with less than optimal clearance. On a bike, I don’t take those chances because the downside is far greater than a dinged fender.

Nothing compares to the feeling of cruising down the road on a motorcycle. It’s a visceral thrill that a non-rider wouldn’t understand – and it outweighs any increased risk. For me, riding my bike is 10x the fun, so even if it’s twice as risky as driving, it’s worth it.

When someone says to me that motorcycles are dangerous, I try to tell them that I understand and accept the risks. I’ve taken steps to mitigate those risks, including wearing safe riding gear and attending safe riding courses.

And at the end of the day I feel any remaining risk is worth the experience.

How do you respond to someone who says motorcycles are dangerous?

92% of drivers will obey Ontario’s Impending Cell Phone Ban

Someone recently wrote me:

I hate people who use cellphones in their car. Almost got hit myself by a guy talking on his. He somehow made a bad maneuver and veered to the right in my lane and I couldn’t do anything as I was in full traffic. I so wanted to kick his fucking car with my boot.

Cellphones here are prohibited on the road, and for a good reason. Some people just can’t drive. Some don’t even know it. And some combine their inability with their cellphone use and this is the result.

I’ve had similar experiences. On the 401 I had a car start to turn into my lane while the driver was on the cell phone. I honked until they saw me. They kind of shrugged apologetically and turned back. I was none to pleased. And the one accident I have been in, I think – although I can’t be certain – that the girl was on her cell when she rear ended me.

That is why I was somewhat taken aback when I read a CBC story indicating 92% of Ontario drivers intend to obey the ban on cell phones while driving. According to their findings in the age group of 18-34 fourteen percent stated they would continue to use their hand held device. To me, that is the age group that causes the most concern. I can’t stress enough the importance of being aware of other drivers and where their attention is focused. If you are driving a car, instead of checking your mirrors and blind spots for other cars, check them for motorcycles. And stay off your cell phone or buy a headset!

And if you are on your motorcycle, do not follow this guys example:

Motorcycles and Accidents

It is something every rider dreads: an accident. Statistically speaking, 64% of motorcycle accidents in Ontario result in the rider being hospitalized. About 5% of accidents are fatal for the rider. The good news is, of 145,194 licensed motorcycles, less than 1% actually had accidents.

There is much debate (and plenty of statistics) concerning the causes of accidents, ranging from inebriation, lack of proper protective equipment, and excessive speed. It is my belief that awareness of two-wheeled vehicles and appropriate driving near them can go a long way to preventing accidents.

With the increase of scooters and mopeds in urban centers, city drivers are becoming more aware of two wheel vehicles and most – but certainly not all – are driving accordingly. In my experience suburban drivers are more careless around motorcycles, probably due to a lack of awareness and the lower volume of scooters and mopeds.

The question then becomes, “How to raise awareness amongst all drivers of safe driving techniques around two wheeled vehicles?”

Certainly this will be an ongoing effort that I will continue to write about.

There are many great resources online for stats, driving techniques, and safety procedures. I’ll share some helpful links I’ve come across for both riders and car drivers:

1. There is a great forum for Toronto-area riders called Gtamotorcycle. In particular, they have a “Laws & Regulations” forum that is very helpful, and a “Why we crash” thread I found a particularly interesting read.

2. I recently found an article in Motorcycle Consumer News about statistics that insurance companies use when discussing the frequency and causes of accidents. I couldn’t find the article online, but someone had posted some scans of it here. If you can find the article please share in the comments.

3. In 1981 the state of California completed a motorcycle accident survey. The results were published in a report titled ‘The Hurt Report’. While it is an older study and focuses on California, there are many tips here that are relevant today and any where you may ride. A summary can be found here.

4. Last year Wheels.ca had a good article that focused on motorcycle accidents in Ontario. The article was based on the 2005 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report (ORSAR) and shares some interesting statistics. The article can be found here.

Of course safety is always a concern and we will continue to write about this subject as topics arise. We encourage discussion on the topic and welcome links to other reports, articles, or stories to help spread awareness of rider safety.

Safe riding!