Thursday, September 07, 2006

Going to Idaho.

I'm leaving early Thursday for a three day sales meeting in Sand Point, Idaho. It's unlikely that I'll be able to post from there. I do, however, plan to take the bike and explore, if possible. It's one of those weekends where we spend half a day working and the rest of the day on a boat or golfing. I don't golf and I'm not too thrilled with the idea of being trapped on a boat with a bunch of guys drinking beer and trying not to drown. Unfortunately, the meeting is mandatory. Maybe I can tell them I'll see them for supper and take off riding for the afternoons!

In the meantime, here's some figures I ran across on fatalities. Knowing who's crashing and why can do a lot to figure out how to attack the problem. Provided, of course, that riders actually want to avail themselves of training, education, and gear.

I've been thinking about this subject for a few hours. I just heard of a 54 year old man who died on Mary's Peak Road. This is a wonderfully twisty road that goes up the side of Mary's Peak. Hence the name, huh? He was riding with some other folks and they were all on sport bikes. I believe he was riding a Honda RC51 but I'm not positive. Long story short, he "failed to negotiate" one of the corners. Ran off the road and hit a tree. Rumor has it that he was decapitated. Must have been one hell of an impact. This really hits home because this road is only about 20 miles from where I live and a favorite ride. The view from the top of the peak is extraordinary!

Corners keep looming large in rider fatalities. That's why I wanted to post my own input on this blog. A post on lines and apexes is coming soon. I can't stress enough how critical it is to get the skills right.

The following information is from a NHTSA report. The report is titled "Recent trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes: An Update." If you would like some reading while I'm busy in Idaho, you can find the report here:

According to the findings the fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles has increased by 12.2% since 1995. You may be comforted as a motorcycle commuter to know that the weekend fatalities have increased to an average of 16 per weekend while weekday fatal crashes average 8 per week. Look at the predominant usage of bikes and you can see the reason for the difference.

More fatalities are associated with larger engine displacements. The greatest number of fatalities involve engine sizes between 501-1000cc. This is just a large grouping that NHTSA uses, but most fatalities involve bikes at the larger end of the range. This changes somewhat if you look at specific age groups. For riders over 40 the engine displacement is 1001-1500cc. Sort of directly relates to buying habits, doesn't it? It's not so much the bike as the riders and what they purchase the most of.

What was somewhat surprising to me was that the 20 to 29 year old age group still represents the largest number of fatalities. At the same time these riders only make up 22.1% of motorcycle owners. This is just my opinion but I would have figured it was middle-aged "watering hole" riders on cruisers. With the prevelance of "high dollar" customizing going on, these riders are particularly reluctant to leave a bike in a parking lot. This leads to taking chances they might not otherwise take. A person doesn't need to be intoxicated to be impaired.

Proportions in the various categories don't seem to have changed much in the past 10 years. Helmeted riders make up 55% of the fatalities while non-helmeted riders are at 45%. Rural versus highway settings are split nearly evenly in half. Single-vehicle fatalities make up 45% of the numbers while multi-vehicle fatalities stand at 55%. The classic "left-turning car" still accounts for a lot of fatalities. What really gets me is that in 75% of the multi-vehicle crashes, the other vehicle came from between 10 and 2 o'clock to the rider. Right where you would think a rider would see them. A tiny bit more than 90% of the fatalities are to the operators themselves. Passenger fatalities account for about 10%.

Most riders perish ( about 72% ) on undivided roadways. ( picture your standard two lane road ) 17% find their end on roadways that have medians but no median barriers.

How about the difference between the sexes you might ask? Men still account for 90% of the fatalities. This means that women account for10%. What's interesting here is that women make up about 12% of the riding population. That makes it seem like women are proportionately represented, or slightly under. However, NHSTA has stated that the number of fatalities to female riders has doubled in the time frame this report covers. There's some areas where I wouldn't suggest women strive for equality. This is one of them.

In 2003 the median age of motorcyle owners had increased to 41 as opposed to 32 in 1990. I don't have exact figures for today, but the age is increasing. I think I saw it at 44 or 47 some while back. This is one of the reasons manufacturer's like BMW are marketing bikes like the F650CS. They're trying to appeal to younger buyers. Us older guys aren't going to ride forever as much as we'd like to think so!

Of the riders who perished, 75% were properly licensed. Of those not properly licensed, the majority were under 20 years old. There's no available figures for how many of the riders who suffered fatalities had some sort of formal training.

I'm not sure what conclusion to draw, but speed-related fatalities decreased 6% from 1995 to 2004. Alcohol involvement has also decreased by 8%. If fatalities have increased but these two factors have decreased, what are the contributing factors, now?

Knowledge is power. I just wanted to pass this information along for whatever good you can get out of it. None of us actually belong to the "can't happen to me" club. Stay aware, keep building skills, stay alive. Ride safe but have fun.

Miles and smiles,


Steve Williams said...

Dan: There is a lot of good information in that report. I have begun to look through it, mainly for things that make me feel better about riding. Riding a 150cc scooter keeps me in the low fatality group...

The Idaho trip sounds great. Watch out for Grizzly bears.


irondad said...

Didn't see any Grizzly Bears. Did see some wild turkeys and got swarmed by a bunch of low flying quail!

I'll put out the Idaho posts later this week.