I'm sitting in a meeting room at a Holiday Inn near the Portland Airport. There's a meeting at 6 but I'm early. What else to do but blog? The Oregon National Guard Air Base is right here, also. I've been watching the F-15's play. Man, I'd love to be throwing up in the back of one of those!
We received the figures for Oregon's fatalities in 2007. There were also some other numbers released I thought I'd share. Coincidentally, I came across a statement by Ken Condon in Motorcycle Consumer News. It has a sobering thought on the risks of riding. In the last post I stated I would also look at a press release from the Insurance Institute. That looks to be too complicated to tackle here so I'll let that one go. Once I got started with them I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to stop.
This is an exact quote from Ken's article in the March 2008 issue of MCN. The title of the article is Risk Revisited. It's well worth going online to read this. Anyway, read this quote but don't be disheartened. The reason I say that will be apparent later.
"Riding a motorcycle is risky. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ( NHTSA ) 2005 statistics, motorcyclists are eight times more likely to be injured in a crash and 34 more times more likely to be killed than a car driver per vehicle mile traveled. That's up by about 13% from the previous year. With this knowledge, why we would expose ourselves to the possibility of serious injury by riding a motorcycle? The answer is that the risks can be managed to make riding relatively safe and that the benefits outweigh the perceived risks."
Ken's statement is a bad news / good news sort of thing. He's right in what he says, though. Risk can be managed. It's also very revealing to look at what causes the accidents. The fact that you're reading here means you're probably also way ahead of the curve.
By the way, I feel the urge to put in a shameless plug for our training program. The organization mentioned in Ken's article, NHTSA, is the same one that rated our program the best in the nation. There's a link to TEAM OREGON on the right. More detail about this is available on our website.
First off, here's some numbers regarding registrations, endorsements, etc. All the numbers and statistics are specifically for Oregon. I can't help but think that the parts relating to accidents are bound to be applicable in other states.
Oregon has approximately 220,00 endorsed riders with somewhere around 120,000 registrations. In 1999 there were 6957 new endorsements. In 2007 there were 12,087. If you were to take each of the years in between and plot the numbers on a graph, it would be apparent that the numbers of new endorsements is starting to flatten out. That corresponds to the overall drop in new motorcycle sales. Of those 12,087 new endorsements, 6957 were from our two entry level courses. We got a chance to touch a lot of them. That's pretty cool. There's some talk in the legislature to make it mandatory to take a course in order to get an endorsement. Right now anyone under 21 has to complete a course. This would expand the requirement to everyone. There's both good and bad in that. We'll leave that there for now.
Here's the numbers for fatalities.
In 2007 there were 57. Ouch! Over the last few years the number has been on a gradual upward trend. This pretty closely matches the growth rate of new endorsements. More riders means more fatalities proportionately. I hate it, but that's the way it goes. Here's how the scenarios breakdown.
39% of the fatalities happened as the result of the bike colliding with another vehicle. The results of accident investigations by police agencies shows some interesting things. Of the total fatalities, 14% were situations where a car driver hit a bike and was considered to be at fault. Of the total fatalities, 25% were situations where a bike impacted another vehicle due to a mistake. That could include making a bad decision and doing the wrong thing. In other words, where it was determined that the rider could have avoided the accident by doing the proper thing.
6% of the fatalities were situations where an animal was involved.
A whopping 55% of the fatalities were single vehicle. As in a rider all by themselves without an animal or another driver involved. The most common scenario was failing to negotiate a corner. Most of that was due to not looking far enough through the corner. Good visual information sets up everything else in cornering. The reason we know the crash was due to bad sight distance is because it happened in the last third of the curve. Riders were surprised and ran off the road to either side. Oregon has a lot of curves and thus riders have a lot of chances to kill themselves.
Training really helps. The basic course started here in 1984. Since that time, only 18 of the fatalities have been our former students. That's even too many but it's extremely small compared to the total number. DMV puts a tag on the driver's license of anyone who gets a completion card. Training is huge in preventing fatalities.
Even more telling is the three "un's". The vast majority of fatalities had one of these involved.
Un-der the influence.
Under the influence means any positive BAC. Only a third were legally intoxicated. The rest were impaired. Same outcome either way. It's sobering to think about, with no pun intended.
Despite all the flap about motorcycles being so dangerous and that all the drivers are out to get us, it's evident that other drivers really cause very few of the fatalities. It's really not our fate to be taken out by a fast moving Buick with a cell phone impaired driver. Riders are doing it to themselves.
The lesson is that risk can be managed. Statistics are weighted by the kinds of riders I wrote about yesterday. Get training, take refresher courses, and urge your riding acquaintances to do the same. Attitude really does make a tremendous difference. Don't ride impaired. That reminds me, I should do a post on impairment. There's a lot more to it than alcohol and illicit drugs.
Enjoy riding. You can do a lot to take care of yourself. Knowing you're prepared to deal with things makes riding a lot more fun. You might be a little worried about going to advanced training and pushing your limits. Remember this.
Beauty often lies on the other side of danger!
Miles and smiles,