Monday, April 07, 2008

Sometimes you feel like you make a difference!

Here's an article from the Statesman Journal. It's the daily newspaper from the State Capitol. It's got me jazzed for the rest of the week! Be aware that I'm reproducing the article faithfully. I do not totally agree with some of the comments made. We can talk about that later. The point is that training DOES make a difference.

Oregon bikers beat national safety record
Training credited with keeping state fatalities lower

DENNIS THOMPSONStatesman Journal
April 7, 2008

Oregon's motorcycle riders have earned an enviable safety record during the past six years, consistently beating the national fatality rate for bike crashes, according to state and national statistics.

Riders here have died less frequently in wrecks than those across the United States, despite having 43 percent more motorcycles on Oregon roads than there were in 2001, according to statistics kept by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The 2006 fatality rate for motorcycle wrecks in Oregon is 3.9 deaths for every 10,000 registered bikes, slightly less than half the nationwide rate of 7.3 deaths per 10,000 registrations.

The national fatality rate for motorcycle crashes has risen steadily alongside the increasing number of registered bikes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Motorcycle proponents and state traffic safety officials agree that training is the main reason motorcycle riders fare better in Oregon.

About 70 percent of riders receive safety and skills lessons through Team Oregon, a training course sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State University, said Michele O'Leary, ODOT's motorcycle safety program manager.

In particular, the Team Oregon training is mandatory for people younger than 21 who want to ride motorcycles, leading to better lifetime road skills, O'Leary said.

"We have a really strong rider education program, that has been awarded nationally as one of the best in the country," said Brian Stovall, executive director of BikePAC of Oregon, an advocacy group for motorcycle enthusiasts.

That program has gotten better during the years as trainers have made vast improvements over the nationally accepted curriculum, Stovall said.

For example, Team Oregon offers more advanced training on steering through a corner than can be found in other states. Cornering is one of the trickiest skills to master.

A crash at a curve in the road three years ago claimed the life of Brandon Chike, 32, in one of the handful of fatal motorcycle crashes that happen each year in Oregon.

"He'd gotten in a fight with his girlfriend and took off on his bike like a maniac," said father Lewis Chike, a Keizer resident who would go on rides with his son every other weekend. "He lost it in a curve and hit a tree."

Chike still rides motorcycles and is the owner of five, including two Harley-Davidsons. He preaches the value of situational awareness to all his buddies.

"You have to be aware and watch everyone. You have to psyche yourself that the worst is going to happen at all times and be ready to act," he said. "You have to be ready to move or hit the brakes or lay the bike down at a moment's notice."

O'Leary and Stovall disagree on another possible explanation for Oregon's superior safety record — the fact that the state has held firm on its requirement, adopted by voters in 1998, that all motorcycle riders wear helmets.

O'Leary said the helmet law is a cornerstone of the state's safety record.
"Anybody that's wearing a helmet will have less severe injuries," she said. "That's pretty well proven."

Stovall thinks the law actually undermines rider safety because when helmets are required, cheap and less protective models flood the market.

"You get cheap junk helmets in mandate states," Stovall said. "We feel education is a more powerful tool than mandates."

For his part, Chike said he supports the helmet law.

"You can have an arm or a leg torn off and still live," he said. "You tear your head off and you're dead. We're all tough, but our heads are pretty vulnerable."

Motorcycle crash deaths remained relatively stable during the first part of this decade in Oregon, fluctuating from a low of 28 deaths in 2002 to a high of 45 deaths in 2005. In the last year for which stats are available, 2006, 43 people died.

At the same time, there has been a steady rise in the number of motorcycles on Oregon roads, from 76,097 in 2001 to 108,958 in 2006.

The motorcycle riders who suffer fatal crashes in Oregon tend to be older. The average age of the 43 motorcyclists who died in 2006 was 45, close to the median age of 47.

That's because older riders tend to be able to afford high-powered motorcycles that prove to be more than they can handle, O'Leary said.

"They're buying these better bikes but are a little rusty on their skills, so they're crashing," she said.

Stovall agreed. "It's people who maybe had a little experience earlier in their lives who get back into it but don't bother to go get training," he said. or (503) 399-6719

Miles and a huge smile,


P.S. Got some great post material from last week. Stay tuned and ride safe!


Balisada said...

I have to disagree with Brian Stovall about junk helmets.

I will admit that I own a higher priced helmet, but I think that the more affordable HJC's still offer more protection than nothing.

Since all helmets have to be DOT certified, they still protect the rider.

A Honda Rebel rider that I know of got into a nasty accident. He ended up in the hospital, and the bike was totaled.

He states about his helmet (he named his bike 'Baby Wing'):

"I had a Fulmer 3/4 for just short of 3 years. I used a flat wraparound shield. This was an good
combination - quiet, easily put on and taken off. I had the strap modified for one of those plastic dagger type latches and this was a wonderful improvement in putting on/off. This was the $55 helmet that Baby and I slammed onto I-20. A slight scuff on the left side rubber indicates I was not a whole long way from putting some cheek on paving. "

So, I will have to respectfully disagree with Brian about junk helmets.


irondad said...

I agree with you. The helmets need to be DOT certified. That means they'll offer protection. Although, loosely intrepreted, the laws here in Oregon would allow some "iffy" helmets to be legal. Still, though, we're a mandated state and I don't see a whole lot of novelty helmets.