Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interesting data.

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,



Conchscooter said...

Call me perverse but I find the statistics encouraging. 57 deaths out of 220,000 licensed riders? Not forgetting that some of those dead didn't have endorsements and aren't part of the 220,000? (Perhaps some of the dead are from out of state making the proportion even lower).Oregon is doing something right, maybe that's you! So, how risky is riding a motorcycle compared say to...whatever else you care to mention?

Adam N said...

Nice post. I took my MSF with Ken, and rode with him a little bit thereafter. Ken's a good guy and not one to dumb things down.

I thought, a while back, there was supposed to be some NSHTA "new Hurt Report" that was supposed to be on the way. I remember a lot of fanfare then....


Are these numbers from that study?

I looked around at one point and saw, amazingly, very similar numbers from Europe.

Anyhow, thanks.

Steve Williams said...

It's always good to read about risk. Some consider it morbid but I like to be reminded of what I face, the things I have no control over, and the things I can exert control to manage the risk.

I have come to accept the risk faced by acts of God --- the sudden whitetail deer, the suicide driver who swerves at me at the last moment, the lightning bolt that strikes me while riding. And I don't ride un-der the influence, don't ride untrained, or unendorsed so my risk starts to decline.

And because of reading your training posts here Dan I have a little voice speaking to me while I ride --- "look through the curve". And others. So my risk continues to decline.

I'm not sure what a final risk factor for me would be but I suspect that as an individual I am not 34 times more likely to die in an accident than I am in an automobile. And I suspect my risk factor for a car as a specific individual is lower as well.

At the end of the day I consider riding a reasonable risk when I consider everything I face, my skills, experience, and the capability of the Vespa. It's an informed risk.

I plan to read the article carefully. Thanks for sharing it Dan! As always, you're the man.

irondad said...

I hear where you're coming from. It's a low percentage. I just can't ever see us saying "it's good enough because only 57 people died on bikes this year".

I do think we make a heck of a difference to Oregon's riders. As do all trainers who have the passion to share. As do calm, competent dispatchers!

How cool to have that association with Ken! Last I heard the money is now available for the study and the wheels are in motion.

The numbers are strictly for Oregon as gathered by the Oregon Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Division. For the most part I think riders are riders all over the world. What happens here is more or less true all around.

It's not morbid to want to know what the risks are. The old "know thine enemy" thing applies in spades here.

Thanks for the positive reinforcement.

I'm sorry your rides are spoiled by hearing my imaginary voice in your head!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Hi Dan - It warmed my heart this evening to see 3 sportbikes with 3 relatively your riders fully suited up in racing leathers getting ready to do figure 8s and quick stops in the elementery school parking lot.

Actually 2 were already there and a 3rd was turning in... he was a little wobbly slowing waaaaay down to navigate the graveled entrance (I know snow is slippery but we don't need that much cinder dumped on the road). I was pleased to see he was going to get a little practice, though I was also hoping his friends could talk into the local MSF course :-)

irondad said...

Thanks for sharing that. Just when one starts to give up hope a ray of sunshine bursts through!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Dan,

I have trouble riding, especially through corners. I find that my bike wants to lean, but I want to lean over even further. I think it's beginning to be a problem, and my friends don't want to talk to me anymore. Should I bring my bike to the prom, or should I just stay at home?


Troubled by sparks.

irondad said...

Dear Troubled,
Bikes are like women. You need to reassure them that they are still sexy and desirable to you. If you do that well they will happily lean over as far as you want them to go.

Take her to the prom and dance wildly. Get new friends. Remember, those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.

Happy Sparking!

Mr. Dan