Avoiding the Ambush ( Part II )
Occasionally the conversation did turn to the subject of training techniques for motorcycle riders. TEAM OREGON recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and has some 160 instructors at more than 20 sites around the state both preparing future motorcyclists to go out on the road and teaching current motorcyclists how to improve their riding skills. They offer several stages of instruction, from the basic, to the returning rider, to advanced instruction in cornering and braking skills, and most important, avoidance maneuvers.
As Bob ( who put in his time in the army ) says, going out on a motorcycle can be compared to being the lead guy on a patrol, where you want to avoid getting ambushed. The point man is looking for tell-tale signs, like a suspicious object on a trail which might be a command-detonated mine, or a narrow alley where enemies on the rooftops can toss down grenades and bring a withering hail of firepower to bear.
The same can be said for a motorcyclist. You can be ambushed in traffic by left-turning motorists, or out in the countryside by entering a decreasing-radius turn at too high a speed. The idea is that a well-trained rider will anticipate the possibility that the oncoming Buick just might turn left---since drivers have been known to turn left in front of motorcycles as well as in front of semis. Those motorists out there are "the enemy," although unintentionally, and they might suffer poor vision, or be distracted by sending a text message, or just be oblivious to what is happening around them. As far as rounding that curve goes, road signs should have warned you of recommended speeds, and if you missed those, just the fast disappearing asphalt should tell the aware rider it past time to slow down.
Nobody in the motorcycle business is unaware that riding a motorcycle is a heckuva lot more hazardous than driving a car. There aren't many fender-benders in the world of motorcycling; an accident happens, whether it is hitting another vehicle or running off the road, and there are no air bags ( except on one model ) to protect you.
Here are some depressing statistics. Motorcycle registrations are about 3 percent of the total vehicle population in this country, but we suffer 12 or more percent of the fatalities. You can attribute that to any number of things, from daring young kids overloaded with testosterone, to elderly folk with poor vision and poorer reaction times. Half the motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle accidents, which means that the only person at fault was the rider. And of the remaining 50 percent, surveys have found that in half of those accidents the motorcyclist was wholly or partially at fault.
To Oregon's great credit, the state has the lowest motorcycle death rate in the country, about half of the national average, based as a percentile of the total motorcycle registrations. That certainly deserves a cheer. And TEAM OREGON is working hard to diminish that number even further.
One of T.O.'s mottos is: "Expert riders use expert mental skills to avoid having to use their expert physical skills." Steve and Bob feel that the real danger comes from the motorcyclist being so concerned with him- or her - self that he or she fails to see the bigger picture, the possibility of an ambush ahead. If the soldier is concentrating on where he puts his feet, he won't see a movement in the foliage a hundred feet ahead, a head ducking down from a window. Or the motorcyclist with a narrow vision outlook won't spot the soccer-dad in the van leaning back to yell at his kid and missing a stop sign, or the sand kicked on to the pavement by a trailer's wheels as it rounded a country corner. As Bob says, "If you ride into an ambush there is no question that you're going to get hurt---the only question is whether or not you're going to survive."
A rider tends to go where he looks: target fixation---you see a rock in the road, you stare at it, you hit it. The idea is to look around, see what is happening everywhere, not focus too intently on one target. Expand your horizons, don't just stare at the road right in front of the motorcycle.
The Oregon people are doing constant research, like the study they just began with a federal grant that will allow them to find out where motorcyclists actually look while going down the street or road. The technology involved is extremely sophisticated and it will be a three year study. Nobody knows what the conclusions will be, but if it results in something that will help instructors teach students how to avoid that ambush, all well and good.
Anyway, it was a great 20th anniversary. I'll let Sue surprise me again for the 25th.
( end of article )
Again, my deepest appreciation to Clement for granting me permission to reproduce this article. I hope you find it as thought provoking and helpful as I did.
Miles and smiles,