“Motorcycles – those sexy, dangerous machines! People who ride them surely are modern gladiators, fighting for their lives and avoiding deadly events every second they’re on their machine! They’re crazy people! I bet they’re also sexy & awesome! ”
The above description is a mild exaggeration of the standard Western view of 2-Wheelers & their riders – partially true (yes, especially that last statement) and partially folklore. Make no mistake though – Motorcycling is a dangerous means of transport/hobby and comes with inherently higher risk compared to alternatives. But like quite a lot of ‘risks’ in life, awareness of the same and means to mitigate them can help us enjoy that wonderful hobby/passion while minimizing the risk involved. We shall look at some of these ‘dangers’ and try to affix a number to the motorcycling risk, compared to driving a passenger car/4-wheeler.
Motorcycle Market Size in US
In the US, total new motorcycle sales were about 0.5 million in 2013 , compared to 17 million new cars sold in the same period. That comes out to being 3 motorcycles sold for every 100 cars!
Motorcycle Market Size in Developing Nations (India as example)
Things are very different in other parts of the world – For example, in developing nations, motorcycles & scooters are a much higher proportion of total vehicle sales, driven by the much lower cost of ownership of a 2-wheeler and the gradually improving road infrastructure. Taking the example of India, there were 16 Million 2-wheelers sold in 2014, while only about 1.8 Million cars were sold in the same year!
That’s roughly 9 motorcycles sold for every car sold in India.
Evaluating Risk in Motorcycling
The absence of an interaction with a motorcycle can create a wonder (fear) of the unknown. So is the conventional argument ‘Stay Away from a Motorcycle, It is Dangerous!’ true? Well, DEFINITELY YES.
A US NHTSA Study in 2008 showed that there were 72 fatal accidents per 100,000 registered motorcycles, while for the number was 12 fatal accidents per 100,000 registered passenger cars. This gives us fair idea of the higher risk involved in motorcycling. However, this risk does not take into account factors such as rider awareness, Helmet wear vs no helmet, and riding a 2-wheeler under the influence of alcohol/drugs. Lets take a look at that :-
The same 2008 NHTSA study gives us the following risk-related stats :-
1) 41% of fatal motorcycle accidents in USA involved NO HELMET
2) 30% of fatal accidents involved BAC (blood alcohol content) > 0.08, meaning they were Under the Influence of Alcohol
3) Among fatal motorcycle accidents involving 2 vehicles, 41% were due to a vehicle turning left/passing/overtaking while the motorcycle was going straight (the classic “I didnt see the motorcycle at all?” argument )
Ways to Mitigate & Minimize Risk
1) BE SEEN – Wear Hi-Viz attire, Helmets, improving lighting on the motorcycle (AUX Lights, running lights etc). Hi-Viz (high visibility NEON Yellow as an example) colors help catch the eye of the vehicles around you. Conspicuous lights on the motorcycle help you be seen better (most motorcycles have just 1 headlight, and is easily missed by oncoming traffic). Reflective Tape & Stickers help you shine through when other vehicles are near you.
2) BE AWARE – Every motorcyclist needs to be highly aware of the road situation around them. Heightened awareness comes from expecting the unknown; being ready for that car to jump out of the driveway even though they may be looking at you. 4-Wheeler drivers (including yours truly) are guilty of being distracted thanks to food, music, mobile devices, cozy seating & A/C etc.
3) UPGRADE YOUR RIDING SKILLS – The ability to lean into a curve feels great! But the same ability can also help you evade a lousy driver ahead of you incorrectly coming into your lane, or a nasty piece of wood/rock lying right in your path on the road ahead of you. Do the MSF Safety courses atleast once every Year or two. Do the Advanced course if you’ve already done the basic course. Skills can save lives.
I hope this article puts forth the many varied dangers involved in motorcycling. The awareness & knowledge of these dangers will hopefully educate you, and help you be a better rider/help you make the right decisions, so you can enjoy the beautiful sport of motorcycling.
Ending on a positive note – A video on Motorcycling Touring 🙂