How safe are motorcycles: Motorcycle myths that continue to this day
Remember the old wives tales our parents used to tell us? Sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyesight. Swallowed gum stays in your stomach for seven years. And, my personal favorite, Drinking coffee will stunt your growth. I didn’t much appreciate the latter because I only just started drinking coffee a few years ago, and I’ve been 5’2” since junior high...
Despite being much older than I was when my parents originally fed me these little white lies, I still have trouble dispelling some of them. Which got me thinking: How many other people are laboring under similar misapprehensions? If I could keep from drinking coffee throughout my most of my young adult life, all because I was convinced I could grow a few more inches, then how many others are depriving themselves of more meaningful experiences? Like riding a motorcycle, because they’ve been led to believe riding is too risky?
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Why ride a motorcycle if I could be putting myself in harm’s way?
I speak from personal experience when I say learning how to ride a motorcycle was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had to date. And anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure might be surprised to learn that a motorcycle is safer than most four-wheeled vehicles. In fact, let’s dispel a few more motorcycle myths while we’re at, shall we?
How safe are motorcycles? I’ve heard a beginner rider course isn’t necessary.
Though it may not seem this way at first glance (bikes have so many moving parts, after all), a motorcycle is only as safe as the rider controlling it. By extension, the same can be said for new motorcycle riders who wonder “How dangerous are motorcycles?” If you’ve never taken an MSF Basic RiderCourse, and have no intention of doing so, then you have no business being on the road. Bottom line: learn how to ride a motorcycle and half the battle of staying safe on the road has been won already.
I’ve spent all this money on my new bike – do I really need to buy the riding gear to go along with it?
Want to come home in one piece? Then, buy the proper riding gear. Sure, one of the perks of investing in leathers is the coolness they add to your biker aesthetic, but this material is also a crucial buffer in situations where rider and road become ‘one’ in a more literal sense. Seriously, guys, ATGATT is no joke.
I’ve heard wearing a helmet doesn’t make riding any safer.
While some seasoned riders believe wearing a helmet does more harm than good (in what universe has this ever been true, by the way?), I would urge them to reconsider. When diehard no-helmet-ers complain that helmets limit their visibility and hearing, I’d challenge that wearing a helmet decreases rider fatigue by blocking out excessive wind noise; as for their vision, the only visibility lost to riders wearing a helmet is a minor amount of their peripheral vision.
At the end of the day, riders who wear helmets (especially those approved by the DOT) crash less frequently than those who don’t, because wearing a helmet—or any riding gear, for that matter—means the rider is equipped with a more realistic mindset about riding and will navigate the roads accordingly.
Distracted drivers scare the heck out of me. Can I really make myself stand out more?
Contrary to popular belief, a car driver is much more likely to see you before they’ll hear you. This whole “Loud pipes save lives” nonsense is really starting to rub me the wrong way, especially since the sound is most evident AFTER the motorcyclist in question has already passed the four-wheeled threat.
In my years of riding, I’ve learned wearing bright colors is one sure way of getting noticed. It’s also wise to ride with your high beam turned on, even during the day. And be sure to keep yourself in plain view whenever possible because our four-wheeled friends are inhibited by blindspots galore for much of their drive.
If cagers have no regard for my safety, why should I have any concern for theirs?
Anyone who believes motorists have ulterior motives when it comes to road safety needs to reconsider this method of transportation altogether. It’s a dangerous mindset to have, thinking everyone who isn’t riding two wheels is out to get you. Sure, negligent cagers exist, but when has fighting fire with fire EVER been an effective form of conflict resolution?
Road rage is real, people, and engaging is so not worth it. In the event your safety is compromised by a distracted driver, it’s best to stay as far away from them as possible, remain alert, and scan ahead for other potential road hazards. Defensive riding is smart riding.
I appreciate the advice, but I won’t be getting into an accident anytime soon.
I admire your confidence, no doubt the product of years of riding experience. But if you think experience completely diminishes the odds of getting into an accident, you’ve got another thing coming. Consider some of the threats facing cagers: aggressive, distracted, or even intoxicated drivers, road hazards caused by construction and/or recent traffic accidents, speed traps, and more. These apply to you as well.
Being exposed to the elements entails more vigilance as a biker, sure; but, exposure does not make you immune to any of the obstacles mentioned above. In fact, you’re more vulnerable. So, do yourself, your loved ones, and everyone else on the road a favor and never assume the following:
- I’m okay to have one alcoholic beverage before riding
- I’ll be safe as long as I avoid the Interstate
- My safety gear will protect me from any threat.
You know that old saying, “Anything is possible”? Well, it applies here. Understand that alcohol, no matter how little you’ve consumed, will affect your perception; private roads are no less dangerous than the Interstate (they’re more dangerous, actually); and, no safety device works 100 percent of the time (I figured this much out when I learned just what a ‘surprise’ I was to my parents).
In the end, I just want my fellow riders and motorists to stay safe out there, and knowing the difference between myth and fact is one surefire way to make this happen.
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