- About two thirds or more were car or passenger vehicle collisions. In most cases (69%) the other vehicle did not see the motorcycle coming.
- About a third were single motorcycle accidents. In two-thirds of these cases, rider errors like over-braking or cornering too fast were the cause.
- In 90% of all cases, the risk was directly in front of the rider prior to the accident.
- Speed was not a factor in 82% of cases!
- Alcohol was a factor in almost half the fatal accidents.
- Mechanical failure caused less than 3% of motorcycle accidents.
- Weather was not a factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents.
- Wearing the right gear significantly reduced crash injuries.
- Most of the crashes took place in urban zones during the day (64%).
These numbers tell us that riders, not engines, weather or speed, cause nearly all motorcycle accidents. Note the ridiculous number of accidents that involve riders all by themselves. If 25% of plane crashes were single-plane crashes on fine days due to pilot error alone there would be an outcry! Why then accept it for motorcycles? Calling riding itself dangerous makes no sense, as competent riders ride a lifetime and never “accidentally” fall off when riding alone in good weather. Nor is it incompetence, as new riders with less than six months experience were only 24% of all accidents, mostly with cars. In my view, the main cause of this carnage is the barbarian myth that has attached to motorcycles. Hunter S. Thompson describes this myth as:
- Shun protection like wearing a crash helmet, as a sign of weakness.
- Recount near-misses as bravery successes.
- Rely on symbols of bravado, like tattoos and beards.
- Treat riding like a game of chicken, where the rider tries to be as risky as possible.
The alternative presented here is that:
- Protection is just common sense.
- Near misses are failures not successes.
- Symbols of strength like tattoos, muscles and beards are irrelevant to riding.
- Riding is not a game of risk, it is a skill.
The barbarian myth began hundreds of years ago, when naked warriors painted themselves with magical symbols of invulnerability before do-or-die battles. Riding today is not do or die, it is do and do again. We no longer believe in magic symbols. That you can challenge risk and thus “conquer” it is an ancient superstition. That nakedness protects is a myth. That near misses are successes is a myth. That symbols protect is a myth. And that flaunting danger somehow subdues it is a myth. Danger is part of life, not a God to be challenged. Its time we got a new motorcycle myth. In my myth, riders are the pilots of the road, so lets copy the aviation community not long gone barbarians. Indeed, our jackets are like those of pilots. Pilots are the masters of high risk technology in the air, so let riders be the same on the ground. Pilots don’t boast of their near misses. They rely on their wits, not magic symbols. They don’t seek out risks. The modern rider as the aviator of the road loves life not death.
What about the other 75% of accidents, when a car pulls out in front of a motorcycle? I have described how Attitude, Readiness and Conditions contribute to accidents, but in the actual situation, when accidents occur, everything depends on your brain.