As of June 17th the total number of motorcycle fatalities in Minnesota was 24. That’s eight more than last year at this time. That’s a 50% increase. It turns out 11 of these fatal crashes happened while the rider was “negotiating a curve”. In 14 of these deaths they weren’t wearing helmets, in seven, they were. In the remaining three they couldn’t make a determination which seems weird to me.
What I get out of these statistics, my math is pretty rough, you increase your chances of survival by almost 50% if you ride only in a straight line. If you wear a helmet your chance of survival is over 60%. Now, riding in a straight line is not only boring but pretty much impossible. To get everyone to wear a helmet would require a law and I’m not a fan of more motorcycle laws.
I’ve been riding for a lot of years and what I know for a fact is that training has made me a better and safer rider. I’ve taken advanced rider courses that were a ton of fun. I pay close attention to people who I ride with who are better than I am. I ask questions and I try to apply the things I learn.
Currently I wear a helmet, gloves, jacket and boots when I ride. That’s about as close as I get to ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). I haven’t always ridden this way. I’ve gone back and forth over the years and I’m not certain why. Currently, I believe it’s directly related to seeing my wife get hit by an inattentive driver and because she was wearing appropriate riding gear, she only suffered a broken wrist. Nobody can tell me to wear a helmet, take a class or ride safer. These are choices I have to make. As I get older I have gotten a little wiser. I don’t ride nearly as fast or recklessly as I did when I was younger.
I have been making a conscious effort since my wife’s accident to ride better. When I first started riding an old guy told me “you have to ride like you’re invisible, nobody can see you so you need to see them”. I think of that often when I see all the distracted drivers out there. I really keep my head on a swivel and stay focused on the driving. I position myself in my lane so I can be seen. I don’t wear high-vis gear all the time but I do when it’s raining. One of my biggest struggles is being a defensive driver on a bike. Bikes maneuver, accelerate and stop faster than any other vehicle on the road. When I’m not driving defensively, I take those advantages away. While I don’t drive as aggressively as I did in my sport bike years, there is definitely room for improvement.
What I find frustrating is the fact that most motorcycle fatalities are a result of the bike rider losing control of their motorcycle while not wearing a helmet. We all ride at a certain skill level and when I ride outside that, I crash. Fortunately for me, these days, I only seem to push my limits when I’m riding off-road and my crashes tend to be at lower speeds and I wear gear. My bike and I get banged up a little but we live.
Over the years I’ve done my share of riding in shorts and a t-shirt. I loved the freedom of just hopping on the bike and going. I also spent a lot of years wearing appropriate riding gear as I do now. One of the big differences with gear is the fatigue factor. A full face helmet, jacket and gloves allow me to ride a lot more miles without getting tired and when I’m not tired I’m much more alert. If you’re new to riding please take a class. You’ll save on your insurance. If you’re a rider who doesn’t wear gear, give it a try . You might like it and it may save your life.