Motorcycle Riding Can be Risky

Can Risk Management be the solution to everything? Maybe not, but it can provide a great option to fatal motorcycle accidents. Who says so?

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) says so. They have done a great deal of work to develop training programs to provide riders with the skills necessary to prevent motorcycle accidents. Riding a motorcycle can be a very dangerous sport or activity, but with proper training and application of Risk Management riders can take action to prevent crashes. Many states use the MSF curriculum for motorcycle rider training and much more should.

Accidents are normally the result of a series of events or factors that lead up to the accident. By controlling or eliminating those factors that a rider can reduce the risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident.  There are three primary areas that should be addressed in conducting risk management for motorcycle riding. These three areas are rider factors, motorcycle factors, and road and traffic factors. Each of these areas contains some elements that determine the rider’s risk of being involved in an accident.

Riders should always be prepared to ride the motorcycle. That may sound a little strange, yet it is true. The rider of a motorcycle must focus his or her attention on the task of riding the motorcycle as well as the actions of other drivers, wildlife, and the condition of the road all at once. This is far more focus than any automobile driver puts into the task of driving. The amount of time a rider has on their motorcycle has a great impact on the potential for an accident. Normally, the more you ride, the better rider, you become. Army personnel is required to complete a motorcycle rider course to ride a motorcycle. This course is offered at most installations and provides basic information about riding. Many other organizations should provide this training. The more training you get; the better rider you will become. Go to http://www.msf-usa.org to get more information about motorcycle rider courses in your area.

There are items of protective clothing and equipment that each rider must wear. Many riders wear at least an approved half shell helmet. However, if they were to wear an approved ¾ shell or a full-face they could reduce their risk even more. The same thing goes for the shirt or pants. The rider can use a regular pair of pants with a long sleeve shirt and get by. Safer still would be to wear the new jackets and pants with ballistic protection sold by many manufacturers today. This ballistic protection is located in areas where the body is injured in a crash. Using it will greatly reduce the risk of injury in an accident.

Since riding a motorcycle takes a great deal of concentration it is surprising that many riders drink and ride. It still happens. If you plan to drink, don’t ride. Your chances of having an accident are far greater. Along with drinking, riders should make sure they don’t take prescription or over the counter medications that may cause drowsiness before riding. Read the label and if it has a warning about driving or operating heavy equipment or machinery, that means you don’t ride.   Along with these hazards comes the risk of riding when tired. It is very hard to drive a car when tired it is only worse trying to ride a motorcycle when tired. You may feel like you are riding fine until an emergency occurs and you can’t properly react to it.

Even if you are prepared to ride, is your bike ready to be ridden? First does it fit you and secondly is it in good working order? Is your bike the right size? You can tell by sitting on the seat and putting both feet flat on the ground. If you can’t do this, the bike is too tall. Now try to reach all the controls. You must be able to reach the handlebars, clutch lever, brake lever and pedal, throttle, and shift lever with ease. If you can’t reach all of the controls, have them adjusted. Now is your bike in good working order? How do you know? The MSF has a pre-ride check that is represented by the acronym T-CLOCS. This represents T=tires and wheels, C=controls, L=lights and other electrical items, O=oil, C=chassis, and S=side stand. By conducting a quick inspection and fixing those items that don’t work, you can greatly reduce your risk.

The last things to consider are the road and traffic conditions. You can choose the place and time you ride so make it the safest time and place.  Don’t ride in areas with limited visibility or rough and sandy roads.  These can cause or contribute to an accident. You may also want to avoid heavy traffic times. Most car and truck drivers are not watching for motorcyclists and often don’t see them. Not riding in these situations can reduce your risk.

In addition to identifying the hazards and eliminating those you can prior to riding the MSF recommends a strategy for riding your motorcycle. The strategy is known by the acronym SEE. S is to search for hazards constantly as you ride. E is to evaluate those hazards first to determine if they have an impact on you and then to develop a course of action for each. The second E is to execute the course of action you determined in the evaluation step. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. This is a constant update of the risk management process. The more you use it, the better you will become.

Whether you are a new rider or a 20-year veteran you can become the victim of a motorcycle accident. You can reduce the potential for that accident by using the risk management process explained in this essay to identify and eliminate hazards. Don’t become overwhelmed with all of the hazards. Riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving a car, and most, if not all riders know this. To be successful control the hazards you can and reduce your risk. Let motorcycling be fun and enjoyable.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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