As an aging boomer still addicted to speed (not the drug, that was easy to kick in comparison) I hope one of you ambitious riding suit makers out there wants to work with me developing this significant improvement in personal safety. I could really use one.
The AMA's point about research is an important one. We really don't know much about why motorcyclists (well, you guys, not me) are crashing these days. Yet the NHTSA's Motorcycle Safety Implementation Plan does not include plans for comprehensive research. It has plans to fix what we think is broke, but not to troubleshoot the problem. Not that it matters. Any funds that would have gone to this project are probably now going away with the war on terrorism and declining tax revenue.
I think a comprehensive study is a great idea. We need hard facts about what's going on.
My theory is that the increase in deaths correlates to the decrease in use of protective gear. Around my neck of the woods, Scottsdale/Phoenix, cruisers are at least 90% of the bikes on the roads, and virtually none of the riders wear helmets, let alone jackets or overpants. We seem to have a regular supply of fatalities, but the media rarely reports on helmet usage.
I don't favor mandatory helmet laws, but everyone should at least have the facts available to them before they make their decision to ride in heavy traffic in shorts, tank top and their Oakleys. (which I see all the time).
No one has mentioned single vehicle alcohol related deaths yet. I know for a fact because my Arizona DPS buddy has shown me pics of drunk harley riders rapping themselves around poles in the middle of the night. I know the next generation is here too the kids are buying bikes instead of cars and they have no experience riding what so ever! Here in Arizona all you have to do to get a licence to ride the latest and greatest death machine is ride a small 45 degree painted curve, stop when a light turns red and your off. Oh and you must pass the JOKE of a written test big f---- deal!!! multiple choice sludge! It really scares me too when you think of all these young little farts going out and launching first gear practice wheelies on the local roadway instead learning the basics on how to ride in traffic and live! All I have to say is if you don't wear at least pants and a helmet you should be given some kind of citation!
Thanks, MO, for accompanying grim NHTSA stats with some perspective from the AMA, rather than letting them go unchallenged as you have in the past.
Here's more perspective from a June 2001 NHTSA report, "Recent Trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes": In 1990, the Motorcycle Industry Council found that 3.7 million street motorcycles were "in use". That same year, NHTSA reported that 3244 riders died. Eight years later, motorcycles in use had climbed to 4.8 million, but deaths had dropped to 2294. In other words, during that span, 1990 to 1998, not only did total deaths drop 29% but the fatality rate dropped from 877 deaths per million bikes to 477. In other words, riding got safer by 46%.
What has happened since 1998 is a mystery, at least to me, because I can find no more current "motorcycles in use" data than 1998. This figure is absolutely crucial for determining whether the increase in fatalities is due to increased average risk or to an increase in the number of riders who choose to accept that risk.
If the AMA wants to make themselves useful in this debate, the can sponsor annual motorcycling demographic surveys to help counter the stream of bad news about motorcycling coming from NHTSA.
By the way, the 48% drop in deaths from 1990 to 1999 mentioned in your lead paragraph is wrong. The 1990 toll was 3244 and the 1999 toll 2472, a decrease of 24% (NHTSA, "Recent Trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes", June 2001, p9).
You know, Born-Again-Bikers, those 40/50ish yuppies who want to go back to something they gave up when they were 16. Their last bike was a Honda S90, and now they want the shiniest, loudest, biggest cruiser the Motor Company(tm) can make.
Re: We Need AIRBAG RIDING SUITS as soon as possible
If you think an airbag riding suit will save your neck you are kidding yourself. Sometimes your safety gear will save you, but if it is your time, nothing can stop it. I recently read about a rider who was wearing an Arai full face, vanson leather jacket, and gloves. When the car ran over him none of that mattered. Would an airbag riding suit? My point is, if you can't deal with the increased risk it will eat at you and affect your riding. Ask any racer who has gone down, what his lap times looked like after that. If your mind is on the wreck it's not where it should be. It all boils down to whether you believe you can control your destiny.
The idea that older riders crash in disproportionately higher numbers was the subject of an earlier story (http://news.motorcycle.com/article.motml?sid=969) that MO published without critical comment. I debunked the notion in my reply to that item, but Art Friedman does a much better job in the current issue of Motorcyclist (11/01). Conclusion: riders over 40 are less likely to die in motorcycle crashes than are younger riders. The reason more of them are dying is that there are far more of them than ever before.
I seem to recall reading about the results of research by NHSTA or the AMA looking at the experience of states that had mandatory helmet laws and repealed them. MC deaths and death rates went right up after repeal. Could the repeal of helmet laws be a factor?
Re: We Need AIRBAG RIDING SUITS as soon as possible
You can use your reasoning to ride in nothing but a Speed-O. The fact is, the more protective gear you wear, the greater the percentage of potential accidents you can survive. An airbag-vest isn't a guarantee, but it does improve the odds a bit.
Just for the record, in my town, 90% of GSXR riders wear shorts and Oakleys--just like the 90% of cruiser riders. No one motorcycle population is to blame for the lack of gear.
In my driver's ed class way back in 10th grade, our teacher made us watch Highway Patrol footage of fatal accident scenes to show what happens when people don't wear seat belts. It was gruesome, but effective. I always buckle up now because of those mental images. If there was mandatory motorcycle training that included photographs of what happens to people who crash without a full-face helmet, I think that you'd see a lot more Arais and Shoeis on the road.
In the first year following the repeal of the mandatory helmet law in Texas, motorcycle fatalities increased by about 60%. Sound scary? Well fatalities rose but so did the number of riders on the road. More specifically, the largest portion of deaths came from the people who had chosen to mothball their bikes when 'The Man' forced the use of helmets, but who again took up the sport, without any additional training or refresher courses, as soon as helmets were no longer the rule.
Those who take up or put down being bikers to make a statement are not doing our community any good at all. I am not in favor of killing off the dumb bikers, but we would be better off without being associated with these poser bikers, dead or alive.
Drinking is associated with 50 something percent of motorcycle related fatalities. I do not choose to partake in alcoholic beverages of any kind. That is my choice. It is not shared by many that I know. They talk responsibility beforehand, but I inevitably hear of at least one individual riding home impaired by 2-15 beverages if there is a ride involving a bar.
Hey, the bar is not what I am looking for anyway. The road is the place for sobriety, not inebriated risk-taking.
in those 50% of "alcohol related" fatalities. Recently a drunk cage driver here was sentenced to 7 years in prison for killing a sober Harley rider. But he only got the 7 years because he had a terrible record and should have been off the road long ago. We need to see more verdicts like that.
I think the lack of experience touched on in the previous post is a big factor too. Though sometimes your number is simply up, there are ways to recognize inebriated cage drivers in advance and stay out of their way. But it takes either training or years of experience that hone your instincts. Too many riders are out there who have neither one, both young squids and middle-age boomers who've decided they want a motorcycle. It won't get better until we train the newbies how to survive on the road, presuming they're interested.
As soon as you leave seat,pegs,handlebars it'd inflate
...leaving the rider protected inside an inflated ball.
Another approach, I call SmartBag technology. Only the parts of the rider about to contact something painful would activate a local bag on the affected body part. A SmartBag equipped suit would not look that different than the Helimot red leather tuxedo I usually wear.
A new comprehensive study is long overdue but so is requiring exam questions on drivers exams for non motorcyclists concerning motorcyclists since the AMA booklets cite that 75% of all accidents are the cars fault and the most common excuse is they didn't see us.
I believe Mandatory Helmet Laws are a must. I could give you many reasons but suffice it to say if you have any brain at all you should protect it.
But as far as images go that many readers have commented about perhaps the AMA could start a program to convince Police Departments to stop having their officers ride with an open face helment and basically no other protective gear. Bad example to others. We can't even wear it if we pay for it ourselves. Something to do with the public would be scarred of a fully protected officer. One Deputy I know of is having his seventh facial surgery to rebuild his face after a van T-boned him. The doctor believes a full face would have stopped this.
So to the AMA how can you really harp on safety equipment and accidents when most Police Departments put public image before MotorOfficer Safety???