The month of National Motorcycle Safety Awareness got underway last Friday, and according to a quick internet search, we’re off to an abjectly horrible start to the riding season. After typing “motorcycle crash May 2015” into Google, my browser looked like this:
Just like any other month of the year, the results are a mixture of single- and multiple-vehicle accidents, drivers not seeing motorcyclists as well as motorcyclists not being in control of their machines, deer strikes, alcohol, while most of the fatal ones did not involve wearing a helmet. The last one is my favorite because of the irony it shines on the situation.
Let’s take an entire month out of the year and ask our fellow four-wheel motorists to pay special attention to the vulnerable few who ride motorcycles. And, while doing so, please refrain from noticing that a large majority of said motorcyclists refuse to wear proper riding gear. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) around 33% of motorcyclists do not wear DOT certified helmets, while a huge percentage more forego attiring themselves in anything more than blue jeans, Red Wings and a T-shirt.
A train of thought from the motorist’s point of view might flow something like this: “You’re asking me, the motorist, to be dutifully careful in regards to the safety of motorcyclists, but you’re unwilling to practice some of the most elemental safety precautions such as wearing proper riding gear and a DOT helmet? Sure, no problem. Excuse me while I answer this text message.”
It does seem to be a double standard, doesn’t it? How can we ask others to be aware of us when we’re unaware of our own shortcomings? There’s no deficit of motorcyclists conveying a certain self-image, such as being a badass biker. But just as you can’t force others to like your favorite song by playing it louder, it’s difficult to see yourself through the eyes of others and how ridiculous your muscle shirt and flip flops ensemble is to them while at the same time being so cool to you.
Most of the motorcycle crash compilations I’ve seen on Youtube are of the self-inflicted variety. Even in the ones where a car turns left in front of the motorcyclist, it can often be argued that if the guy was traveling only 10 mph over the posted speed limit instead of 30 mph, he might’ve been able to avoid the collision. This would be an example of dual failures: the failure of the motorist to be aware of the motorcyclist, and a failure of the motorcyclist to be aware of the situation and slow down accordingly.
As motorcyclists we should put forth our best efforts in setting good examples so that motorists might be more inclined to pay us the attention we deserve. You know, leading by example: Wearing reflective protective gear, not riding drunk, keeping aggression levels reasonable on public roads, and take a motorcycle refresher course once in a while.
I’m not saying I don’t appreciate and invite any and all recognition Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month provides. I’m sure it was no easy task getting an entire month dedicated to the safety of such a minority. However, I don’t feel any safer riding my motorcycle during the month of May than I do any other month of the year.
What I’d like to see happen is the building of awareness that large portions of our driving population in the United States aren’t qualified to hold drivers licenses. We lack proper training, road etiquette, and approach responsible driving with a general sense of malaise. If we, as a society, put just a little effort into driving/road awareness in the general sense, everyone stands to benefit.
But enough with my pipedream, enjoy the month of May and the Motorcycle Safety Awareness it brings … just don’t let your guard down.