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It happens every year. The days get warmer. The flowers bloom. The days become longer. Everything’s new again. As the birds begin chirping…you can hear it. It becomes louder with each passing second. It’s a sound like no other and pierces the silence like a hot knife through butter.
What is it you may ask? Are we under attack? It sounds like a low-flying fighter jet. And there it is - a brand-new motorcycle owner showing off their new purchase! And showing off their incredible riding skills that everyone has been dying to see.
What could go wrong?
With each new Spring comes a new danger that repeats itself year after year. It’s like an old story with the same tragic ending that we read over and over. Just the main characters are different. This month’s Lilburn Safety Zone is dedicated to a specific group. If you are a new rider and first-time buyer of the latest and greatest superbike, please give your awesome riding skills a rest and read on! If not, please pass it on to somebody who has.
As an avid rider, I’m here to give you an inside look at what bad decisions look like and what to expect with those decisions. I mean, we won’t really have a chance to talk afterwards, because you will not be able to communicate or comprehend anything or you will be dead. It’s that simple and that final.
Let’s start with some facts.
Motorcycles make up 3% of all registered vehicles throughout the country, however, account for 14% of the fatalities. You are 27 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than an enclosed vehicle. According to (NHTSA), there were 5,579 motorcycle crash deaths in 2020. This is twice the death rate in 1997 and an 11% increase from 2019. In addition, 50% of motorcycle fatalities occur at intersections, and speed is almost certainly involved as the leading factor of motorcycle fatalities.
Why the increase? It’s simple really.
There are more people on the road today than in 1997. With a population of over 333 million, there are more vehicles and more hazards on the roadway than at any other time in history. With 22% of new motorcycle purchases going to new riders with little to no experience, this number is sure to rise. Think about it. That’s more drivers speeding. That’s more drivers not signaling or looking while changing lanes. That’s more drivers running red lights and taking chances. And certainly, that’s more drivers addicted to those little devices while driving adding to distraction. Now, add in a speeding motorcycle with an inexperienced rider and it’s a sure recipe for disaster.
Motorcycles offer no protection in the case of impact. There have been some safety improvements with the advancement of ABS (anti-lock braking system) on some models, but that is no guarantee a motorcycle will stop in time of impact when abusing the posted speed limit. Other factors to consider are weather conditions and lighting. Is the roadway wet or can another driver see me?
I can usually spot an inexperienced rider from a distance because of their attire. Some are wearing sneakers or worse, flip flops! They wear T-shirts and shorts. There is nothing worse than arriving after an accident and seeing a rider and female passenger with road rash on a minor accident. ER nurses tell me all the time how painful it can be to pick gravel and road debris out of skin.
Wear the proper gear! Wear an approved helmet, preferably closed. Do not buy an expensive bike and then go cheap on the price of a helmet. Georgia is a helmet state for all riders. That means it is required! You are three times more likely to die without a helmet than with one. Remember, you already are 27 times more likely to die riding a motorcycle anyway. The deck is already stacked against you.
Wear proper boots, gloves, and jackets. Leather is best with padding in case of an accident. Plan for inclement weather and don’t ride in the middle of lanes, especially after it rains because this is where the oil is on the road. Use turn signals and check air pressure before each ride. If you aren’t prepared to check off on your safety before each ride, you don’t need to ride.
Lane splitting and lane filtering are illegal in Georgia. That’s when a rider uses the lane divider to advance to the front of traffic and uses lanes on the side to pass stopped traffic. There have been many injuries to riders performing this practice. Passing in the opposite lane is not allowed in stopped traffic. You may get away with it 100 times, but it’s that one extra time where it’s going to come crashing down!
You must have a motorcycle license to ride in the state of Georgia. If you have a motorcycle permit, it’s just that. You are not allowed to ride outside of what the permit allows. Period. My advice is to go to an approved Motorcycle Riding Course, even if you have a motorcycle license and have never been. The information is invaluable. Instructors can correct unhealthy habits that will improve your safety. It takes years to be a good rider and develop the skills necessary to be as safe as possible. The experience gained with each ride gives you the confidence to avoid bad situations and take action to avoid a collision.
Do you have a plan approaching an intersection? Is my speed too fast to act? Panic breaking will result in a certain crash if you can’t control your bike. Learn to counter steer and cover the clutch in the case of sudden stop and steering to avoid a collision.
Isaac Newton discovered the three laws of motion. One thing is for certain, you can’t outrun these laws. An object at rest, stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force. This is the Law of Inertia. One example would be if a rider were traveling 80 m.p.h. and suddenly hit a truck at rest. The rider will continue at the same speed until acted upon by making contact with another object, like a telephone pole or tree. The end result is tragic!
Let me break it down for you in the simplest way possible if you continue to think the law of physics doesn’t apply and you continue your thrill rides. I want you to know what to expect. As a police officer, I will be dispatched to the accident you were involved in. Me and my partners will activate our emergency equipment and get there as soon as we can. Upon our arrival, we will try to keep you alive in any way possible, but my skills and equipment will be limited. Hopefully, paramedics can get there on time to save you or even worse, your passenger who is with you.
his article is coming from the heart of not only a police officer, but a father. I’m tired of seeing the death and carnage caused by risk taking reckless riding. Motorcycle riding is already dangerous enough as it is. Don’t add to that risk by thinking you’re something you’re not. Check your ego before riding. Get your mind in the best place. Arrive safely. Be responsible for yourself, passengers and others on public roadways. Know your limitations. DON’T SPEED!!!
If you follow this simple advice just maybe - we will talk about what a great rider you have become. If not, we will meet after all, but it will be a one-sided conversation.
Your choice! Stay safe Lilburn!