Motorcycle Success: Making It Home Alive

Motorcycle Safety -

Motorcycle Success: Making It Home Alive

Author: Tay Jones, CEO of Twisty Rider LLC

I recently spent some time in Idaho and saw the mass majority of Twisty Riders on the road were riding around without helmets. In my state, Washington, you don't see that very often so it stuck out to me. Although the feel of the wind in your hair is great, it made me think about a blog I wrote about a year ago on motorcycle crash statistics, and how to "Make It Home Alive." Yes, I know some of the stats are not entirely current, but I would be willing to bet they are very similar today. There are a lot of takeaways in this blog post, and I feel it is just as applicable now as it was when it was originally written - so without further ado:

Let’s face it, you can’t be a successful motorcycle rider if you’re dead. And – according to me – you can’t be alive without riding motorcycles. What a dilemma. Let’s discuss how to prolong our Twisty Rider lifestyles by making it home alive.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)(1) (LINK), 8.6 million – yes, million – motorcycles graced the roads of the United States in 2015. This number is up from 8 million in 2009; apparently people are catching on. But, with added motorcyclists on the roads, more are falling victim to fatal crashes. Based on research conducted by NHTSA, the year 2014 saw 4,594 motorcyclists killed; in 2015, 4,976 motorcyclists were killed – this is an increase of 8.3 percent.

So, what does it all mean? We’re all gonna’ die! No, not really. If you read and understand the research, there is a pretty good chance – if you aren’t a reckless idiot – that you are going to be a successful rider and make it home alive.

Although 2015 statistics show motorcyclists were twenty-nine times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of a passenger car (per vehicle mile traveled), and almost five times more likely to be injured, there are some big takeaways to unpack.

First: Twenty-seven percent of motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes in 2015 were riding without a valid motorcycle license. “Top Tip” of the week… get your head out of your ass. I’ve taken a basic riding course.  They are set up for beginners, and yes, you deal with the “train to the lowest common denominator” mentality. But if you really dive into it, the knowledge you can get from a trained instructor, on a closed course, building your skills as a rider in a safe environment is worth its weight in gold. These courses, in my opinion, are a great value for what you get; some of these courses even include putting you through your state’s approved licensing course, which allows you to just go pay the fee and walk out with your license. It’s almost easier to take these courses to get your motorcycle license than dealing with your state’s licensing department. In any event – GO GET YOUR LICENSE.

Second: In 2015, motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest rate of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other type of vehicle. And, forty-two percent of all motorcyclists who perished in single-vehicle crashes were alcohol-impaired. Again – GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS… I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Don’t drink and ride. Period. Even the slightest bit of impairment – even under the legal limit – can have grave consequences, for you and others around you, while on a motorcycle. One false move and they’re scraping you off the pavement, other vehicles, the ditch, and beyond. Not worth it.

Third: Wear a helmet. In 2015, forty percent of all motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes didn’t wear theirs. NHTSA puts it this way: “Helmets are estimated to be 37-percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41-percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.” Get it? Got it? Good.

Before moving on I’d also like to mention that, according to NHTSA research, in states without universal helmet laws, fifty-eight percent of motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing helmets, compared to eight percent in states with universal helmet laws. Now there’s a stat for ya’! Even if your state doesn’t require it, make smart choices.

Fourth: Speed is more than just an amazing Keanu Reeves movie. However, out of all the factors mentioned above, this one is the hardest to crack down on – and I don’t think it’s just me. People love motorcycles for many reasons. Sensation and enjoyment, to name two. This one is an important, conscious choice you must make; you also need to know when speed is appropriate and when it’s not. Speed can be fun, yes, but sometimes it’s just reckless and you need to check yourself. Like I’ve said, on more than one occasion, “I’ve never had fun going the speed limit until I bought a motorcycle.” I stand by this statement. Sit in the saddle and enjoy yourself, safely – It can be done. In 2015, thirty-three percent of all motorcycle riders killed in fatal crashes occurred under circumstances where speed was a contributing factor.

Fifth: According to the Insurance Information Institute(2) (LINK), riding at night, between the hours of 9pm and 6am, accounts for about twenty-seven percent of motorcycle fatalities. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but if it’s not, maybe think twice about it.

Ok. Now that we’ve talked about some of the major issues related to our potential deaths, it doesn’t really seem that bad. My guess is that most of you, if you’re able to read this and aren’t six feet in the ground somewhere, probably do most of these things already. Get a license, don’t drink and ride, wear a helmet, keep the speed down, ride in the daytime hours, and get your head out of your ass. Some are easier than others, but do these things to help boost your riding success.

Stay alive – and Get Out There And RIDE!



(1): National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2017, March). Motorcycles: 2015 data (Updated, Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 353). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

(2): Insurance Information Institute. (2017, June). Motorcycle Crashes. New York, NY.

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