Recently, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Motorcycle Research Group/Center for Automated Vehicle Systems and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation conducted a study of 100 riders. Together, they logged over 366,000 miles on the riders’ bikes. The test went from two months to two years. It recorded 30,844 trips. Whenever a bike started and stopped equaled one trip. These trips represented 9,354 hours of riding and 100.6 years of motorcycle time, for a total of 336,667 miles.

The study showed what many of us have suspected. We crash more from our own doing than from someone else’s.

Motorcycle statistics are slow to come in, and nonreported crashes never make it to paper. This study collected data by installing GPS tracking, cameras facing out and back at the rider, and kinematic impact measuring equipment. These algorithms involved data mining in which kinematic data measured lateral and longitudinal acceleration. These conditions were developed to indicate extreme situations where a potential of a Crash or a Near-Crash (CNC) exists.

A sample of the group ranged in demographics and experience using various motorcycles. All participants did a basic course and eye exam to establish a baseline. Of those in the groups, 65 percent reported passing at least one riders course.

There were 30 crashes and 122 CNCs for a total of 152 events. Of the 100 participants, the number of CNC events per rider ranged from 0 to 13. Of the riders, 55 experienced at least one event.

What the study says about our riding is that we do not know how to stop, make right-hand turns or judge speeds.

The most common case for crashes was ground impact at low speed. This was defined as “two-wheeled vehicle falls coincident with low or no speed (even if in gear), due to issue not defined in other incident type categories. The rider allows the bike to lean while it is being stopped, just beginning to move from a stop, or making a turn at low speed. Vehicle upright stability is lost due to lack of input by the rider to counter the effect of gravity.” This is the scientific way of saying that we do not know how to start, stop or hold up our motorcycles.

Also, the study showed that capsizing your bike leads to other problems. This reveals a breakdown in the rider’s ability to execute a task, baseline proficiencies, or a temporary reduction in readiness to ride.

The largest risk of a CNC is a motorcyclist whose motion, path or speed is affected by an intersection that is uncontrolled in the participant’s direction of travel (no signal or other signage in the participant’s direction). Being inattentive, aggressive or frustrated sharply increased the risk. The study found that parking lots are a hazard as well.

The study showed that we have trouble with hills. The data showed that any maneuver on a grade should be practiced. Riding on an uphill grade doubles the risk of CNC, and riding on a downhill grade increase this risk four times.

The study stated that “whether called a turn, corner or curve, changing direction requires special attention.” The study showed that riding into a right turn doubles the risk of a CNC compared to riding on a straight roadway. This type of event includes taking the right curve too wide or at excessive speed and crossing over the lane line into the oncoming lane (termed a near-crash due to the evasive maneuver required to regain control and proper lane position).

The study results indicate that 67 percent of all single-vehicle CNC events involved curve negotiation, and 63 percent of those were run-off-road or lane line crossing cases.

The study concluded: “There is rarely a single cause of any crash. Usually, there are many factors that interact, or combine, to result in a crash. You do not want to ignore even minor factors because you want to break the chain of events that may lead to a crash.”

If you want to be a better and safer rider, find an empty parking lot and practice those basic maneuvers. Practice stopping, decreasing speed to a full stop, accelerating from a stop, turning left and right from a stop, making a right-hand turn and swerving to avoid a collision. Remember space is your friend and for most of your riding, it is something you can control. 

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