Motorcycle Safety Is in Your Head
Not all of it, of course. Or even most of it. Still, here are three ideas you might consider adding to your riding equipment. It won’t cost you anything to read about them, or to implement them, because they are all inside your brain.
Concept One: To be used every time you don your helmet. For this to work, or course, you must be a motorcyclist who wears a helmet. If you don’t, you’re probably not reading this anyway.
The phrase that pays is “when the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.” I began using this about thirty years ago, and I must have repeated it often to many people, because one kind soul (not me) added it to the Wikipedia section on motorcycle safety. So, it must be important!
What it means is that when you ride your motorcycle, you ride your motorcycle. Period. You do not assign parts of your brain the task of worrying about the bills, or what to say when you finally decide to tell off that person who so surely needs a talking to, what chores await you, when you will find the time to mow the lawn or paint the house, etc. You just focus on – riding the motorcycle.
For me this also means not listening to music, or wiring my helmet to accept e-mails or calls. I think the actual idea may have been spurred by my (now) ex-wife. When the first two-way helmet communicator devices came out, I asked if she wanted me to get a set. She replied in the negative, reasoning that she did not want me to be concentrating on anything but riding. Made sense.
Some of you will insist on listening to music anyway. I used to have a colleague who’d been a major league baseball player. He liked to listen to music in his helmet when riding. One day I asked him if he ever wore ear buds when going up to bat against a pro baseball pitcher. He did not, of course. So, if you need all of your faculties working well to hit a baseball, are your needs less when riding a motorcycle? I am a reasonably good athlete, but I am not willing to give away any sensory input that could help.
A corollary to this concept is used if I find myself, no matter my best intentions, wandering off into thoughts of other things. I try to yank myself back to attention by stating out loud “Just ride the motorcycle,” sometimes with an inappropriate word added for spice.
Concept Two: Dealing with deer. Deer are now a serious threat to motorcycles and cars in many parts of the world. Increasing human density, wildlife legislation, and development have reduced the number of natural predators for deer, and one of things that now keeps their population in check is – cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It used to be that you were most likely to see deer in the early morning daylight hours or in the evening. Not now. The other day three of them trotted across the road in front of me… at noon.
To help with this, any time you are in an area where there might be deer present, say the word “deer!” inside your helmet. This will cause you to focus, even for just a second, at the road ahead on either side. On several occasions this little tidbit has helped spot a deer or two sooner than otherwise. There is no guarantee with this, for sure, as deer are extremely unpredictable.
Concept Three: Where is the threat? A number of years ago I was assisting in the development of an on-street rider safety course. One rider reaction was discovered by viewing a slide on a screen showing the road ahead from the rider’s perspective on a motorcycle. Pretty much with every slide displayed, experienced riders and safety instructors could point out six to eight things that might prove to be a problem, while new riders often could not see any.
For example, imagine that the slide shows a sunny day and an asphalt road curving up ahead to the left. What threats could there be? If you look carefully, there is a dirt road coming in from the right. There could be gravel or sand from that road on your highway, where you are turning. There is a car waiting there that might pull out in front of you because the driver “didn’t see you.” There is a car coming toward you just visible around the corner, and it looks to be close to the centerline. Up ahead around the curve it looks like the trees end, which probably means an intersection, which might mean there is a stop sign on the far side of the curve you are about to enjoy. That sort of thing.
I just thought of this third concept month ago, and it is rapidly becoming my favorite. As I scan the road ahead, I look for anything that looks a little off, like the clues in the paragraph above, or a car that looks to be in bad repair or is being badly driven, etc.
When I say anything that looks “off,” I say the word “threat” out loud in my helmet. Because the word is not specific, this provided a subtle push for me to study the potential threat to see if it is actually a threat and if so, make a plan to avoid the threat and execute the plan.
Decades ago, there was an acronym mentioned often in safe riding materials that was SIPDE. It stood for See, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. I believe it has now been replaced by other acronyms used for the same purpose by various safety classes. The verbal word in your helmet is merely a simple, and effective, call to action,
I hope these concepts help a few people. They work for me.
Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!
Copyright 2020 David Preston
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