It’s All About Safety: Why We Crash – How One Study Can Help Us Ride Safe


As a motorcyclist, it’s no secret that the risk of an accident is ever present. We can be as safe as humanly possible, but because there are so many factors like other vehicles on the road, there is only so much we have control over. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to have a better idea of what specific areas or circumstances are more risky than others? That way we can be more prepared. A Virginia Tech study done for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) gives us insight into this very thing. It also suggests we might share more of the blame than we realize (or care to admit). More on that below.

What They Did

The study snagged 100 motorcyclists, placed five video cameras + tech to keep track of the data on each bike and recorded them for a grand total of over 366,000 miles or an average of 3,660 per rider. The riders ranged in age from 21-79 years young. The motorcycles included cruising (41), touring (38) and sport (21) models. The study was performed in four states: California, Virginia, Florida and Arizona. They observed the riders’ habits, crashes, and near-crashes to try and better understand why and where motorcyclists crash.

You can read the full report here.

What They Found

For 1000 brownie points, where do you think motorcycle accidents most commonly occur? Go on and think about it…I’ll wait. Okay, got it? Is that your final answer?

I’m sure you will all be shocked to find out that the most common crash sites are located in…drum roll please…Intersections. Okay, okay so you probably already knew that. Didn’t need some fancy study to tell you. But at least now you’ll sound really impressive with your buddies when you start throwing statistics around!

The study found that an intersection is 3 to 41 times more risky than no intersection, depending on the situation. That’s right, 41! Scary!

Additionally they found that, when compared to riding on a level road, going uphill doubles your risk while heading downhill is four times as risky. Your chance of having an incident when turning right (compared to a straight section of road) is doubled.

19 of the 99 multi-vehicle crashes and near-crashes had to do with other vehicles getting in the motorcyclist’s path. In other words, about 20% of incidents were caused by the other drivers. What’s shocking, perhaps, is this: 35 of the 99 incidents involved riders rear-ending (or almost rear-ending) the vehicle in front of them. That’s over a third of the crashes! Yikes! Some might want to understandably chalk that number up to a small sample size (or mediocre riders), but keep in mind that this is the most comprehensive study done on the subject to date.

Lastly, according to their findings, motorcyclists tend to drop their bikes quite a bit. Over half of the legitimate 30 crashes (not including near-crashes) were caused by “ground impact due to low (or no) speed.” So the next time you accidentally drop your Wing, like this guy, just remember, you are not alone. However, this stat gives us insight into riders’ inattention and/or poor execution, which can lead to greater risk of a more serious accident.

How We Can Ride Safe(r)

As Goldwing riders, we pride ourselves on riding safe. We make sure we have all the appropriate gear and load up on the “safety chrome” 😉 In all seriousness, safety is a central piece of who we are as Wingers, but there’s always room for improvement, right? After sifting through and breaking down this report, here are three main takeaways we can implement to improve and safeguard our collective riding experience:

1. Pay More Attention – The vast majority of incidents were due to rider inattention (dropping their bike and rear-ending the vehicle in front of them, etc). Yes, there will always be unavoidable circumstances, like a dear jumping out of the woods or a piece of asphalt coming out of nowhere, but we can seriously minimize our chances of an accident if we remain focused.
2. Don’t Neglect or Take for Granted What We’ve Learned In the Past
3. Look Ahead – The study strongly implies that many riders aren’t looking out far enough for potential hazards. Vehicles, debris, animals…you name it…they’re taking riders by surprise. If you are riding “near-sighted” (not looking out far enough) then you are basically looking into the past. And we all know that’s no way to ride.

While this study certainly is not the “be all, end all” authority on motorcycle accidents, it is definitely a good place to start. Wherever your road takes you, ride safe!

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