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We Need to Get More Kids into Knife Juggling

by Stacey "Ax" Axmaker

Over the past 20 years or so, I've often heard riders recommend or at least suggest that we encourage more people to ride motorcycles, under the theory that if there are more riders out there, drivers will be more likely to get used to looking for motorcycles or that having the experience of riding a motorcycle makes people better drivers. Similarly, I've heard calls for getting teenagers to ride dirt bikes (to help prepare them for street riding as they get older, if they choose), or street bikes (so they learn to be aware of motorcycles as they learn to drive).

While these ideas may sound good on the surface, I have to say that I categorically disagree with encouraging ANYONE to ride motorcycles. That may sound odd coming from someone who runs a state motorcycle safety program, so let me elaborate. 

While there is data to indicate that riders make better drivers, I am not aware of any data to suggest that drivers who have riding experience are less likely to be involved in car-motorcycle crashes. Even if drivers with riding experience ARE less likely to be involved in those crashes, I am very skeptical that any resulting reduction in crashes would come anywhere close to making up for the increase in risk (and crashes) caused by turning non-riders into riders (see next paragraph).

More importantly, according to NHTSA data, motorcycling is 33 times more dangerous than driving. 33 TIMES! Let's pause a moment on this statistic. We can get our minds wrapped around 10% more, 25% more, or even 100% more (twice as dangerous), but the concept of 33 times more dangerous is hard to really comprehend. Here's an analogy that helps me process that staggering number.

  • A Grande White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks will cost you $4.35. If that mocha was 33 times more expensive, it would cost you $143.55.
  • Another way to think about this is that you could have one crash for every 1,000,000 miles of driving, or one crash for every 30,300 miles of riding (numbers for illustrative purposes only).

From a 'motorcycle safety' perspective, I cannot in good conscience encourage or recommend to anyone that they should ride a motorcycle. To me, it would be like encouraging more young people to take up knife juggling. It may bring more attention to the activity, but at significant added risk to the participants.

Having said all of that, we completely understand the desire that many people have to ride and the passion many have for the sport. For those who have already decided to ride a motorcycle, the Idaho STAR Program (and rider training and motorcycle safety programs across the country and around the world) stand ready, willing, and able to work with riders so they have the skills, strategies, riding gear, attitudes, and make the choices and commitments to themselves and their loved ones to lower the risks of riding, and to reduce the consequences of crashes.

To all of those who work in the industry of motorcycle safety - I salute you. To all who feel the desire and passion for motorcycling - take advantage of the opportunities provided by programs like Idaho STAR . You can't eliminate the risk of riding, but there is much you can do to reduce it.

Let's make 2015 the best riding season yet!


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