Thursday, July 16, 2009


Is riding a motorized 2 wheeled vehicle too dangerous? I have lots of people telling me this is so. One friend(?), who's wife is (or was) an ER nurse, made a statement to me that riding is dangerous and in effect stated that: there would be a good chance that I would end up in a body bag someday. I am not kidding about the way he said it. Another friend has repeatedly stated that she worries about me riding to work everyday. She is afraid that something bad will happen to me. Her concern is appreciated. But I have been unable to convince her that I am a very careful rider. She knows that I wear gear and a helmet and still she worries about me. Still another friend at lunch the other day told me he saw a very close call between a van and a scooter in traffic recently. Apparently, the scooter rider was driving very aggressively and just about got himself into a bad accident. Luckily no accident occurred. But my friend was very stern about how he told the story and it was obvious that the story was directed at me. Again though, I really think he meant well and in an indirect way was just concerned for my safety. But I am just trying to figure out a way to tell some of these people that I'm OK. I'm not going to die tomorrow! I'm having a blast! I know it's a bit dangerous and I really am trying to be careful. Consumer Reports magazine had a recent article (March 2009) and reviewed some scooters and smaller (250cc) motorcycles. In the article they discussed safety issues for scooters and motorcycles and in my opinion made some pretty informative statements about the dangers involved. They gave good advice about visibility, clothing, helmets and other safety matters. But one comment they made was a statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that said that in 2006 motor cyclists were about 37 times more likely to die in a crash per driven mile than someone riding in a passenger car. That kind of statistic gets my attention. But as my college statistics professor used to say, you can make statistics say almost anything you want If you play around with the numbers long enough.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am the first person to say that 2 wheeled vehiclists need to be very concerned for their own safety. But that statistic might be a little more alarming at first glance than it really needs to be.
What that statistic really tells me is that If you are involved in a serious accident, then you are much better off in a car than on a motorized 2 wheeled vehicle.
Well, Duh!!
Consider the following:
There are over 200 million registered vehicles in the US. Motorcycles represent approximately 3% of registered vehicles, but motorcyclists represent approximately 13% of fatalities. That's not good, but I also don't think too surprising. We 2 wheeled vehiclists don't have a cage around us or air bags.
Estimated total miles traveled by all vehicles in a year is just over 3 trillion miles. That's a 3 with 12 zeros behind it. It can be hard to understand how big a number like that is. Our government doesn't have a clue when it comes to our national debt, but don't get me started on that, it's another topic.
I am going to round the numbers a bit, but, sadly, close to 40,000 people die in traffic fatalities each year. About 5,000 of those are motorcyclists.
If you divide the number of miles driven by the number of fatalities, then theoretically you can drive 75 million miles before you statistically would die in an accident. For motorcyclists that number would be reduced to a little over 2 million miles.
For injury accidents (without a death) the rates are approximately 60 times higher than the fatality rates on average for all vehicles.
But even for motorcyclists, using that rate, you could theoretically go 33,000 miles before you would have an injury accident, on average.
Keep in mind that my numbers are greatly simplified and include gross generalizations. I went to the NHTSA website to get some of this information. Many people know a lot more about this than me, and have done much more research than I have.
Of course it is sad when any life is ended in this manner, and injury accident rates (without a death) can look a but ominous, but the odds really aren't all that bad. Sometimes your number just comes up. When you compare numbers like this to things like being struck by lightning, or being mugged, or lots of other things, you begin to realize that it is just life. Sometimes things just happen no matter how careful you are.
Shit happens!
My feeling about this is that it is quite possible that I may be involved in an injury accident someday with my scooter, but I can take many steps to minimize the risks. Wearing gear is like using a seat belt to me. Being very attentive to my surroundings and not taking unnecessary chances as I ride is imperative. Not driving like a bat out of hell is advisable. Training and an effort to continually improve your abilities are important. etc. My hope is that by taking precautions that I can stretch out that 33,000 mile number out to 50,000 or even more.
The point of this little exercise was to come up with something to say to these people that apparently think I have "lost it" by endangering myself so foolishly by riding a scooter. I full well realize that no matter what I say to them or what statistics I can show them to back it up, they are still going to either be concerned about me or think I am foolish. To them I can only say:
See Ya Later !!!
I'm going for a ride !!!
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed


  1. Ask the ER nurse how many times she's treated patients after car wrecks. Then ask her how come she's still driving four wheels.

    Doesn't she know people *die* in car accidents?

    Really, I have a less charitable thing to say to these folks. It's unprintable in polite company, but the first word starts with F and the second word is OFF.

  2. Benjamin Disraeli once said - "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." As you note, it is obvious that riding on 2 wheels is more inherently dangerous than on 4, but you can help the odds by being watchful and wearing the right gear. I say, enjoy your ride!

  3. Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

    Only a dog fully understands what it's like to hang your head and tongue out in the breeze. Lot's of things will kill you: Rum... Hot women... Their husbands... Good cigars... Red meat... Raw fish... Drinking water from most USA cities... Salt... Potato chips... And fast food will all kill you.

    Should you avoid these? My answer to that is, "There is such a thing as living... And really living." Many of these well-intentioned assholes won't listen to anything you say anyway.

    So I suggest you try respond in the following way:
    1) "Thank you for your concern, but this is what I like to do and neither you nor anyone else is going to talk me out of it... So save your breath and cheap mind-control tricks."
    2) "Who gives a shit what you think? Fuck you."

    I prefer answer #2, as it dramatically cuts Christmas card costs.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack "reep" Toad

  4. Stacy, Lance and Jack,
    Sorry for delay in responding to your comments.
    These people really are nice people and I don't want to offend them, but at the same time they have been driving me a little crazy. I am sure they have habits and hobbies that I wouldn't see the interest in, but I wish they would just quit harping on it sometimes.
    Being a numbers guy, and understanding that numbers can mean lots of things other than what is intended, I just wanted to put some numbers to the statistice that made a little more sense to me. The important phrase from that statistic from the NHTSA was "per mile driven". Turns out it is a whole lot of miles.
    And if you cannot enjoy life and live on the edge just a little bit every once in a while, then life can become a bit boring in my humble opinion.
    Thanks for writing in,

  5. No one should allow other's fears to become ours. When I fell years ago while jogging and shattered my wrist, no one ever said, "Are you going to jog again?" When I had a car accident a decade ago, no one said, "Are you ever going to drive again?" But when I fell from my motorcycle, the question was asked of me all the time. Even before the accident, I had the same encounters you've shared. People's fear (and concern) for me, determined what they wanted me to do: NOT ride a motorcycle.

    But people die all the time from all sorts of things. I read about a child being killed because a bullet came through his window and struck him in the neck. My own brother was killed by a hit and run driver while coming home from work one night last November.

    We must do all we can to stay safe, ride safe by being and becoming skilled. Even that is no guarantee. Life doesn't hold guarantees. None of us will avoid death. We can only assure others that we accept and take responsibility for the risks of riding a two wheel vehicle and we manage our risks by being skilled riders.

    We must live our lives to the fullest, being good human beings, doing no harm to others and refusing to allow fears to limit our dreams.

  6. Sharon,
    Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comment. It does really bug me when people get a little forceful with their concern over my riding. I was just trying to put some realistic numbers to it for my own purposes.
    And I am so sorry about your brother. There is nothing like bad luck. Years ago had a client that was shot and killed by a gang member that was shooting at someone across the street. He just happened to be driving down that street at that exact moment. Unbelievable timing.
    Fulfilling dreams and living life is so important to many people. Some people just sit back and watch life go by. I'd rather not.
    Take care,