My Motorcycle Accident

A Note About Safety

15 August 1999

This was a discussion message posted in one of the threads following my initial accident report.

Just a couple of brief comments on two aspects of this thread, riding long distances and the definition of safe.

First, while I have a lot of experience riding very long distances without incident, I have to agree that as the day wears on the risk increases. I rode 1845 miles in 26 hours to qualify for the Iron Butt Association's Bun Burner Gold award (1500 miles in 24 hours) back in 1996, and toward the end I know my risk level was dramatically increased from when I started the day before. Yes, nothing happened, but that hardly means it was "safe." Similarly, though I have done 700 miles in a day on many, many occasions, I agree with DocGonzo who said, "I very much doubt that this accident would have happened at the beginning of the 700 mile day." I _know_ my concentration was not at 100% after 9 hours of secondary roads – even 11 miles of forest road. My thoughts were wandering a little to my next stop in Amsterdam, and to computing roughly how long it would be before I was home so I could call my wife to let her know. I was not completely zoned out by any means, but just a momentary lapse of concentration was all that was needed for the drama to start. Those lapses doubtless become longer and more frequent as any rider's day wears on into double digit hours.

On the back roads I am more alert than on the Interstates, but on the back roads there is even more that you must be alert for. Comparatively speaking, Interstates are relatively low risk roads according to the statistics. 700 miles on backroads is thus going to be riskier than 700 miles on the slab.

Finally, I want to reiterate what Chrispy said about safety being a chimera. When "safe" is defined as "an absence of risk", there is no such thing as real safety. Life is an inherently risky activity; no one gets out of here alive. It would be folly to say that motorcycling does not present some increased risks over using automobiles, but that doesn't provide the whole picture of the risk assumed by riding.

I'm searching for an old rec.motorcycles post in my archives about a statistical analysis of various levels of risk in our lives for different activities. I recall that it indicated the increased risk for riding a motorcycle versus driving a car was measurable but statistically nearly insignificant, to such a fine degree that it was below the typical threshold people use to manage personal risk. I intend to some day to use it in the debate I will eventually have with my wife. If I find it, I will forward it here.

Never did find that article. Wish I had.