by Liz Jansen
More than half the riders killed on Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) patrolled roads in 2015 died through no fault of their own. It’s a staggering number and one we can change.
We can’t control the actions of others with whom we share the road. However, we can do everything in our power to make sure we’re alert, skilled, visible, and in control of our motorcycles.
Do an honest self-assessment before each ride, considering:
- Intuition. What is it telling you about the ride you’re about to embark on and the others you’ll be riding with? Listen and follow its guidance.
- Skills. Do you have the skills for where you’re headed? If you’re not comfortable riding on freeways, heavy traffic times are not the times to learn. Wait until there are fewer cars on the road before venturing out. Skills take time and practice to develop so they become automatic. New riders may have all the confidence in the world, but they’re not ready to take on the Tail of the Dragon until they’ve accumulated experience.
- Emotional state. A motorcycle ride to cool down from a blow up with your partner is foolish. Careers, finances, family issues, and relationships can all create stress, which in turn can affect our ability to stay focused on the ride. Settle down before heading out. Even then, find a quiet place to stop, reflect, and think things through. Often times if we get out and clear our heads, ideas and perspectives fall into place as if by magic.
- Physical state. Don’t ride if you’re not feeling well. Headaches, colds, or digestive upsets are miserable and take energy and focus away from where it’s needed—managing the ride.
- Impairment. There’s no room for dulled senses or diminished processing while operating a motorcycle. While a low blood alcohol count may be within legal limits, I would not get on a motorcycle with any alcohol in my blood. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), 46 percent of riders killed in accidents have alcohol in their system at the time of their death. Fatigue, non-prescription, and prescription drugs can all impair your senses.
- Distractions. Although many riders appreciate the convenience and ease of chatting with their passenger or others in their group, or listening to music while riding, those are all distractions. There are enough inputs for me to process—drivers, road signs, traffic signals, road conditions, pedestrians, animals, and any warning signs I’m receiving from my motorcycle or body—without adding more. If you choose to use them, plan how you’re going to manage volume, frequency of use, and interruptions.
- Peer Pressure. While motorcycling can be a solitary pursuit, it’s also very social. It’s fun to ride with friends but don’t be pressured into riding beyond your skills to keep up with them. Also, if you don’t trust others in the group to ride safely, stay back. Always ride your own ride. Agree on a destination and meet them there. Everyone’s safer.
Ride Safe. Ride Aware. Ride Again.