FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- About half of all motorcycle accidents happen because of choices made by the rider.
That statement is pretty significant, as most riders, if asked, would rather not crash.
The numbers of accidents stay consistent over many years, and over several different accident studies.
So why is rider choice so important? Unlike car drivers, who may drive solely for transportation, nearly all motorcyclists ride for different reasons unrelated to the act of getting from point A to point B. These motivations may be one of the contributing factors to a crash.
Wearing a riding jacket, helmet and gloves, especially on a warm Oahu day, may get some strange looks. "All the gear, all the time" is the concept of wearing protective riding gear, no matter the temperature or the distance to be traveled. One never knows when something might happen. That tough jacket, helmet and gloves will slide on asphalt much nicer than skin.
The Motorcycle Foundation Basic Rider Course (BRC), taught to all Army motorcyclists, lists the four preps:
•Does your bike fit your body size and skill level?
•Is your bike mechanically ready?
•Is your riding gear ready?
•Are you mentally ready?
Many riders leave home with one or more of these questions unanswered.
"I believe in personal conspicuity; being very visible to other drivers," said Tim Ah Young-Shelton, safety manager, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. "My license plate reads 'Ride Safe.' It's part of my mindset every time I ride my motorcycle."
Riders may be looking for an adrenalin rush, said Jack Hughes of the riders' group "Watch Out" and a safety speaker at the recent U.S. Army-Pacific's motorcycle safety ride.
"This can be a dangerous combination: someone seeking a thrill and riding a motorcycle capable of exceeding the speed limit by a factor of four times," said Hughes. "Every rider makes constant choices on whether to pass or yield, brake or gas it."
Choices include setting personal limits based upon the rider's skill level and desire to manage risk. Good choices leave a margin for error, and time and space to react to changing conditions.
Make good choices before riding. Consider the route -- what the weather might do and what the traffic may be like. This type of thinking sets an experienced rider apart from the thrill seekers. Get your head in the game before starting the motorcycle, and you'll find fewer surprises on the road.
The BRC teaches that motorcycle accidents are frequently caused by a combination of factors, and that many of these factors are under the control of the rider.
Taking positive control and making good risk-based decisions may break the chain of events leading to a crash.
As the saying goes, the choice is yours.
(Note: Maxwell is the safety manager at 311th Signal.)