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Need Help Finding Safety Data


FLTRI

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Preface: About two years ago a good friend of mine bought a bike. He hadn't ridden for 20 years, and took the MSF course to get his skills back, and an 'M' endorsement.

 

On his first ride, he got into a corner too hot and rode right off the roadway at about 60 MPH. The result was an expensive helicopter ride, a broken back and totaled motorcycle. He recovered, and his wife pretty much told him that if he got ever back on a motorcycle, she would leave him.

 

A semi heated argument arose with the four of us recently. Apparently, the ER doctor told her that 20% of all riders will be in a fatal accident, and that my wife and I are suicidal to keep riding.

 

We, of course, disputed that number and I googled until I ran the battery down trying to find a "real" number. Every time I tried to drill down into the data, I seemed to find some personal injury attorney site...

 

So, does anyone know where I can look to find the "real" number?

 

Parameters would be the percentage of motorcycle riders that ride regularly, say 10K a year, and suffer a fatal accident...

 

TIA

 

 

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As far as I know, NHTSA keeps track of traffic fatalities. I think the statistics are on a basis of per death per 100,000 miles of riding. Most ER doctors are pretty anti-motorcycle because they get tired of repairing the injured riders.

Google NHTSA and search "motorcycle fatalities".

It goes without saying that someone who has not ridden in 20 years and then goes too hot into a corner on his first ride probably should not have been riding. Family, peers, friends and mentors should have predicted the outcome. Clues about his poor riding skills should have been obvious to experienced riders. Not blaming you however, telling someone you know they "suck" is hard to do without jeopardizing a friendship.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Clicky

 

the one-in-five the ER doc cites seems a bit high; my own estimate is one in 25, shifting to one in fifty if you're smart. Here's how I got there:

 

2007: 5,154 fatalities among a population of 6,686,147 registered motorcycles. Assume one owner per bike. Your odds of a fatal crash in any single year then are 5,154 in 6.7 million, or 0.00000723 percent. Assume a a "lifetime" rider rides from age 20 to age 75, or 55 years. Your cumulative risk from a lifetime of riding is 0.0000... per year times 55 years, or 0.000398 percent. Express as a plain ol' decimal (0.0398), and invert to get 25.1. Presto, the "average" rider has a one in 25 chance of a fatal crash over a lifetime of riding.

 

You can of course grossly skew the odds in your favor:

 

-Don't drink and ride; this can chop your risk by about 40%, taking you from 1:25 to 1:40.

 

-Get an endorsement. Obviously this particular point didn't help your friend, but the fact is that unendorsed riders are overrepresented in the accident statistics.

 

-Don't be under 25. There's a reason kids get charged higher insurance premiums.

 

-Don't be a new rider. Odds of crashing in general decrease with experience. Yeah, there's that weird point later on where your confidence can exceed your skill level, but a brand new rider (I'd put your friend in this category, despite his having ridden before...20 years ago...) is far more at risk than someone with any experience.

 

-Ride a touring bike; touring riders are underrepresented in the accident stats. I'm not sure that the bike itself makes you a lot safer, but I suspect the kind of rider who is inclined to choose a touring bike over a Hayabusa is likely to adopt safer riding habits.

 

I'm hard pressed to speculate on the effects of mileage, e.g. the risks for someone who rides 1000 miles a year versus someone who rides 10K a year. Your cumulative risk likely starts high for someone who rides very little, reaches a minimum at the point where the benefits of staying "current" begin to be outweighed by the cumulative risk of the extra miles, and increases steadily as the annual mileage goes up.

 

For a smart rider who has thoughtfully tipped most of the risk factors in their favor (particularly the no drinking thing), I think one could conservatively estimate the lifetime odds of fatal crash at 1 in 50.

 

For reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100.

 

In any event, I doubt any of this information will help mitigate your friend's wife's fears. Regardless of what the odds may be, if she simply can't stand the anxiety associated with her husband riding a bike, then I guess she (and he) have some decisions to make...

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Not to mention the risk-mitigating factor of wearing a helmet for those 55 years. I don't know how accurate the AMA's '37% effectiveness' figure might be but I'd have to believe that whatever the number is it would be significant.

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Thanks Mitch, that is exactly the kind of data I was looking for... :thumbsup:

 

In any event, I doubt any of this information will help mitigate your friend's wife's fears. Regardless of what the odds may be, if she simply can't stand the anxiety associated with her husband riding a bike, then I guess she (and he) have some decisions to make...

 

FWIW, the discussion with my friend & his wife were never if he should ride again. He has chosen not to, and neither myself nor my wife were pushing him to change his mind. The discussion was centered on her not understanding how my wife and I could still ride, when the odds were one in five that we would not survive the hobby.

 

I felt that the number was wrong, but had no way to prove it...

 

 

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First of all, what Mitch said. That 1:100 overall MVA lifetime fatality rate is a number that I've come up with too. Another way to look at the numbers is that about 1/8 of the total MVA fatalities are motorcylists, so I think you could say that the overall risk in the population is something like 1:800 to die by motorcycle accident. Of course the problem is that while nearly everyone uses a car, not everyone rides. So that number is a bit hard to interpret. If one person in ten rides then the risk is something like 1:80. If one person in 20 rides then risk is 1:40. Not too different from MVAs in general.

 

In any event, ER's are seeing 8 times as many organ donors from cars and trucks, so I'm not sure why they pick on motorcyclists. I think bicycles are roughly about as dangerous (and we view cycling as healthy), and ATVs are worse, but it's hard to say for sure.

 

It used to be that they estimated by vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and by these standards motorcycles were starting to look pretty bad. In one of the few actions that the AMA has taken that I agree with, the AMA lobbied to point out that there are severe flaws in the way motorcycle VMT are measured. This metric has subsequently been withdrawn (no number for it in 2007), and new VMT measuring procedures are being implemented.

 

There is a major new study under way on motorcycle safety

 

msf announcement

 

...or maybe it's not underway after all.

 

All this said and done, maybe after looking at the report Mitch cited, and reading all this you get some idea of overall risk. Now to further what Mitch said, you must take a look at yourself within that risk pool.

 

Do you drink and ride? Are you experienced? Are you experienced on your particular bike? Have you taken any classes? How do you ride? What kind of bike are you on? Do you wear a helmet? Do you wear ATGATT? Where do you ride (city or rurual)? Do you ride in rush hour? Do you lane split?

 

The overall risk pool includes drunk kids that have never ridden before on sport bikes with no gear. That likely isn't you. Your risk is not the same as that person's.

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...you must take a look at yourself within that risk pool.

Do you drink and ride?

Are you experienced?

Are you experienced on your particular bike?

Have you taken any classes?

How do you ride?

What kind of bike are you on?

Do you wear a helmet?

Do you wear ATGATT?

Where do you ride (city or rurual)?

Do you ride in rush hour?

Do you lane split?

 

This would be a great little iphone app to put together... an aproximation of your chances of a serious accident based on demographic criteria. I have also heard that the current highest represented demographic for motorcycle fatalities is 40+ men with low mileage/year on bikes over 1000cc's.

 

Anyway, it got me thinking about my own answers to Twisties Q's...

 

Yes (1-2 beers on a midweek's ride lunch)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Moderately Agressive

1200cc sport tourer

Yes

Yes

Both

Sometimes

Always

 

Be interesting to create a template of risk factors and assign them values.... Might get people thinking about how to reduce their risk factors.

 

JT

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der Wanderer

Smart post...

 

Can you point to the source for the automotive data "for reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100."? Thanks!

 

I would be interested in the statistics for LEO (or course net of non purely biking aspects). From a riding and training point of view, I would think they represent a reference group, maybe a low water mark. Anybody has orders of magnitude?

 

 

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Joe Frickin' Friday
Smart post...

 

Can you point to the source for the automotive data "for reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100."? Thanks!

 

Google:

motor vehicle fatalities 2007

 

pick second link.

 

Table 1: 35,905 killed in non-motorcycle motor-vehicle accidents in 2007. 300,000,000 people in country. The average person's odds of dying in one year is 35,905/300M, or 0.0001197. Multiply over a 75-year life span, and you get 0.00897, or 1 in ~110, which is not far off.

 

I would be interested in the statistics for LEO (or course net of non purely biking aspects). From a riding and training point of view, I would think they represent a reference group, maybe a low water mark. Anybody has orders of magnitude?

 

Google works just as well for you as it does for me. :grin:

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telling someone you know they "suck" is hard to do without jeopardizing a friendship.

 

Yes, but it may be the most important thing you will ever do in your life. If you are truly a friend, you should consider it your duty. While their reaction may be initially poor, with further consideration they will likely thank you. And if it destroys the relationship in the long run, I would question if the friendship ever existed.

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For a smart rider who has thoughtfully tipped most of the risk factors in their favor (particularly the no drinking thing), I think one could conservatively estimate the lifetime odds of fatal crash at 1 in 50.

 

For reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100.

 

Excellent topic!

 

So I'm only doubling my risk by riding? That's a far contrast from the NHTSA saying I'm 35 times more likely to die (per mile) on a bike than in a car. Yes, they have issues with how they compute miles, but I doubt they are off by a factor of 10.

 

More ways to skew the odds:

 

- Regularly take some form of training, and regularly practice skills like quick stops, swerves, etc.

 

- Wear high-vis gear.

 

- Ride YOUR ride. I thought about saying ride alone here, but while you may be more tempted to push beyond your personal limits in a group situation, you have to stay within them at all times, in a group or alone.

 

- Stay home! I thing it's extremely important that you don't get on the bike if you shouldn't be in the bike. Alcohol is the commonly cited impairment, but beware of the others like medication, mental state, fatigue, etc.

 

- Don't override your sight distance. Yes, your RT can go through that curve at 80mph, but if you can't see 50 feet due to obstructions, your really playing the odds.

 

- Keep your bike maintained. At it's worst, a poorly maintained bike could contribute to the factors leading to a fatal crash. At it's best it will be a distraction preventing you from keeping your full attention on riding.

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Originally Posted By: Joe Frickin' Friday

For a smart rider who has thoughtfully tipped most of the risk factors in their favor (particularly the no drinking thing), I think one could conservatively estimate the lifetime odds of fatal crash at 1 in 50.

 

For reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100.

 

So I'm only doubling my risk by riding? That's a far contrast from the NHTSA saying I'm 35 times more likely to die (per mile) on a bike than in a car. Yes, they have issues with how they compute miles, but I doubt they are off by a factor of 10.

 

That is a lifetime overall population risk and does not take into account vehicle miles traveled. It is in response to the OP who asked about this statement:

 

Apparently, the ER doctor told her that 20% of all riders will be in a fatal accident

 

Mitch and I are suggesting that the 20% figure is off by something like a factor of 10.

 

The NHTSA stat is (was, since it is no longer published) per VMT. And yes, the errors and biases in the NHTSA stats are probably not a factor of ten, but they might be. They are pretty severe. For instance IIRC, 13 states reported no miles whatsoever, but their fatalities were included. Other issues relate to technologies that can't distinguish between a bike and a car, and the time and place of monitoring activities.

 

In any event, you can't really compare the types of stats.

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Originally Posted By: Joe Frickin' Friday

For a smart rider who has thoughtfully tipped most of the risk factors in their favor (particularly the no drinking thing), I think one could conservatively estimate the lifetime odds of fatal crash at 1 in 50.

 

For reference, the average person's lifetime odds of dying in a car crash is about 1 in 100.

 

So I'm only doubling my risk by riding? That's a far contrast from the NHTSA saying I'm 35 times more likely to die (per mile) on a bike than in a car. Yes, they have issues with how they compute miles, but I doubt they are off by a factor of 10.

 

That is a lifetime overall population risk and does not take into account vehicle miles traveled. It is in response to the OP who asked about this statement:

 

 

I still don't get it. If in 2006, based on mileage, I'm 35 times more likely to have a fatal accident, how do I end up only being 2x more likely over my lifetime. Are you saying it's related to mileage computations, or to something else? The 35x number is based on mileage in 2006. In the same year, going based on registrations, it's a factor of 5.5.

 

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der Wanderer

You are right of course, theoretically... but neither Google nor Bing really got me obvious hits on LOE fatalities. I was hoping one of the many LOE-connected good folks on the forum might have some data.

 

Besides the data, my point is that if say biker LOEs have a 1 in 100 lifetime risk (excluding issues resulting directly from law enforcement) then that would represent the asymptotic value we should all aim for through training and behavior...

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Are you saying it's related to mileage computations,

 

You probably don't ride early in life, and again late in life. For some people like me, I didn't begin riding until my mid-40's. You don't ride much when weather or season are inclement... some parts of the country have what we call "riding season", some folks commute on bikes, others use them more for weekend riding or tours. You may develop an injury or condition that limits your riding for a time in your life.

 

So yes, on average, you are on a bike many fewer miles than in a car, and your overall lifetime risk includes many years in which, on average, you don't ride at all.

 

or to something else?

 

That is where the errors in the VMT calculation come in.

 

 

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Joe Frickin' Friday
So I'm only doubling my risk by riding? That's a far contrast from the NHTSA saying I'm 35 times more likely to die (per mile) on a bike than in a car. Yes, they have issues with how they compute miles, but I doubt they are off by a factor of 10.

 

The NHTSA's "35x" comparison is on a per-mile basis. If the average biker rides 3K miles a year and drives 15K miles a year, then that 35x risk on a per-mile basis immediately becomes a 7x difference in lifetime cumulative risk.

 

Furthermore, the NHTSA's stats compare an average rider with an average driver; my "2x" comparison is between an average driver and a very competent, current, always-sober, safety-conscious rider.

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So I'm only doubling my risk by riding? That's a far contrast from the NHTSA saying I'm 35 times more likely to die (per mile) on a bike than in a car. Yes, they have issues with how they compute miles, but I doubt they are off by a factor of 10.

 

The NHTSA's "35x" comparison is on a per-mile basis. If the average biker rides 3K miles a year and drives 15K miles a year, then that 35x risk on a per-mile basis immediately becomes a 7x difference in lifetime cumulative risk.

 

Furthermore, the NHTSA's stats compare an average rider with an average driver; my "2x" comparison is between an average driver and a very competent, current, always-sober, safety-conscious rider.

 

Further testing my understanding, let's assume that my skills for an auto and a motorcycle are identical. If I have to take a trip today and I elect to get on the bike instead of the car, then my chances of a fatal accident during that trip are 35x greater correct?

 

On the other hand, if I'm an excellent rider, and a horrible driver, and I use a car for 80% of the trip, then I'm 2x more likely to have a fatal accident than if I drove the car the whole way?

 

I'm definitely in the high risk period of my lifetime. Last year I rode about 20k mi on the bike, likely did less than 3k in the car. I'd say I'm a better rider than a driver, based not on skills but impairment. I have a zero tolerance alcohol policy on the bike, but will drive after a few drinks. I'm much better at this than I used to be, and am working on zero tolerance in all vehicles. I'll also use a cell phone in a car, but I don't text. I may listen to the radio, or participate in a complicated discussion with a passenger. All this lead me to be more distracted in the car, and more focused on the bike.

 

Finally, I know I'm a much more aware and better auto driver than I ever was during the 25 years (18-43) of my life that I didn't ride. One could argue that I've reduced my auto accident risk considerably by being a motorcyclist.

 

Time to go ride!

 

 

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Joe Frickin' Friday
Further testing my understanding, let's assume that my skills for an auto and a motorcycle are identical. If I have to take a trip today and I elect to get on the bike instead of the car, then my chances of a fatal accident during that trip are 35x greater correct?

 

Assuming you are an average rider and an average driver, then yes, this would be true.

 

On the other hand, if I'm an excellent rider, and a horrible driver, and I use a car for 80% of the trip, then I'm 2x more likely to have a fatal accident than if I drove the car the whole way?

 

You need only be an average driver. (though, depending on who you ask, the average driver these days is pretty horrible...)

 

Also, you'd have to ignore the risk endured during the driving portion of the car+motorcycle trip. Basically if you cautiously ride 10% of the way to your destination; mutter "this is stupid, I'm going home;" then turn around and cautiously ride the same distance home (totalling 20% of the whole-trip distance), that little motorcycle boondoggle would be roughly twice as risky as having driven (in an average manner) the whole trip distance.

 

 

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