PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die and five times more likely to get injured in an accident than their 4-wheeled adversaries on the road. Helmets help by reducing the likelihood of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37 percent. Alcohol hurts; one in three motorcycle deaths are alcohol related.
You would think with these odds, I would have quit riding years ago. But I just can't, so I try to lower my risk by wearing all my personal protective equipment, aka PPE, including a full face helmet, I don't drink alcohol when I ride, I pick the time of day and route to avoid dangerous traffic and I ride a bike with advanced safety features like anti-lock brakes and traction control, just in case I need them.
When I want to push the limits of my abilities, I do that in the dirt where the most fearsome obstacles are rocks, ruts and trees and crash speeds are much lower. On the road, the threats are more complicated. There are just too many unknowns and unpredictable situations waiting around every corner and at every intersection, where risk avoidance and survival are the main focus. Given the dismal odds of survival, motorcyclists need to be realistic, avoid the "it won't happen to me" mindset and get prepared for the worst motorcycle ride of their life:
- Dress for the crash. Wearing PPE can lessen the damage to your body in a motorcycle accident. It can even save your life. However, if you don't survive the crash, PPE may also preserve some of your organs for donation.
- Wear a full-face helmet. If you're a cruiser and prefer a half helmet, think about how many ribs the surgeon will harvest to reconstruct your jaw and what it will feel like to have a complete set of dentures.
- Update your virtual emergency data card. Make sure your SGLI payout goes to the right people and pick the right person authorized to direct disposition, aka PADD, to make timely decisions regarding your remains. That person needs to be strong and decisive even while mourning your death.
- Complete a living will. Decide in advance what measures you want used to keep you alive if you are permanently incapacitated, or you may be kept in a vegetative state against your will.
- Don't count on blood alcohol content, aka BAC, limits. Even one drink before you ride could be your last.
- Curb your attitude. Before you head out for a ride, think about your chances of surviving a road rage incident with that guy in the 4,000 lb. car. You may be quick, but if he makes contact with you, you could just die angry.
- Become an organ donor. You can contact your state's DMV and request your driver's license be updated so your organs can be donated to someone who needs them.
- Treat every motorcycle ride like a combat sortie. Get trained, get enough rest, plan your route, wear PPE, stay focused, stay hydrated, consider every driver an adversary and constantly scan for escape routes in case someone or something gets in your way.
I love motorcycling so much I plan to ride until I am physically or mentally unable to do so. Hopefully I'll know when that time comes. In the meantime, I try to do everything in my power to control the outcome of each ride so I can wake up the next day and ride again. I'm also realistic. I am prepared for the worst motorcycle ride of my life.