by Jerry Palladino
I read somewhere recently that 99% of the
crashes most riders get involved in are avoidable. While that may seem a
little hard to believe, it just may be true.
Let's look at the most common motorcycle crash which of course, occurs
when another vehicle violates your right of way. This usually happens as
you approach an intersection and a vehicle turns left in front of you.
It also occurs when a vehicle pulls out from a side road into your path,
but let's look at the left turning vehicle first and how to avoid the
crash since your actions should be pretty much the same for both
Here are the best ways to avoid a crash in these situations. First, look
at least 12 seconds ahead of your motorcycle. Your eyes should be
scanning from left to right and up and down. The sooner you see the
potential hazard, the more time you'll have to react. Second, since most
crashes happen in an intersection, slow down when approaching one. Cover
both your front and rear brakes as you get closer to the intersection.
Position your bike to the left side of your lane. If you're going to
have to swerve around the left turning vehicle, your swerve will usually
be to the left around the back of the vehicle and then quickly back to
the right. However, most of the time in that situation, your only course
of action will be to stop quickly using both your front and rear brakes.
That's why it is so important to practice emergency braking using both
brakes. The average rider never does practice braking, consequently, in
that situation, the average rider slams on the rear brake, locks the
tire and skids right into the vehicle. Even if he misses the vehicle, he
still slides onto the ground. Either way, he crashes for no reason.
By looking way ahead of your motorcycle, you'll be able to anticipate
the actions of that vehicle and be able to apply your brakes long before
it becomes an emergency. If you spend just a few minutes a week
practicing emergency braking, you will lessen the chances of locking the
rear wheel dramatically.
The second most common motorcycle crash involves only the motorcycle and
its called failure to negotiate a turn. What usually happens is the
rider gets into a turn and suddenly believes he's going too fast to make
it around the curve. Maybe the rider hears the pegs start to scrape.
Since he's not familiar with that sound, he panics, straightens up the
bike, then looks at the yellow line in the road, the guard rail, or even
the oncoming vehicle and a crash occurs. In over 600 cases of failure to
negotiate a curve studied, in every case the bike was capable of making
the turn at the speed the rider was going, the rider was not.
So, how do you avoid this crash? It's simple. Learn to use head and eyes
properly. When rounding a curve to the left, position your bike to the
right side of the lane and focus on the end of the turn and no where
else. Never, never, look at the yellow line, the guard rail, or the
oncoming car. If the road curves to the right, position your bike to the
left side of the lane as you enter the curve.
In addition, find your bikes' limits in a parking lot at 5mph where the
worst that could happen is a simple tip-over. The bottom line, practice
makes perfect. Learn to use your head and eyes properly. It is the key
to safe riding. Learn to use both your front and rear brakes and keep
them from locking so you very well may be able to avoid 99% of the
crashes you're likely to be involved in. At the very least, you will
minimize injuries to yourself and damage to your bike. Don't be an
average rider who depends on dumb luck. Instead, practice and Ride Like
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Back to Basics Series:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle
cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division.
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25
years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show
which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police
bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles
around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying
gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding
a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a
motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the
highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive
motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says,
"When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to
ride a motorcycle."