Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why We Crash Our Motorcycles

What do you learn if you pick 100 riders, put five video cameras and data-logging equipment on their motorcycles and record them for a total of 366,667 miles?

Several things, some of which we knew, some surprising. Intersections are dangerous. We either need to pay better attention or work on our braking techniques, because we crash into the back of other vehicles way too often. We’re not good enough at cornering, especially right turns. And we drop our bikes a lot (probably more often than any of us imagined or were willing to admit).

The study was done for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.  (...)

The VTTI team explains its methodology, including efforts to standardize and define terms and procedures. All the details are in a 20-page report you can download from the MSF. But here are some of the things I picked out.

Where we crash

Intersections. No surprise there. VTTI created a system to calculate how much a certain scenario or riding behavior increased the odds of a crash or near-crash. An uncontrolled intersection presents nearly 41 times the risk of no intersection. A parking lot or driveway intersection is more than eight times as risky and an intersection with a signal is almost three times as risky.

A downhill grade increased the risk by a factor of four while an uphill grade doubled it. Riders were nine times as likely to crash or have a near-crash incident on gravel or dirt roads than on paved roads. And riders were twice as likely to have an incident in a righthand turn than on a straight section of road (crossing the center line is considered a near-crash scenario, even if nothing else bad happens).

How we crash

We complain all the time about other people on the road trying to kill us, especially cars pulling into our paths. The VTTI study partially backs that up. Of the 99 crashes and near-crashes involving another vehicle, the three categories of other vehicles crossing the rider’s path add up to 19.

Here’s the surprise, however. What’s the most common scenario? Riders hitting (or nearly hitting) another vehicle from behind. There were 35 of those incidents. Are we really almost twice as likely to plow into a stopped car in front of us as to have someone pull into our path? Or should we write this off as the result of a small sample size?

Maybe there are clues in the risk section. Researchers tried to break down rider behavior in crashes and near-crash incidents into two categories: aggressive riding or rider inattention or lack of skills. The cameras and other data helped determine, for example, if the rider ran the red light because of inattention or aggressive riding.

The study found that aggressive riding increased risk by a factor of 18 while inattention or lack of skill increased it by a factor of nine. Combine the two, and odds of an incident increased by 30.

Now here's one of the less dramatic findings, but an interesting one, just the same. It seems we drop our bikes a lot. Or at least the riders in the study did. More than half the crashes were incidents some riders wouldn't define as a crash — not a dramatic collision but an incident defined as a case where the "vehicle falls coincident with low or no speed (even if in gear)" not caused by another outside factor. Rider inattention or poor execution are to blame. The study finds "These low-speed 'crashes' appear to be relatively typical among everyday riding," but they are incidents that would never be included in a different kind of study of motorcycle crashes. The cameras, however, capture it all, even our mundane but embarrassing moments.

by Lance Oliver, Revzilla |  Read more:
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