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745 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Nobody wants to hit the pavement. There are a lot of things you can do to avoid hitting the pavement - proper techniques for turning and stopping, knowing your (and your bike's) limitations, and not pushing too close to the edge in a given environment.

In 2006, the University of Southern California conducted a study of motorcycle accidents for NHSTA - you can find this online by searching for the "Hurt Report" (named after Harry Hurt, the author - ironic). A summary of the finding can be found here (and many other places):

Motorcycle Safety Statistics: Crash, Fatal Bike Accidents

but some of the things I found interesting were:

  • Approximately three-fourths of these motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle, which was most usually a passenger automobile.
  • Approximately one-fourth of these motorcycle accidents were single vehicle accidents involving the motorcycle colliding with the roadway or some fixed object in the environment.
  • In the single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error was present as the accident precipitating factor in about two-thirds of the cases, with the typical error being a slide out and fall due to over braking or running wide on a curve due to excess speed or under-cornering.
  • In the multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds of those accidents.
  • Most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip associated with shopping, errands, friends, entertainment or recreation, and the accident is likely to happen in a very short time close to the trip origin.
  • Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly over-represented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are significantly under represented. Although the majority of the accident-involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycle riders are significantly over represented in the accident data.
  • The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends. Motorcycle rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to reduced injuries in the event of accidents.
  • More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street riding experience was almost 3 years. Motorcycle riders with dirt bike experience are significantly under represented in the accident data.
  • Lack of attention to the driving task is a common factor for the motorcyclist in an accident.
  • The large displacement motorcycles are under represented in accidents but they are associated with higher injury severity when involved in accidents.
  • Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would over brake and skid the rear wheel, and under brake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to counter steer and swerve was essentially absent.
  • Helmeted riders and passengers showed significantly lower head and neck injury for all types of injury, at all levels of injury severity.
  • The increased coverage of the full facial coverage helmet increases protection, and significantly reduces face injuries.
  • There is no liability for neck injury by wearing a safety helmet; helmeted riders had less neck injuries than unhelmeted riders. Only four minor injuries were attributable to helmet use, and in each case the helmet prevented possible critical or fatal head injury.
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Obviously, they make a case for helmet use and for learning how to turn and stop your bike. They also note that rarely do motorcycles take evasive action, despite having room and time (~2 seconds) to do so.

So, assuming that everyone on here is going to go out this afternoon and make sure they know how to turn and brake, let's put a little thought into evasive action.

There are three phases to evasive action.

  • Recognition: Your brain has to register the fact that a situation has developed that requires you to take action.
  • Decision:Having reconized the threat, you have to decide what action to take
  • Action: You have to correctly implement the action(s) that you have decided to take.
I believe that the Recognition phase is the most important of the three - the earlier you can complete it, the more time you have for the rest of the sequence. Experience is a large part of recognizing a threat early - reading body language and guessing intent gets easier the more miles you put in.

In short, you should be critically evaluating everything you see on the road as to the threat level it presents. Just a few things to think about:

  • if a car is approaching a stop sign aggressively from a side road, the likelihood of him running the sign or jumping out in front of you is much higher. Throttle off, cover the brake, and move toward the center to give you more room for options
  • If a car at a stop sign to your left turns toward you, he is likely to cross the center line during the turn. Moving to the right will give him room, reducing speed will give you more time if he goes really wide
  • Oncoming car slowing with left signal on as you approach an intersection. This is a common accident: the driver does not "see" the motorcycle until it hits his right-side door. Reduce speed, cover the brake, move toward the center. If I'm closer to the intersection than he is, I may actually increase speed a bit - if I clear the intersection before he is in a position to start his turn, I'm still safe.
Basically, ride like everyone else on the road is trying to kill you. If you see an oncoming car and the driver is looking down, assume he's texting and watch him like a hawk. Keep in mind that although his head may be up, it doesn't mean he sees you - a 16-yo driver in Raleigh killed a motorcyclist last week that he never "saw".

Second, learn how to stop your bike quickly. It bears repeating: "Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would over brake and skid the rear wheel, and under brake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to counter steer and swerve was essentially absent." ABS may keep your rear wheel from skidding, but you will take considerably longer to stop if all you use in the rear-brake pedal, which only operates one puck on the front brake. ABS or not, learn how to stop your motorcycle. We talk about the front brake providing 80% of stopping force, but some racing schools teach 100%. It's a powerful tool, learn how to use it.

Third, make sure you plug avoidance into your decision phase. At any speed over 20 mph, you can usually make a lane change faster than you can stop. You won't have time to make sure the lane is clear, so work on your situational awareness. As you ride, keep a checklist of who is where, and have an exit stategy - for instance, if i find a car pacing me on a multi-lane road, I will increase or decrease speed to get him out of my exit route. Being able to swerve successfully depends on early recognition and fast decision making: the more variables you can remove from the process the faster you get a result. Quote: "The ability to counter steer and swerve was essentially absent."

You could easily write volumes on accident avoidance, but basically it boils down to one line from the report: "Lack of attention to the driving task is a common factor for the motorcyclist in an accident." "I had the right-of-way" is not a good epitaph. Take defensive to the nth degree - your life and limb depends on it. Personally, I'm against sound systems and bluetooth headsets on motorcycles, as well as pretty much anything that takes my focus off the task at hand. Some might argue that that takes the fun out of riding, but to me riding is work - and I happen to love the job.

I hope you do as well, for a very long time.


· Registered
636 Posts
I like the input from this thread..especially the last little snippet about lack of attention, and the blue tooths, headsets, and what have you...Its kinda like surfing with a cell phone..I totally takes away from the "total expierience of the ride" the sounds, feels, smells, and freedom on the road..thanks for all the input from that thread..ride safely!!

· Registered
56 Posts
Good article. The most basic rule for riding a motorcycle is that you are responsible for anything that happens to you regardless of the law. Right of way and pretty white lines mean nothing in the world of physics. You will always lose if something bigger than you hits you.

Another basic rule is that you need to do whatever you have to to not get hit. The lines on the road are just guidelines to make it easy for everyone to place nice by. Rational judgement and situational awareness overrules these guidelines and some of the technology in place these days. If a cager isn't paying attention and is placing you at risk you have every right to ensure your safety regardless of what the lines say.

The front brake fear comes largely from people's experience/fear with solid front suspension 10 speed bicycles. In that situation it becomes easy to flip over because of body position, light machine weight and a solid pivot point. Motorcycles don't have a solid suspension and fixed pivot point and the machines tend to have a much lower center of gravity with much more mass than the rider. On some motorcycles the chassis will also direct the braking forces in such a way as to resist flipping over. You'd be amazed at how hard you can brake with the front. Practice, constant practice is a requirement.

I do however have to take exception to your stand on bluetooth headsets. My phone is connected to a Scala Rider Q2 or G4 and my phone has voice dial. If something were to happen all I need to do is hit the button and I can voice dial help. In this aspect these things become safety features. My riding buddies and I use them to communicate immediate traffic conditions ("cager on your right." or "left lane clear.") and pertinent information ( "I need fuel."or "Turn at the next exit.") without having to gesticulate or guess what each other is saying. Plus, I can talk to my wife and let her know what's going on whether she's on the back of one of my bikes or on her own which helps here enjoy the ride or develop skills.

Good stuff though Luke. Did I mention Practice, Practice, Practice?

I do have music capability on my long range bike and when droning on long, remote stretches of desolate freeway the music does help with paying attention. But as with all things men create, there are limits to its' usage and I'm disciplined enough to know when I'm approaching information overload. It's up to the rider to know that.

· Moderator
745 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
kvr929rr - Your words and your user name indicate a good deal of experience and skill (for those who don't drool over bikes, a 929rr is a 150-hp, 11,500 rpm bike that weighs 20 lbs more than the 24-hp CBR250. Am I right?)

Pick a subject and share!


· Moderator
745 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
In thinking about the statistics over the weekend, I realized that if 3/4 of the accidents involve another vehicle and 2/3 of those are the other vehicle driver violating the cyclist's right-of-way, then 50% of all motorcycle accidents are the result of a mistake by someone on another vehicle.

It's not enough to ride safe... You have to assume that everyone is trying to kill you, so you won't miss the 50% that actually are.

Wear the gear, obey the law, and watch the idiots.

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