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Ask Our Lawyer - May 2002

Q: I recently read an article in my local paper about the increasing number of fatalities involving motorcycles. I’m thinking of taking the Rider Education course, but it doesn’t sound like it would do much good. Why should I take a Rider Education course?

A: Because you don’t want to die? That’s always been a good reason for me. Recent number show that 92% of motorcycle accidents involve untrained or self-taught riders. 92%! If that doesn’t convince you that you should take a rider education course, then nothing will.

Other statistics simply reinforce the point that rider education saves lives. Recent information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that motorcycle fatalities increased nationwide from 2,862 in 2000 to 3,067 in 2001 -- a jump of 7.2 percentage points. Overall, highway deaths in 2001 totaled 41,730, down 0.2 percentage point from the 41,821 in 2000, according to the safety agency. Meanwhile, other sources indicate that the number registered bikes also rose over the same period, also by about 7%. No real changes, but the helmet lobby has been touting the perceived increase as a justification for a new helmet bill.

Don’t forget some of the other things that contribute to motorcycle injuries and fatalities. Over 50% of all fatalities involve alcohol. At least 50% of fatalities involve riders without motorcycle endorsements. These are risk factors we can either control or be aware of when we ride.

And of course, not all of those new bikes on the road have riders who know how to use them. Some of them are riders who’s last bike was a Honda 160 back in 1965. Now they’re 60 pounds heavier, and their riding skills practically non-existent. That’s where the Rider Education courses come in. In Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, rider education courses are offered to beginning and advanced riders to teach and improve basic skills and techniques, and to help riders ride safely. These programs are phenomenally successful. In Indiana, rider fatalities went from an average of 132 per year before the program was introduced to an average of 61 per year. In other words, rider fatalities were reduced by more than half by the education courses. In addition, the number of accidents and injuries have also declined, even though there are more motorcycles on the road. The Rider Education course in Indiana has saved over 400 lives. The courses in Ohio and Illinois have similar results.

It is clear that the rider education courses save lives, prevents accidents and helps prevent injuries. There is no reason why any rider should not participate in one of these classes. It is the single most effective way to protect yourself and get more enjoyment out of your bike. Motorcycles and motorcycling is just as safe as it has always been. It’s still up to us to be better trained, more observant, and more responsible. We’re not part of the 92% of untrained riders, nor are we the irresponsible 50% that don’t ride sober. We set the example. Let’s keep doing it.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850.

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