Fact or Fiction?

You have been lied to. You have been deceived by the media, the government, and the “safetycrats.” According to these groups, motorcycling has never been more deadly. This is an out-and-out lie. It’s a piece of fiction that, for some reason, is easily believed by most people, including motorcyclists.

Let’s start with the media. A seasoned Capitol Hill press secretary once told me the golden rule of journalism. He said, “Jeff, it’s simple. If it bleeds, it leads.” What he meant was that gruesome stories always get the headline. Think about it. Plane crashes, shootings, war, and devastation always dominate over stories about the local blueberry festival or what the city council has recently done. We gravitate toward the extreme; it’s human nature. Newspapers and television news are in business and need to generate a large audience in order to remain profitable. Watching the world burn down on the other side of the country makes us feel better about our own situation, and therefore we feed the beast.

Bureaucrats will always attempt to discourage people from riding motorcycles, even if they wear the toughest Carbon fiber helmets in the market. They compare us to cars when it comes to fatalities, which is like comparing a fish to a bicycle. They use actual facts to make motorcyclists look ludicrous. Thi one is from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) web site: “Motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and nine times more likely to be injured.” Guess what? That’s true. Guess what else? We already know that, and we think about it every time we swing a leg over a motorcycle. Doing anything to a motorcycle chassis or body to make it more “carlike” in order to improve safety instantly results in that bike no longer being a motorcycle. It now is a completely different vehicle. Adding roll cages and side impact protection may be fine for some folks, but even though that vehicle only has two wheels, it is definitely no longer a motorcycle.

The safetycrats, as I call them, are a mixture of government and private safety organization such as the Center for Auto Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, and, my favorite, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. All these groups work to influence the government to enact stricter safety standards and laws. They all do this slightly differently, but they do have one common core: they hate motorcycles. If they thought it was remotely possible for one minute that they could eliminates all forms of power-driven two wheels from the traffic landscape, they would try. They try to alarm the general public with misinformation or partial information. They claim that motorcyclist fatalities have been on the rise since 2005, and that’s true. Some years see a dip but, for the most part, motorcyclist fatalities have risen from 4,576 in 2005 to 4,612 in 2011. Thirty-six more fatalities. But bike sales and registration numbers are up, and that tells a different story. Once that they don’t want you to hear.

Let’s take a closer look at the government numbers. They tell us that motorcyclist fatalities are on the rise, but they never mention the number of motorcycles on the road, which is also greatly increasing. When we look at the numbers, they’re the exact opposite than what the media, government, and safetycrats are telling us. In fact, motorcycle fatalities are occurring on a much less frequent basis. Since 2005, fatalities have dropped from 73.5 motorcyclists per 100,000 registered motorcycles to 54.7. That is an almost 30 percent drop in fatalities in the exact same time period. These numbers are directly from the United States Department of Transportation web site.

Separating fact from fiction reveals the truth. We added 2.2 million motorcycles to the roads, and we essentially kept the number of fatalities at a near static number. Not exactly the end of the world, deathtrap-riding scenario that the powers that would have you believe. The only difference is that the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) created a federal grant program to send money to states to assist with rider education and share the road campaigns. We have also relaxed mandatory helmet laws, which goes directly against what they would have you believe. Turns out, their facts really are ficton. — Jeff Hennie

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