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 How dangerous are we to ourselves?
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  2:45 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like
As I believe virtually everybody here knows, I serve as a motorcycle safety and dynamics expert witness in civil suits involving motorcycles all over the country.

I've been retained as an expert witness over 40 times; 70% for the defense and 30% for the plaintiff. I believe the explanation for that difference is that the defense side tends to have and is willing to spend more money in the matter (Usually insurance companies).

We all know that riding motorcycles is dangerous. For that reason we pay for insurance and wear protective gear, including helmets. But there remains distracted drivers and loose animals and other road conditions, any of which can take your life.

But has anybody ever brought to your attention that *YOU* may be the most danger to yourself?

When I recently reviewed all of the cases I've worked over the past 15 years I found something that astonished me: IN ONLY ONE OF THOSE CASES THE MOTORCYCLIST DID NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE ACCIDENT!!!

Let me be very clear about this ... contributing to an accident does not mean CAUSED the accident!!!

For example, if, while riding on a public street, another vehicle turns left in front of you and instead of going for an emergency stop, you simply freeze at your controls. You (probably) didn't cause that accident (depending upon how much distance was between the vehicles and that you were riding at a legal speed), but your inaction contributed mightily to it.

Another obvious example, an accident occurs after you downed 'a few' drinks.

Yep, you can be the most dangerous aspect of your ride.

By the way, in most jurisdictions in the country, if the other side can demonstrate that you contributed more than 50% of the cause of the accident, you lose in court. Simple as that.

So what can you do about this danger? You can take experienced rider courses, you can practice difficult maneuvers in safe environments, you can do a pre-ride check ride on a clear and open parking lot to determine that both you and your bike are healthy enough to actually make that ride, you can make sure your motorcycle receives timely and adequate maintenance, etc.

And, of course, you can click on that pink button on the top right of your screen and read (and assimilate) the hundreds of tips we have provided here for you. We provided them so that you can increase your odds of surviving this fun sport.

Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  3:57 PM
This has been my experience as well. Very seldom are we 100% no fault. And, often our part of the contribution, if eliminated, could have lead to avoiding the crash.

None of us are perfect in every way 24/7 or have mother luck with us every minute. However, we can improve our odds if we put forth the effort.

I just returned home yesterday from attending a full day training on Saturday. The class was a bit pricey and the acommadations and travel added to the expense. It was worth it to me, maybe not to others. I take one training class per year, more if opportunity presents itself. There is no training in my area so it always presents at least a 500 mile round trip.

In between these classes I self train as often as reasonable and consider every ride a training opportunity to a certain extinct. I attempt to be critical and honest about my skills and do a mental review of every ride to evaluate my performance.

The bottom line, all of this together does not offer me exclusive protection, just maybe swings the odds in my favor....as in the past, time will tell.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  4:49 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
You said: "And, often our part of the contribution, if eliminated, could have lead to avoiding the crash."

Absolutely correct and the point of my message.

For clarification, in the first example I posed where the motorcyclist froze at his controls, had it been impossible for that motorcyclist to avoid the collision despite effective braking, then almost certainly the other vehicle caused that accident, BUT, if the proper (relatively aggressive use of BOTH) use of the motorcycle brakes could have avoided the collision entirely, then the motorcyclist was a major cause of that accident (and why a trial would be needed to determine his percentage contribution of that cause).
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  5:55 PM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

(and why a trial would be needed to determine his percentage contribution of that cause).



Are you at liberty to divulge what percentage was determined, if any? Just curious.

In this recent class I attended, an instructor made a statement. I agree with his intent, but part of the statement I question. He is a retired motor cop and motor instructor. His statement was in reference to avoiding the opposing traffic making the left turn in front of the on coming biker. He expressed he had seen it more than once that the biker made little or no attempt at stopping because there were no skid marks, none!

I understand the importance of skid marks and not defending those who panic and freeze, or react late, not paying attention, or "I had to lay it down", however I have done a bit, well way more than a bit, of threshold/emergency stops in my time. Most have been during training and/or self training. Both with ABS/TC and without. Most of the time I did not skid and it was very difficult to detect any rubber evidence from my practiced threshold stops.

Perhaps there was other evidence he did not add. I would welcome your opinion based on having far more experience than I of crash investigation and expert testimony.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  9:49 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
I've made agreements with the retaining attorney of every case that I've published information about. That is, I've received permission to discuss the cases, even document them as is the case of the case studies available from the home page here, with the proviso that I NOT provide identifying information about the parties or their locations.

In any event, I rarely learn of the percentage of contributing negligence that juries assess except when I'm told what percentage of the awarded amount is diminished by because of that assessment.

But the real reason I can't answer your question is that most cases are settled before going to a jury trial. In that case, no percentage is available to learn about.

As to your question about skid marks ... there is a demonstrable skid mark left while approaching a skid and its called an 'insipient skid mark'. These are fainter than full-on skid marks and last for sometimes only hours. Unless an accident reconstructionist (or knowledgeable investigating policeman) takes pictures SOON after an incident, they are usually missed.

Insipient skid marks occur because a part of the tire contact patch is actually skidding before the entire patch lets loose and slides or skids. It's the same cause of tires squealing when making slow turns on smooth concrete pavement.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/09/2020 :  10:16 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
While it is clear here that I've been talking about the motorcyclist (usually the plaintiff) contributing negligence resulting in an accident and that the contribution may or may not be causative, it is equally true that the driver of the other vehicle can contribute negligence and yet that negligence may or may not be causative.

For example, in a case I worked where a pickup truck driver made a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle, clearly the truck driver contributed negligence in the matter (failing to yield the right of way). However, the motorcyclist 'laid his bike down to avoid a collision' (his claim) and neither the bike nor the rider even came close to striking the truck. Substantial injuries resulted. So this was a case where there was no collision (except with the ground) yet the motorcyclist sued the truck driver claiming he caused the accident.

Discounting whether or not the motorcyclist contributed any negligence (he most certainly did), because a motorcycle sliding on its side loses speed more slowly than it would if using normal braking while upright, clearly there would not have been a collision with the truck even if he hadn't laid it down (using normal braking).

It was argued that the truck driver did, in fact, contribute negligence, but that it was NOT causative to the accident. Further, the accident was NOT a collision between the motorcycle and the truck (it was NOT a collision accident) - it was a collision between the motorcyclist and the pavement CAUSED BY inappropriate overuse of his rear brake.

That outcome is why my services are obtained - to help a jury understand the issues about an incident - and that includes teaching the attorneys along the way.
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/10/2020 :  8:46 AM
Thank You James for the explanation and information.

quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis



Discounting whether or not the motorcyclist contributed any negligence (he most certainly did), because a motorcycle sliding on its side loses speed more slowly than it would if using normal braking while upright, clearly there would not have been a collision with the truck even if he hadn't laid it down (using normal braking).



In the last 4-5 years I have recognized, when speaking with other riders, that the myth of laying it down has started to diminish. However I still chat with riders that insist on keeping that myth alive. So, I think the industry is making gains on the truth and facts with better information and education in training. Yet we need more training and skill building in the application of brakes, especially when addressing braking in corners.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6939 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 790 Adv R

Posted - 11/10/2020 :  11:37 AM
I'm curious if you can mention anything about the one case where the motorcyclist did not contribute to the accident. Were they moving at the time?
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/10/2020 :  2:56 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Yes, the motorcycle was moving.

This was a case where the motorcyclist (and his passenger wife) were injured when their motorcycle was tossed to the ground by a pavement deficiency. They were in a town on a city street which had trolley rails on both sides of them while they rode in a left-turn-only lane approaching their hotel.

The pavement adjacent to one of the rails was badly eroded and when the front tire went over the left rail it encountered a wide and unlevel ditch and when it hit the crumbling pavement roadway beyond the rail it experienced a very strong counter-trail impulse that dumped it on its side.

The approach to that area of the rail was pristine - properly maintained. The deficiently maintained area began 100 yards before the scene of the accident and continued for several blocks was not obvious nor particularly visible by the time the motorcycle was forced to make the left turn.

The gap between the rail and the pavement would certainly have trapped the front wheel had the motorcyclist tried to make a more modest turn over it. He was moving at no more than 5 MPH when he tried to make a sharper left turn to avoid trapping his tire.

The suit was between the motorcyclist and the city.

He won that suit and his award was not diminished in any way because there was NO 'contributing negligence' on his part.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6939 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 790 Adv R

Posted - 11/10/2020 :  4:05 PM
Thanks for explaining the accident.

It sounds like what I occasionally encounter off road when there are ruts. A couple of weeks ago I missed noticing an upcoming rut filled with silt until I was already in it. Think of sand, but finer and more powdery. The front tire sank two to three inches into the silt and steering was nearly impossible at that point with the rut controlling where my front tire went. I almost kept from dumping the bike, but not quite. The bike went down but I just stepped away, remaining on my feet. And there was no damage. I don't call those incidents a crash or an accident, it's just a dumped bike and you pick it back up and continue on your way.

I guess things aren't nearly as serious off road.
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/11/2020 :  4:29 PM
Along with the theme, mostly I hear a resistance to admit any contribution/fault to a crash. Some have outright up front recognition that they messed up and admit it, but many immediately want to start blaming anyone and anything other than themselves. It seems to be more prevalent these days for folks to try and pass it off on someone else. Maybe that is the youth, maybe just the times. I was raised no matter how tough, embarrassing, or the punishment, best to stand tall and be responsible for my action good or bad.

Most of the crashes I have witnessed, reviewed, talked about, discussed, when the details come out, almost always there was more than one contributing fact in a crash. We were going to fast, cold tires, lost focus, having a bad day, etc. that lead us up to the final results, and these multiple of sins can also be on the other side, the driver in a multiple vehicle crash most likely has also violated more than one safe practice.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/11/2020 :  6:26 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
It is a real pleasure for me to see that something I've said here is so completely understood by readers.

Thank you for that.
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/12/2020 :  8:50 AM
James I would be interested in your opinion, and equally by other members opinions, do you think the motorcycle industry and motorcycle training industry is gaining on better safety education and skills in say the last five years? Especially in the education and skill building for single vehicle crashes (mostly corner control/speed and braking)?

It seems to me reviewing the data (DataDan provides) and others, that we may not be gaining, but the perception I have is that we are, at least a slow gain perhaps.

I have 3 pet peeves....the first 2 are during corner control, either running wide or crossing the center line, and the 3rd, lack of separation while following other vehicles, be it following to close behind a cage, or in a group ride following to close behind other riders or staggered riders in a group ride.

Another would be how often we talk the talk, but failed to walk the walk. That is, in conversation riders recognize the dangers in riding to close, yet often immediately violate common safe distances in practice.

I think this may be based on the perception/myth that motorcycles can stop shorter than late model cars. Or maybe it is the habit we picked up driving cages! My observation is cage drivers violate the safe following distance far more often than motorcyclist, and most all of us riders are also cage drivers.

I would be interested in others opinions if their observations are similar to mine.


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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17369 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 11/13/2020 :  1:01 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Since you asked for my opinion ...

I believe the MSF provides lip service to the idea of safety training. They, it seems to me, are a marketing wing of the motorcycle industry hiding behind the exceptionally well crafted (by lobbyists) state requirements for formal (safety oriented) knowledge/skill/safety training to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on driver licenses. Virtually every state has a MOM (Motorcycle Operator Manual) that was crafted by the MSF.

If safety was an objective, then why is it that the MSF still refuses to teach their students how to get away from a bike that is falling? How hard is it to teach them to let go of the downside grip, stand on the highside peg, and step away from the bike with the down leg? That should be a REQUIRED element of the first range day for beginner students. Even if that training does not involve actually dropping a bike, a demonstration would go a long way towards diminishing the many instances of dropped bike injuries in their classes. But they don't do that? Why not?

Your concerns about wide turns is shared by me. Truthfully, I think most of those incidents are the result of a disbelief in countersteering. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard accident victims claim that they steer by leaning and that for some reason the bike was fighting them before they ran off the road.
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
26 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 11/13/2020 :  4:55 PM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

Since you asked for my opinion ...


Yes I did and I appreciate your response both because I respect your expertise and because I agree with you.


quote:
Originally posted by James R. DavisI believe the MSF provides lip service to the idea of safety training. They, it seems to me, are a marketing wing of the motorcycle industry hiding behind the exceptionally well crafted (by lobbyists) state requirements for formal (safety oriented) knowledge/skill/safety training to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on driver licenses. Virtually every state has a MOM (Motorcycle Operator Manual) that was crafted by the MSF.

If safety was an objective, then why is it that the MSF still refuses to teach their students how to get away from a bike that is falling? How hard is it to teach them to let go of the downside grip, stand on the highside peg, and step away from the bike with the down leg? That should be a REQUIRED element of the first range day for beginner students. Even if that training does not involve actually dropping a bike, a demonstration would go a long way towards diminishing the many instances of dropped bike injuries in their classes. But they don't do that? Why not?


Agree, and why is it they make it seem like such a big sin. I really don't remember meeting any rider that has not dropped a bike at least once. I've done it several times over 55 years of riding. When we stress not dropping, and fail to provide instruction how to safely dismount during a tip over, students are more likely to strain to save it beyond the point of no return, and risk severe injury. It would not cost much to rig up a demo bike for this training, and if not that, as you state at least have an instructor demonstrate the technique. In only a few more minutes they can demonstrate how to safely pick up a downed bike.

quote:
Originally posted by James R. DavisYour concerns about wide turns is shared by me. Truthfully, I think most of those incidents are the result of a disbelief in countersteering. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard accident victims claim that they steer by leaning and that for some reason the bike was fighting them before they ran off the road.


Agree. In the most recent training I attended, and I respect this school for leading the industry in teaching braking techniques, in my opinion they should spend far more time training countersteering. Many of the riders I have rode with, new and experienced, have a lack of understanding how far their bike will lean and remain planted. They lack counter weighting skills but still feel their body weight is the way to steer their motorcycles. Counter weighing (hanging off) is a skill and has a place, sometimes on the street if used conservatively, more extreme on the track, but it supplements countersteering effort and never replaces countersteering principles.

The most recent MSF course I attended 3 years ago (it was either an intermediate or advanced parking lot course) they gave lip service to countersteering, but very little instruction or drills. After the swerving drill and instructor asked us if swerving can be done at highway speeds. I answer yes. Nope, absolutely not, according to the instructor. My take away for those new riders was, so if they cannot get stopped, don't swerve to avoid just crash into what ever it is! You most certainly can swerve at highway speeds, we do it all the time changing lanes. We cannot swerve to the extent that we can at slower speeds, but it may be very valuable to avoid trash or debris in our path.

I'm also amazed at how many riders don't understand that braking in a corner, with proper training, is not a big sin. It can actually be a life saver.

Those are some of my thoughts and would be interested in other opinions either in agreement and opposed, perhaps I'm wrong.
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