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Being part of the MSF means more than just working on training concepts for new and experienced riders. It also means working on raising motorcycle awareness among non-riders and advising potential riders of the benefits of learning to ride properly and safely as Ken Glaser, MSF special assistant to the president, did recently.
Glaser, who has been riding for 30 years, was invited to Bellflower High School in Bellflower, Calif., by Tom Joice, a driver’s education instructor. Glaser spoke to two driver’s ed classes (a total of 66 students, ages 15-17) for 55 minutes each.
"I told them I was not there to convince anyone to become a motorcyclist," Glaser said, "but to make sure those who intended to ride approached it properly and safely." For those with no interest in motorcycles, Glaser felt his talk could make them better car drivers and help them avoid getting into crashes, especially with a motorcyclist or other vulnerable roadway user (like a bicyclist or a pedestrian).
He was also quick to point out to the students that since riding a motorcycle takes more skill than driving a car, each person should evaluate his abilities before deciding on becoming a motorcyclist, taking into consideration factors such as if he’s accident-prone, has trouble paying attention, is uncoordinated on a bicycle, etc. And perhaps most importantly for anyone thinking about becoming a motorcyclist, Glaser explained that a rider training course could help with their decision.
True to the learner-centered approach of the Basic RiderCourse, Glaser used his time in front of the students to facilitate a discussion rather than bore them with a lecture. Using this method he learned that 17 (26 percent) of the students had ridden dirtbikes and six (9 percent) currently own a dirtbike. In addition, 18 (27 percent) of the students have family members who ride streetbikes, some of whom had been involved in a crash. The students were then encouraged to discuss the crashes their relatives had been involved in.
Among the advantages of riding a motorcycle as perceived by the students, the responses were:
Glaser added some other advantages not thought of by the students:
- Good fuel economy
- Easy to find a parking space
- Could ride between cars (Glaser pointed out that this was California-specific and must be done very carefully)
- Could ride in carpool lane (nationwide)
- Very maneuverable
- It’s fun and adds to the quality of life
- It’s rewarding to master the riding techniques
As far as students’ thoughts on the disadvantages of riding a motorcycle, they said:
And Glaser added:
- Not as much protection as a car
- Hard to see
- Not as much protection from rain/the elements
- Cannot carry as much as a car
- A motorcycle is more susceptible to road surface conditions, such as potholes and slippery surfaces. One student had mentioned his father was hurt in a corner where there had been gravel, so this was definitely an appropriate topic of conversation.
Glaser then asked the students how a rider could manage the risks and they had a pretty bright idea:
- Be seen by wearing bright clothing and by the rider’s lane position
Of course it was necessary to add a few things the students had not thought about:
- Take training
- Wear a full complement of riding gear
- Communicate your intentions to other motorists
- Use a mental strategy to manage risk
A discussion on motorcycles in a driver’s ed class would not be complete without a discussion on Searching, Evaluating, and Executing (S.E.E.). Glaser was sure to state the importance, no matter what vehicle you’re operating, of searching ahead, to the side, in mirrors, etc., so that you are fully aware of your surroundings; evaluating and preparing for possible interactions; having an escape route in mind; and executing the right decisions to avoid the hazards.
As far as where or how most car vs. motorcycle crashes happen, the students had a good idea of things that happen (a car running a bike off the road or a car opening the door as a motorcycle passed), but missed the major concern for motorcyclists -- intersections or driveways.
Glaser wrapped up the class with a brief show and tell of his riding gear, pointing out the comfort, conspicuity, and protection features; the Cars, Motorcycles, and A Common Road video was watched; and the class talked about the role alcohol plays in motorist fatalities. Unfortunately, the students guessed wrong when quizzed on whether alcohol plays a greater role in motorcycle fatalities than it does in car fatalities. A third of the students in each class volunteered to take the Fatal Vision® Simulator Goggles challenge.
Glaser concluded the class with some sage advice on the importance of focusing on the driving/riding task. He also mentioned that part of his own safety strategy -- which works whether you’re on a motorcycle, bicycle, or skateboard -- is to pretend you’re invisible and ride very defensively.
Speaking to a group of non-riders can do more to change the image of motorcyclists and motorcycling than riding, and of course it can only help to increase motorcycle awareness. RiderCoaches might find it rewarding to use their motorcycle safety background to help educate non-riders about ways they can help improve motorcycle safety.
From Safe Cycling, Summer 2005