by Jerry Palladino
While statistics often don't tell the
whole story, when used properly, statistics can give a very clear
explanation of events.
Here's a scary statistic for you. More than 47% of motorcycle fatalities
involve a rider under the influence of alcohol. In this day and age,
it's hard to believe anyone could be stupid enough to get on a
motorcycle after drinking a few beers, but the reality is, it happens
everyday. While its bad enough to get behind the wheel of a car under
the influence, getting on a motorcycle under the influence is sheer
stupidity. Let's face it, riding a motorcycle involves a great deal more
coordination and skill than driving a car. On a bike you have to
balance, steer, counter steer, clutch, shift and use 2 separate brakes.
The first thing alcohol does to you is affect your motor skills, in
other words, your coordination. That's why field sobriety tests examine
and test your ability to do two or more things at once.
I've heard people say many times, "I just had a couple of beers, I'm
fine." The fact is, depending on your weight and how much food you have
in your system, even 1 beer can have an effect on you. Alcohol is a
sneaky drug. You may feel fine, be able to walk straight and not slur
your words, yet, if you had to make a quick evasive maneuver on your
bike such as a simple brake then swerve, you'd be in trouble with a
Remember, alcohol affects your ability to do more than one thing at a
time and even a simple brake and swerve requires you to perform several
tasks. First, you'll have to decide which to do first, brake or swerve.
Once that decision is made you'll have to push on one of the bars to
make the bike swerve. Will you remember which one you'll have to push on
in a panic situation with a couple of beers in your system? Then, you
may have to brake and even one beer can slow your reflexes. Now with
your reflexes slowed, will you be able to brake in time? Will you
remember to put more force on your front brake than the rear? Will you
be able to keep that rear brake from locking? Most riders have a problem
with the rear brake dead sober. Oh, and don't forget, you have to pull
in the clutch and down shift as well during the brake and swerve.
The fact is, in an emergency brake and swerve maneuver, the average
rider will be lucky not to crash. The even slightly impaired rider, the
one who "just had a couple of beers" has NO chance. Think about it. Is
it worth taking that chance?
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Back to Basics Series:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle
cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division.
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25
years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show
which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police
bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles
around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying
gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding
a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a
motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the
highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive
motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says,
"When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to
ride a motorcycle."