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MOTORCYCLE SAFETY - DRINKING & RIDING

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

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 capital T.

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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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
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."
Safety Series:  
 

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