The impossible reality of numbers is rooted in the fact humanity as a group is inextricably tied to the numbers but individuals are not. Whether by fate, luck or call it what you may, when people “beat the odds” what have they really done? I’m not a fatalist but try and wrap your frontal lobe around this:
Why didn’t you die or get maimed by your motorcycle last year? Here’s some numbers I found in the Governors Highways Safety Association 2010 preliminary report: In 1975 there were a touch over 3000 motorcycle fatalities. In 1980 there’s a trend that peaks just over 5000. In 1997 the numbers bottom out back around 2000 before starting a climb that peaks above 5000 in 2008. By 2010 numbers suddenly drop well below 5000.
Why? There’s plenty of conjecture and you can read the report above and make up your own mind or create your own hypothesis but, for me, I’m more interested in the riders who lived than I am in those who died. That may sound callous but my interest is in the fact that loads and buckets and boodles of people survive their riding experience.
All through motorcycling history the hopelessly uncoordinated, under-skilled, reckless and wild have survived. Sure, racers like Marco Simoncelli died on the track as did Norifumi Abe–but my mother told me that happens to anyone who races. Jeremy Lusk cashed his chips in doing Freestyle–ask most folks and they’ll say “Duh…what did you expect those guys are crazy!”
They are also trained professionals in controlled situations.
Motorcycle safety expert Larry Grodsky took his final ride in 2006 and ended it with a fatal collision with a deer.
Bruce Rossmeyer was no rookie when his ticket was punched in Wyoming.
Is the motorcycle reaper no respecter of persons? Smart guys die. Knuckleheads die. Professionals die both on road and track. Really, what does it take to catch a serious case of “death by riding”? Or is the better question, “Is there any inoculation or vaccine that guarantees survival?” After 10 years of teaching & writing and 30 years of riding I’m pretty comfortable in saying this:
Luck is both dumb and blind. There are times you’re just snaked and there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it. On occasion it seems that when your number is up…your number is up. The fatalist view extends this to all human activity which is boiled down to: “There’s nothing you can do about it, fate will do what fate will do–“. This is a philosophy I’m cool with. I’m not going to fight you on it. If you’re a tested and true fatalist my hat is off, you have more conviction than the average human.
Part of the impossible reality of numbers is that folks have to crash. Folks have to die. 100% safe is a mirage and unattainable. Safe means to be absent of risk and that I know is impossible. The truth about constant, unavoidable risk is that it we do not have to cede ourselves to some fatal view that “If it’s my time? It’s my time.” The numbers may be fixed. They may be a simple part of the fabric of riding–however I believe that the people who populate those numbers are not fated to be there. You have control over yourself. Sh*t happens. No argument, however if you park yourself in a septic tank or under an outhouse it’s much, much more likely to fall on you.
The truly impossible reality of the numbers is that you can lessen your risk of being one–even though they have be. You can take control of your riding and affect where you land in the big pile of risk (or pooh, your choice). If you’re truly worried about getting hurt or killed on a bike? GET OFF THEM. You might still be killed by a motorcycle, they make wonderful ballistic weapons, but the odds of your being the author of your own demise while riding fall to zero. You’ve removed yourself from the numbers pool. OH! And after you’ve retired your bike remember that according to the CDC about 10 people per day die of unintended, non-boating related drowning in the US. That’s about 3500 a year…running close to the death by motorcycle numbers so stay away from your bathtub, swimming pool and garden hose too. You may get a little smelly but an occasional sponge bath will help with that.
If you ride you’re buying a lottery ticket, you’re in the office pool now and the question is how to avoid winning it. Just like controlling your motorcycle that lays fully on you. The number one thing you can do is separate your drinking from your riding. Gear up. Train. Avoid high risk situations. Behave like you know it’s risky. Don’t cop out and go all neo-fatalist and buy into the “If it’s my time? It’s my time” crap. You have some control over that damn clock so exercise it.
Somebody’s got to die, it just doesn’t need to be you. Cliched though it may be you don’t have to be a statistic. Control your risk–control your fate.