Survey: Motorcycle, scooter riders report safety habits, crashes

Consumer Reports News: June 03, 2010 10:54 AM

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Consumer Reports' latest survey of motorcycle and scooter owners found that 7 in 10 respondents consider themselves to be experienced riders and have held their motorcycle license or endorsement for at least five years. But 10 percent said they had been in an accident in the last five years, and almost half of those were single-vehicle crashes, with many of them either running wide on a curve or sliding out in a turn.

Only a little more than half of our respondents said they had taken a formal riding instruction course, and nearly 1 in 4 said they don't always wear a helmet when they ride.

And use of safety gear drops off from there.
  • Only half of our respondents reported regularly wearing protective boots, and less than half said they regularly wear gloves.
  • About 25 percent said they always wear a leather or other protective jacket when riding.
  • Fewer than 10 percent always wear protective pants or clothing in high-visibility colors.
  • Three out of five riders admitted to riding in a short-sleeved shirt, and about a quarter said they rode in shorts.
  • More than one third of all accidents resulted in a painful road rash and almost 25 percent involved broken bones.

Some crashes may be avoidable if motorcycles are equipped with antilock brakes, something the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has asked the federal government to require on all new motorcycles. A recent IIHS study concluded that motorcycles equipped with ABS are 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than bikes without it. ABS is optional on some motorcycles now, but typically adds about $1000 to the cost, and is offered only on larger, heavier models.

Consumer Reports would like to see this important safety feature made more affordable and available on smaller, more entry-level models. (Read: "IIHS requests government mandate on motorcycle antilock brakes.")

In the meantime, we encourage all riders to wear proper protective gear from boots to helmet to reduce the severity of injuries in the case of an accident--of which our survey respondents reveal there is a high likelihood of happening. Further, we would encourage all new and entry-level riders to take a motorcycle training course by a professional organization, such as those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

The survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center late last year, and includes responses from 1,383 Consumer Reports subscribers reporting on 1,563 motorcycles and scooters.

Jim Travers

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