Inexperience leads to more crashes
August 27, 2004
To veterans like Trooper John O’Rourke, who wheels his Nevada Highway Patrol BMW bike through traffic between Reno and Carson City eight hours a day, novice motorcycle riders stick out as if they have neon signs on their backs.
“Oh, you can tell,” he said, adding that an unstable rider is much more obvious at slow speed.
Recently, he said, he saw a man and woman riding together on a Reno street: “It was obvious it was the first time she had ridden a bike.”
He pulled the couple over and told them to get off the streets and find a parking lot, somewhere without traffic, to practice.
Even riders who look pretty comfortable on the bike, he said, often put themselves in danger by thinking they’re better than they are.
“Over-riding their ability is what causes most of these accidents,” he said. “You can’t have a bike for three months – especially a big bike – and ride like some of these people do. They ride up Mount Rose no problem, so they think they can push it next time and off the road they go.”
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Richard Tapia, owner of Carson City’s Harley Davidson dealership, made the same point.
“Many times, they just get a little too confident,” he said. “They think they’re not driving like a hot rod, but they are.”
Tapia said the first six months is the critical period. For many riders it takes at least that long to get used to the characteristics of the bike.
Even good riders, O’Rourke said, sometimes ignore safety by weaving between lanes without looking first, riding the line separating lanes and riding faster than they should.
“I know you want to ride fast, but you just can’t do it. If you ride aggressively, you’ll get in an accident,” he said. “I guarantee it.”
He pointed to the number of motorcycle fatalities this year involving a lone rider who simply lost control.
Tapia agreed: “They get impatient, then first thing you know they try to pass where they shouldn’t.”
While he said he thinks drivers are becoming more aware of motorcyclists, O’Rourke said that’s still a major problem and that bikers should never assume the driver of that SUV sees them.
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