In my home province – B.C. – the attorney general recently announced that July of this year was one of the worst on record for motorcycle fatalities: 18 deaths in one month, the highest number in decades.
To put this into some kind of perspective, in 2017 there were 30 motorcycle deaths in total for Ontario, an equally troubling statistic.
And that’s not all. Motorcycle riders in Canada are at least 15 times more likely to be involved in a crash than automobile drivers. And one in 10 traffic deaths on the road involves a motorcycle. A motorcyclist is 14 times more likely to be killed in a collision.
Considering that bikes make up a scant two per cent of all the vehicles on the road, these numbers are mind-boggling.
Incidentally, the numbers are much higher for high-powered sport bikes.
Over one-third of all Canadian drivers admit to using their cellphones while driving. These numbers, obtained by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) of Canada, are very bad news for motorcyclists.
And despite various safety campaigns across the country, motorists are just not getting the message when it comes to cellphone usage/texting while driving.
When you consider that there are over 26 million registered vehicles on the road in Canada, our nation’s roads are getting more and more crowded, and more cars means more potential for an accident.
Some more numbers to ponder:
Ten: This is the number of times I’ve come off my bike while riding, either because of an accident or because I was not paying attention or playing the fool.
I don’t remember them all, but the notable ones involve being hit head-on in my own lane by an inattentive teenage driver, colliding with a locomotive late at night, coming off the back of my bike while attempting to ride backwards, dropping a fully-loaded tourer in a major intersection downtown, and flying over a stone wall after falling asleep.
Admittedly, youthful stupidity was a factor in at least a couple of these incidents, but the fact that I survived them says to me that I may be pushing the envelope when it comes to second chances.
Three: The number of riding training courses I’ve taken over the years. They probably made me a more capable rider, but in terms of safety and making things better out there for riders, they haven’t changed things one iota.
Riding a motorcycle these days has become a defensive proposition; you can’t relax when you’re always worried about being clobbered.
Five: The number of bones I’ve broken or fractured due to motorcycle accidents. Heel-bone, knee, ankle, thumb and nose. Not to mention at least one concussion and bruises beyond count.
Two and a half, approximately: This is the number of years it took me to get over my last accident. It involved wheelchair time and months of physiotherapy and I still have the odd twinge of vertigo.
As you get older, you just don’t bounce back as quickly and injuries that would have been nothing but an inconvenience years ago are now major obstacles.
Much as I still love riding, my aversion to hospitals is greater.
Nonetheless, I don’t intend to completely stop riding. Asking me to do that is kind of like asking me to stop walking. I bought my first bike in 1964 and old habits die hard. I still love motorcycles and have a few more years left in me.
However, I plan to modify my riding habits. Among other things, I won’t be riding downtown ever again. Anyone who takes their bike/scooter into the city is just asking for trouble. It’s Death Race 2013 down there, with construction, crazy bicyclists, heavy truck traffic and bad drivers everywhere you look.
And much as I’m loathe to admit it, I also think my days of dawn ’til dusk touring are over. Incomparably exhilarating as it is, riding a bike all day gets tiring and fatigue leads to trouble.
It’s days trips for me from here on in.
And when I do ride, I’ll be much more scrupulous when it comes to things like changing lanes, merging into traffic, following behind trucks, coming to a complete stop at stop signs, performing continual over-the-shoulder visual checks and watching my speed.
I don’t want my days to be numbered.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).