Wikipedia defines statistics as a branch of mathematics dealing with the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and organization of data. During the semester at university in which I had to take a course on statistics, I defined it as a kind of mental torture. It did not help that the professor who gave the course was one of those curmudgeonly types you give a wide berth to in the hallways and who actually wrote our stats text book (bet he was a real blast at parties).
But, as I have gotten older, I have found certain types of statistics to be quite interesting, and, as a motorcyclist, statistics on motorcycling of particular interest. Now, as much as we motorcyclists love the freedom and exhilaration of riding, we are (or at least should be) inherently aware of the many dangers that riding entails.
Statistics from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say that motorcyclists are 15 times more likely to become involved in an accident, six times more likely to be seriously injured in accidents and 27 times more likely to be killed in accidents. These statistics are compared to other vehicles (cars, truck, buses) on a kilometers traveled basis, and are very sobering statistics, indeed. But, before you hang up your riding gear for good and put a "For Sale" sign on your trusty mount, you should be aware of the hows and whys behind these stats.
Some of the reasons are fairly obvious; motorcycles are inherently much less stable machines than other vehicles, i.e, when you get out of a car, providing you have not parked on a slope, with the transmission in neutral and the parking brake off (Mr. Meehan!) it just stays there. But, when you get off your bike it tends to fall over if you forget to use the stand. When moving, motorcycles require constant (and intelligent) control inputs to keep them upright and have small areas of contact between tires and Mother Earth.
This means motorcycles can easily slide out from under you when traction is exceeded. What this all means is that motorcyclists have to develop a level of skill and knowledge that far surpasses that which is required to drive an automobile. Herein lies a big part of the problem; it is far too easy, at least here in Canada, to start riding a motorcycle while having little or no rider training and experience.
A person needs only to successfully complete a written test and eye exam to obtain their beginner's license. They are then able to hop on to a 200 horsepower sportbike and splatter themselves on the back of a dump truck while texting their significant other. And this does not just apply to 20 somethings, the traditional 'high risk' demographic, but to 50+-year-old riders who now make up the majority of motorcycle crash victims.
Now, I will bet a week's pay that these older men who are crashing their 1400cc cruisers left and right are not lifetime riders, but guys that have either never ridden or are getting back into the sport after decades of absence. In stark contrast to the chilling statistics are the people who have ridden all their lives, have racked up tens of thousands of kilometers, and have never been in a serious accident.
The difference between the two groups is this: Practice, experience and using the thing inside the helmet. If you want to enjoy a pain-free lifetime of motorcycling you need to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and wisdom. To this end, I would HIGHLY recommend taking a motorcycle safety course. And wear the gear people. All the gear, all the time. Happy riding!