My mother is convinced that riding motorcycles is inherently dangerous. She’s not alone.
But if riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous, what is the most dangerous thing? People.
Almost all accidents are caused by people. So if we want to be safer, we have to do something about people.
In aviation safety, there are two disciplines–both related to Safety Management Systems–that address people issues: Human Factors and Threat and Error Management.
Human Factors is a study of the psychological and sociological factors which can cause accidents and incidents. Threat and Error Management involves systematically looking for threats and errors, and eliminating or mitigating them.
For example, if I’m in a hurry, there are a whole host of Human Factors that come into play. The sense of being in a hurry is itself a threat, and if I’m going to be safe, I have to do something to eliminate or mitigate that threat. I remind myself that no matter how much I speed, I can’t make much difference to my arrival time, and I set my cruise control to eliminate the temptation to jump on the throttle.
By the way, all this has practical application in day-to-day living as well. I have to take Human Factors into account when I deal with my renters. I have to be prepared for cultural differences to affect my communication with my renters, for potential misunderstandings.
I also use Threat and Error Management regularly in my day-to-day life. Even though I’m certain I’m not going to do anything I shouldn’t, I make certain I’m never alone when I go to any of my rental properties, particularly when I’m dealing with women or children. I have to be aware of the various threats involved in that kind of situation. There’s a threat of gossip, about what I’m doing there. There’s a threat that my motives may be misunderstood, or that the other person’s motives may not be as pure as they should be. I can mitigate or eliminate most of those threats by taking someone (usually my wife) along.
I’ve been working with Flight Safety and Flight Standards departments now for more than 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot from them. It’s made me a safer motorcycle rider, and sometimes a wiser person. I’d like to try to apply some of the elements of a good Safety Management System to riding a motorcycle, and to living a wise life. So, watch for more about Human Factors and Threat and Error Management.