Tag Archives: motorcycle safety

Check out this nifty helmet!


Skully helmets (@SkullyHelmets #iwantskully) have Bluetooth and 180-degree rear view, as well as GPS, on a head-up display.


Key Features:

  • Lightweight, Aerodynamic Shell
  • 3D laser-cut foam for a perfect fit
  • Fully adjustable flow-through ventilation
  • Anti-fog, anti-scratch, anti-glare face shield
  • Quick release chin strap and visor
  • SKULLY SYNAPSE (TM) Heads Up Display system with voice control
  • Visual GPS navigation
  • 180 degree wide angle rearview camera
  • Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone
  • Internet connectivity via smartphone

Check it out:

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Filed under Equipment safety, Motorcycle Safety, Uncategorized

Threat & Risk Management for Commuters

I’ve just been reading the final report on Air France flight 447. That’s the Rio de Janeiro – Paris flight that went down in the ocean on June 1, 2009. There’s a lot to be learned.


With regard to threat analysis, one of the most chilling comments in the report was directed toward pilots in general, rather than the crew of AF 447.

“Crews generally just undertake confident monitoring of the flight path and the automated systems due to their level of performance and reliability.”

This is chilling, because that confidence can kill. The report suggests that the flight crew spent little time on a detailed, structured analysis of the potential threats. They were aware of the threat of turbulence and icing, and there was discussion around those topics in the cockpit, but they did not focus on the threat and make decisions.

That’s not much different from what many of us do on a regular basis. As I commute, I confidently set out toward work or home, knowing that I have successfully completed the same trip many times. I rarely think about the threats that I routinely encounter, although I occasionally become aware of new threats, or special circumstances.

If I had given thought to threats before riding home last week, I would have remembered the sign saying the road would be under construction in the evening. I probably would have taken a different route, rather than being stuck in wall-to-wall traffic (and the high risks for a motorcycle in that environment).

As a commuter, I face the risk of complacency and of inattention to my surroundings. How many of us have arrived at our destination without any awareness of how we got there? We drove our usual route, made the usual turns and adjustments for traffic, totally consumed with plans for the day or the problem we were trying to solve.

A safe rider will take steps to avoid that complacency. The first step is awareness of the risk. Find triggers to remind you of the all-important task at hand. Develop a standard start-up procedure that includes a Risk briefing and steps to mitigate the risk. Say to yourself: “I’m commuting. I run a risk of being complacent. Today I will pay particular attention to…(some element of my ride) in order to keep from being complacent.”

Pay special attention to unusual risks that you may encounter on your commute. Things that wouldn’t catch you by surprise anywhere else, might catch you by surprise on your commute, because you have successfully completed that route many times.

It may pay to alternate routes occasionally, just to increase your level of awareness.

Whatever it takes to arrive home safely

Complacency is a killer in many other ways too. If you are just “going through the motions” in your job or in your marriage, you need to stop and do a threat analysis, and figure out a way to mitigate the risk of complacency. It’s never fun to crash and burn, especially in things that really matter. Life and Love, for example.

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Filed under Human Factors, Motorcycle Safety, Threat and Error Management, Wise living

Expectation Bias

Expectation Bias.

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Filed under Human Factors, Motorcycle Safety, Threat and Error Management

Expectation Bias

One of the deadliest errors drivers make is called “Expectation Bias.” We see what we expect; and we fail to see the unexpected.
I witnessed an accident last week, which perfectly illustrates the problem of Expectation Bias. In fact, I was very nearly involved in it myself.
The driver who caused the accident was Westbound, but turning Left, to the South. The other driver, directly in front of me, was going straight through the intersection. An Eastbound tractor-trailer was in the left-turn lane, waiting to turn North.
Because of the position of the left-turn lane, the tractor-trailer blocked the view of each of the drivers involved in the accident. The lady who was turning left looked at the intersection and it appeared to be clear, except for the truck which was waiting to turn left, opposite to her. The other lady, passing the tractor-trailer, could see that the intersection was clear in front of her, but because of the tractor-trailer, she couldn’t see the SUV that was preparing to turn left, in front of her. My illustration shows the 3 vehicles, and the field of vision of each driver.
Either driver could have avoided this accident, if they had recognized the hazard presented by the tractor-trailer. Each of them should have had mental alarms going off: “Danger, Will Robinson!” Rather than looking for the hazard, they were looking for a clear intersection, and that’s what they saw. They were victims of their own expectations.
Expectation Bias is a real threat to motorcyclists: Other drivers, expecting to see cars or trucks, fail to see motorcycles, even when they are in plain view. A friend of mine was struck by his neighbor (a biker himself), who said that he actually saw the motorcycle, but it failed to register.
How many of us get further into debt than we can afford, because we have such a rosy view of the future? We expect everything to work out fine, so we whip out the plastic. Expectation Bias strikes again!
As a rider, one of the most important safety lessons is learning to see hazards everywhere. Expectation Bias is a threat to our ability to recognize hazards; we also need to recognize our expectations (and the expectations of other drivers) as a potential hazard.
One of the fellows who taught me to ride told me that I should always pretend I was driving a Semi. “Learn to occupy as much space on the road as a tractor-trailer rig; Don’t let anyone get inside your space.” We overcome other drivers’ expectation bias by making ourselves more visible and audible, and by forcing them to treat us like a larger vehicle.

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In praise of new tires… and great customer service

Several people “liked” my post a while ago, when I got a new back tire on my bike.

The tire was faulty. It kept thrusting the rear end of the bike back and forth, sideways. Not a good feeling at highway speeds. So I got the guys at Cycle Gear to replace it. They gave me an identical tire, a Michelin Pilot 3.

I rode on that tire for nearly a month, and kept having issues with it. It felt great at speeds below 55, but at highway speeds, it was unstable.

I did some research… Michelin doesn’t recommend any of their tires for my bike. On the BMW sites, everyone said they were riding on the Metzler tires that BMW puts on the bike, or on Avon tires.

Last week, I ordered a new set of Metzler tires. What a difference! The bike feels safe to ride again.

Best part: The guys at Cycle Gear swapped out the tire without a comment. They were surprised that I had trouble with it, but they honored their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, even though I was not returning an “undamaged” item. I did ride on the tire for a month or so.

Kudos to Cycle Gear!

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What’s the most dangerous element about riding motorcycles?

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.

Ride Safe!

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Filed under Human Factors, Motorcycle Safety, Threat and Error Management