Motorcyclist Fatalities in Texas–More Safety Trainers Needed

on July 26, 2018

By Chere Laine | Coalition of Independent Riders

Chere Laine with her second motorcycle, a 2013 Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback

When I bought my first motorcycle – a very slightly used Harley-Davidson V Rod Night Rod – I had no idea how to operate it, so I took a motorcycle training class. Two certified instructors taught me how to make my bike go, turn and stop. These two guys spent a whole weekend teaching me everything they could, while I shivered and shook and tried to relax and balance. Even after 56,000 miles of riding, I’m still so grateful for that expert training and those wonderful instructors.

But not everyone in Texas is lucky enough to have training classes readily available to them. I learned only recently that there are only 237 people in all of Texas who are certified to teach motorcycle training classes. That’s not even one per county! Also, there are only 36 people in Texas who are certified to certify trainers. According to published statistics, there are 375,000 motorcycles registered in Texas. How many of those riders got trained, I wonder?

Latest Motorcyclist Deaths Reflect Need for Action

I was chatting with an instructor in our area who said his waiting list for classes stretches 8-10 weeks out. Even at $250 a pop, he said riders really want to get the M class designation on their license. It is the law… punishment for getting caught riding without one includes confiscating the bike! Here you go!

Law enforcement recently announced that there were 11 motorcycle fatalities in the tri-county area (Nueces, Jim Wells, San Patricio) in the 12 months ending June 2018, a 500% increase over the same period a year ago. A review of these 11 crashes showed that only four of the victims had a class M (motorcycle) license. This means seven were not certified to ride a motorcycle and were likely untrained. Review of the crashes also showed:

  • 7 were within the city limits of Corpus Christi
  • 6 occurred at night
  • 5 involved motorcycles only (single vehicle); of those, speed was indicated but unproven, and all involved curves
  • 9 of the victims were wearing helmets
  • 2 of the motorcyclists failed to yield right of way to a vehicle
  • 2 struck the back ends of cars while changing lanes

Clearly, there is a relationship between lack of motorcycle training and risk of crash death. One way to address this would be immediate action by the state, in partnership with local motorcycle dealer, motorcycle clubs and organizations, to greatly increase the number of certified motorcycle trainers in Texas.

Jude Schexnyder, Motorcycle Safety Program Manager with the Texas Department of Public Safety, recently told a crowd of riders that although motorists are part of the motorcycle fatality issue, “it’s not the whole problem.” Basically, he said, motorcyclists have to look at the reality of riding – it’s dangerous and we are unprotected except for gear – and assume responsibility for being knowledgeable and skilled and exercising good judgement when it comes to our own safety.

Three Motorcycle Techniques That May Save Your Life

Jude taught me three things that I believe will one day save my life. All motorcyclists can do these things:

  • When approaching an intersection, slow down, cover your brake controls, and weave back and forth within your lane. This will catch a motorist’s eye better than a straight approach. Many motorcycle crashes occur at intersections.
  • Practice avoiding obstacles. You get some training in this in a class, but it takes hours of practice for it to become intuitive. Travel through empty parking lots avoiding dark patches or put down cones to swerve around. An intuitive response avoids a panic reaction and adrenaline rush.
  • Practice emergency stops. Again, you get some training in class, but it takes practice for it to become an intuitive reaction in an emergency. Know how your motorcycle reacts to sudden stops and what it is capable of.

Even motorcyclists with thousands of miles under their belts can learn something in an intermediate or advanced motorcycle training class, both of which are available in Texas. Check with area motorcycle dealers or go online to the Texas DPS site to find ones near you.