I got caught in what I thought was a joke, it wasn’t. The idea of an airbag jacket for scooter riders seemed a little more than what was readily available. I was wrong. You can see the thread here.

With the sudden increase in interest in scooters and many flocking to scooters that have never ridden before, we can’t kid ourselves, there are going to be more people hurt in scooter accidents. There just are.

I’d hate to guess what number of new buyers are going to take a riding class, probably near to none for the less than 50cc group. Even in the maxiscooter/Burgman class, many states don’t require you to take a class to get a motorcycle learners permit.

I’ve written about it elsewhere on this forum but when I started to ride again in my 40s the first thing I did was sign up for a riding class. And I’m glad I did. The class taught me things and skills that I use every day I ride and I feel more confident, knowing them.

What I do see are many new riders that purchase loads of safety features for their scooters in an effort to keep them safe. But the reality is that all the day-glo items in the world are not going to keep you safe during the execution of a bonehead move.

When I got back to riding I wore the full Aerostitch Roadcrafter Hi-Viz suit, summer and winter. (Damn near almost got heatstroke with it in the summer.) I had a headlight modulator, bigger mirrors, LED mirror indicators, reflective tape and all sorts of other stuff on the bike.

While all that stuff was good, it did not necessarily make me safer. It made me feel safer but just because I had all that “look at me” stuff going on it did not relive me of my responsibility to make sure I was aware of my surroundings and always vigilant for what was happening 1 second and 4 seconds in front of me.

On my Washington, DC to San Diego ride I had a close call that could have been life ending. And just because I had all the “suggested” safety gear on me or the bike, it didn’t matter, I would have been just as dead. Safety gear is not a substitution for safety.

The Close Call

I was on a four lane road in deep Texas. The road was only divided with a solid yellow line between sides. I was heading down a long straight road, as many are in Texas and came up behind a slow moving truck pulling a trailer with a backhoe on the trailer. The truck was doing 50 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. I was probably going 70 MPH.

I saw that I was going to have to pass the truck and trailer and it was legal to do so by moving into the left lane, not across the double yellow lines. I looked ahead and did not see any traffic headed towards me on the other side of the road. All looked normal and safe. A typical passing on the left situation.

As I got to the rear quarter ot the truck and trailer on my right, something completely unexpected happened, the 40 miles of straight highway went over and down a small rise and turned right. The road was also looked like it has sand or dirt on it.

I was carrying too much speed into the right turn and don’t forget, at the same time I was drifting left for the pass. I applied my rear brake and added more lean to the corner but still found myself drifting fast towards the double yellow line on a flat right hard turn. And now, an 18 wheeler was headed towards me in the oncoming left lane. I had not seen him before since he had been below the rise. There was no room to bust the yellow line or allow the bike slide out from under me.

Oh yes, I also had traffic immediately behind me. It was a close call.

I’d rather tell you about that moment than relive it.

My New Position

Now that I’m riding my Burgman, I have abandoned much of all that aftermarket safety equipment that I had before. My Burgman feels like part of me when I ride, I can control the bike and make it go where I want it to and I feel confident in my ability to operate the scooter in a safe way. The last thing I am afraid of when I ride is the bike.

What I am always hyper vigilant about are road conditions and vehicles. I don’t rely on vehicles to see me and take appropriate action. I rely upon myself to see the hazardous situation before I get there and to take appropriate rider action.

A Hi-Viz riding suit is not going to make me know to watch the front tires of vehicles for clues of where they are going and it’s not going to make me prioritize potential threats as I ride to address them in the appropriate order. Experience and good training are going to do that for me.

My biggest concern when I ride today is getting hit in the rear at stop signs or traffic lights. And to deal with that threat, I watch my mirrors closely for the vehicle behind me to come to a full and safe stop. While the vehicle is approaching I flash my brake lights on and off and I have already picked out my “out” in case they don’t appear to be stopping.

Maybe I should explain what an “out” is. I guess it comes from my pilot training. When you are flying, a good private pilot is always looking out, subconsciously, for the place they would sit the plane down in an emergency. “In case the engine quit right now I’d try for that field.”

When I’m sitting at a light with a vehicle rapidly approaching, not only am I watching the vehicle, but I’m also looking where I’d stick the Burgman in case I had to move to avoid being hit. Flashing LEDs don’t protect you in that situation, physically moving the scooter to be in a different place, does.

And I find myself using a mental pilot checklist while I’m looking for my “out” as well, I look at the road conditions to see if it might be sandy or slippery where I would head and I make a note of how soon I’d have to launch to avoid injury. The tighter my “out” is the sooner I have to go for it. If I’m the first one at the light in a slow intersection, my “out” process is going to be something like this;

  1. Check mirrors
  2. Look at the road
  3. Check mirrors
  4. Press power button in case
  5. Check mirrors again, if no indication of stop then apply throttle to bust light with no traffic coming across.
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