For many it’s an enjoyable hobby, for others it’s a passion and some people just see it as a mode of transportation.
But no matter how a person approaches motorcycle riding there is no denying the activity involves risk, and can be particularly dangerous on Princeton area roads.
This year Princeton police have investigated one fatal motorcycle accident and more than a dozen other crashes resulting in injuries, including three collisions with deer.
“One of the worst and most dangerous highways is [Highway 3] between Princeton and Manning Park,” according to RCMP Constable Dave Cramm, who specializes in motorcycle safety and incidents for the South Okanagan Traffic Division.
In a career spanning 27 years Cramm has investigated more than a hundred vehicle accidents – about ten per cent of those involving motorcycles.
“They are usually the most devastating,” he said.
According to ICBC, motorcycles account for two per cent of the registered vehicles in the province, but they represent 10 per cent of the fatalities on B.C. roads.
“The average age last year was 59, for riders crashing motorcycles,” said Cramm. “These are not guys who are driving like nuts, they are just out for a cruise.”
Cramm has made an extensive study of crashes in the South Okanagan over the past several years and drawn conclusions about their causes.
The majority of motorcycle accidents that result in injury or death – in 2017 it was 42 per cent – are the result of improper steering that is related to a lack of rider training, he said.
Sometimes these accidents are erroneously put down to speed, but it isn’t necessarily the case.
“They just say the guy went into the corner too fast which isn’t untrue, but if he had the skills he probably could have handled the curve.”
Mastering counter steering and a bike’s unique brake system are essential for safety.
However not all riders learn those techniques.
A temporary learner’s permit – which carriers restrictions such as a speed limit and never riding alone – is issued after an applicant passes a written test.
Thirty days later that license can be upgraded following a successful parking lot test. Finally in another month a full motorcycle license is awarded after a road examination that tests the rider’s ability to maneuver in traffic.
“Admittedly you could go through the whole process and not have perfected the skills necessary to ride a motorcycle, yes,” said Cramm.
New riders “need to take a course and have someone teach them, and practice operating this unique vehicle.”
Four years ago Cramm was tasked with creating a program to reduce the number of accidents on area highways.
Since that time he has spoken to hundreds of riders alongside of the road, held skills challenges and made media presentations.
The efforts have proved successful.
“In 2014 we had approximately 50 crashes that were injuries or fatalities and as of last year we were down to 25.”