Fatal To Your Business

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Alot of issues are bubbling up, and while consumers, the AMA and the MIC seem to be the ones taking them on, most of you dealers seem to be remarkably silent, or content to let other entities carry their banner. But it's your bread and butter that's going to be affected. One major issue that seems to be spawning a lot of sub-issues is the discussion over the increased fatality rate for motorcyclists.

I'm not going to argue whether or not the fatality rate has increased because more motorcyclists are on the road. It doesn't make any difference; perception is reality. Those people who are interested in seeing that number decline are looking for a solution that will probably not be in your best interest.

Crash Theory

One of the fastest-growing market segments in our otherwise flat market is the sportbike segment. And once again, our friends at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are leading the charge to either eliminate the category (unlikely), or govern the speed (a possibility).

There are likely a lot of behaviors that go into killing motorcyclists (besides the type of bike), and lots of them have to do with people who drive cars. I usually see two or three "killing behaviors" a weekend. One behavior has to do with the crash theory of driving cited by the IIHS and others.

Crash theory? That's where car drivers relinquish virtually all of the training they've had on rules of the road, courtesy, accident avoidance and responsibility, and depend on the vehicle to protect them from harm — soft insides, airbags from every direction, tons of steel. It's so the drivers can focus on what's really important, i.e., staying in touch and being entertained. (The cell phone restrictions enacted by various states are a step in the right direction, but how well are they adhered to and enforced?)

If you've spent any time on back roads, you know that if a car's coming toward you on a curve, part of that car will be in your lane, either forcing you to take a tighter line or, sometimes, forcing the you onto the shoulder (or into the ditch).

Some drivers don't like to stop at a stop light or sign. Why this isn't made a felony when injuries or fatalities occur is beyond me. The driver made a conscientious decision to gamble, and that's premeditated. If someone's injured or killed, the punishment should be more than a monetary fine and slap on the wrist.

Get Involved

So what does this have to do with you? To maintain and grow our customer base, it's up to us to help provide a less dangerous environment.

When people are asked why they don't ride even though the concept appeals to them, they usually respond, "It's not safe." But the reality is it never will be safe, and cannot be made as safe as many other activities. Still, the riding environment can be made a lot less dangerous.

Most vehicular laws are state-enacted laws, not national laws. You as a dealer can influence your state legislature (usually through your dealer association) by advocating and supporting laws that reduce the danger for motorcyclists — such as restricting cell phone use in cars and trucks, and toughening the driver penalties for running red lights and stop signs.

While there's a great need for improved and ongoing driver training, it's unlikely that there's going to be any movement in this area. When was the last time you took a driver's test? For most folks, it's only if you move from state to state, and then the test is usually pretty simple (well, that parallel parking thing can be kind of tricky).

Mike Vaughan is the former publisher of Dealernews. You can reach him at mvaughan@mikevaughan.com or via editors@dealernews.com.