Friday, May 8, 2009

Safe, Bike Safe That Is.

So not too long ago, Darryl Cannon, aka. Killboy from made a post about a new program that the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is offering. The program is called Bike Safe NC and is modeled after Bike Safe London. Sgt. Brown, an avid rider and motorcycle officer for the NCSHP started the program here in NC after taking the class in London. This program in London has shown a 25% decrease in motorcycle fatalities since its launch and is only taught by a handful of officers. One can only hope that the numbers will be as substantial here.

Bike Safe NC, is taught once a month in three different locations, Raleigh, Wilmington and Camp Lejeune. The class is set up so that there are two rides throughout the day, with no more than two students per officer during the ride. In addition to the riding, there is some class room activity as well.

So here is how the day went:

The morning started with introductions from Sgt Brown and the other officers that would be riding along with us. Sgt Brown then started in with his PowerPoint presentation that included some videos and images of motorcycle crashes. While some of the images were a bit graphic, he got the point across! In addition to this we broke down the "evidence," skid marks, intersection traffic patters, etc to see what the driver of the car and/or rider did wrong to cause the crash. This was followed by some first aid information including the use of the Hats Off Device. After mentioning this to Dad this evening, I have a feeling these will be in our lids in the near future.

We were then assigned our officers that would being following us on our rides. Now I must admit I was looking forward to some technical cone drills taught by the NCSHP on the nice skid pad and track just outside the class room. However, this was not the case for this class. Sgt. Brown noted that no one is killed in cone practice, fatal crashes happen on the road and that is where we would be evaluated.

They paired us up according the bike type and years of riding experience. The instructors included mostly NCSHP officers, while a few Raleigh and Cary bike officers showed up to assist as well. I was paired with a gentleman on a BMW tourer and our officer was state trooper Conwell.

The rides are set up so that they put the students through a series of hazards and different road types. Each student gets to take point and be evaluated. This is done by having the officer in the middle with a student in front of and behind him. While a map is given showing the direction of the route, the officers mix it up a bit by giving you directions from their bike to ensure you are using your mirrors. About half way through the ride, the students change positions so that the officer can evaluate the other student.

We ended the short ride at the cafeteria and we ate with our officer so that he could review the ride with us. In addition to this we talked about other things including why the NCSHP decided to get rid of the Harley's. *Snicker*

After lunch the class room lecture started up again. This time we went over some riding techniques which included reading road signs, other than the ones the DOT puts out. With this information covered we watched a few more crash videos and evaluated what signs the rider missed or ignored.

From there we went back out but on a much longer loop around the Raleigh area practicing what we had gone over in the class earlier. This time the traffic was a bit heaver as it was approaching the rush hour mark and school was letting out.

The class concluded with some closing remarks and the certificate presentations. In all we rode about 60 miles with the officers on the 5 worst roads in the Raleigh area. It was a neat feeling riding along with the people we normally tend to avoid.

In addition, the certificates were given so that we could fax a copy along with the web page to our insurance agents. Geico, for sure offers a discount for attending the class while others are still up in the air. In fact a Geico representative actually attended the class at one point during the pilot program and reported back to HQ to push the discount.

Now, I realize no one is perfect and I am no exception. So here is what advice officer Conwell gave me. (Oh and I forgot to mention that this class is set up so that it does not force your do change your riding style, but simply offer suggestions to improve. Also, the ticket books are left in the saddlebags, lol.)

-To leave my left foot on the peg at intersections and put my right down. This way I am covering the shifter in the event the bike slips out of gear or if I need to move quickly. I feel most comfortable with my right foot up and left foot down, or both down. But I am working on the change.

-Secondly, to accelerate quicker from the intersections. Most accidents in the city happen at intersections. So officer Conwell suggested that I accelerate more rapidly away from the intersection so that I do not spend more time that necessary in it. I.E. if I was making a right turn on red, to check to make sure it is clear, then quickly get away. Also, if I am crossing the intersection, straight, to ease into the intersection watching all directions, and once across the halfway point, accel out of and remain accelerating until completely clear. Now don't get me wrong I don't exactly crawl around on my bike, but I am not one to doing alot of hard accel, after all I am on a "sport bike" it looks fast sitting still.

-One thing that I did take from the class was an improvement of corner set up. In that for a blind left hander, ride the the out side line to increase visibility and to apex the corner late to avoid possible impact if an on coming vehicle happens to swing wide out of the corner which is typically in the center apex of the corner.

Overall the class was still abit elementary as it was geared for those riders who have come out of the MSF and been riding a year or so. This allows them to ride with officers and be offered advice on how the improve there road skills. While I said it was a bit elementary, it was still use full and walked away with knowledge that I would have other wise never learned. It is a great class and is open ended to a point, in that the students have alot of input as to what material can be covered in the class.

A+++++ to all those officers that volunteer their time and efforts to ensure the safety of other riders!

It is a definite must do class and will only remain free for a short time. However, the govt has recognized this class as a benefit and has picked it up. In 2010 it will start becoming available in other states across the country. Look for it soon in your area!

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