Tuesday, February 26, 2008
An appeal to fear is usually the sign of a weak argument
From the mailbag. A reader finds a website filled with disturbing images of motorcycle crashes and incident statistics:
"Hi Tim, I read your superbike blog about once a week. I ride and have ridden bikes for the past 15-20 years. I recently found a website that I must say affected me a little bit. I respect your opinion and was wondering if you have ever seen this site. It is www.[omitted].com. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend you check it out. Please look over the entire site. I am interested in what you think the actual point the webmaster is trying to get across. In one sense I think he is pro motorcycle but then he comes across as anti motorcycle. Anyway, love the blog, hope to hear from you soon."
Wayne - Cincinnati, OH
That website has been around for years, and is -- in my opinion -- clearly biased against motorcycling. While some of the stats its author uses to bolster his/her positions are correct, many are misrepresented.
For just one example, the claim that moto-accidents have increased 47 percent over the last five years is likely true. But what isn't mentioned is that the number of new motorcyclists (many of whom are young and/or untrained) has increased dramatically during that time, as well. With motorcycling at a 25-year high in popularity, simple probability tells us that more riders equals more accidents.
As for all the graphic imagery -- it is what it is, but to me has little significance beyond its shock value. If you wanted to, you could just as easily put together a big, bloody webpage urging people not to ride in cars, fly in jetliners, or work in the oilfield. The world is a dangerous place and we are imperfect beings who will, at times, make mistakes. You can make anything look terrifying if you place it into the right context.
In closing, I'll offer the following statistic for some hopefully encouraging perspective: Each year in the US, 50 percent more people die of the flu and pneumonia than die in vehicle crashes, and motorcycle wrecks only account for about 9 percent of said vehicle crashes on average. Being exposed to a higher level of risk than a car driver is something motorcyclists must accept. But once accepted, successfully managing that risk through good decision-making and skill-building is a reliable, fun way to enjoy a lifetime of joy through motorcycling.
Don't let the shock merchants get you down.