Defensive driving a must for motorcyclists

Foothills: Responsibility on all drivers on the road.

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 03:53 pm

A motorcycle sits damaged after a collision in July. The driver suffered serious injuries.
A motorcycle sits damaged after a collision in July. The driver suffered serious injuries.
Wheel File Photo

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As soon as the streets are dry, many motorcyclists are often eager to pull the tarp off and hit the roads, but by the end of summer, a number of those eager motorcyclists end up with a crumpled bike, injuries or possibly even losing their life.

A number of motorcycle accidents have occurred this summer in the Foothills resulting in critical injuries and fatalities.

Okotoks RCMP sergeant Donna Rorison said while there have been numerous motorcycle accidents, it’s unfortunately something they’ve grown accustomed to.

“I don’t know what the stats say, but we always have a lot of motorcycle accidents each summer,” she said.

Fred Stegmeier is an avid motorcyclist in the foothills area, but he’s also the former Foothills Emergency Medical Services operations coordinator. He said his training as a paramedic helps him keep safe on his bike, but many people don’t realize that driving a motorcycle requires a different driving style.

“From a paramedic’s point of view, one of the things we learn as we start to drive ambulances is to be way more aware of the traffic around us,” Stegmeier said. “We look way farther down the road than most people do, so you see situations building before you get into a dangerous situation.”

As a paramedic, Stegmeier has seen his fair share of motorcycle accidents, and said the responsibility isn’t just on motorcyclists, but on every other driver on the road as well.

“It’s incredibly frustrating when people pretend they didn’t see us. They’re texting, reaching for their radio, turned talking to their kids instead of paying attention, and that’s the biggest hazard to a motorcyclist is people just not paying attention,” he said.

Stegmeier said one of the biggest problems is that due to the short riding season in Canada people aren’t used to sharing the road with motorcycles or keeping an eye out for them 80 per cent of the year.

“Always assume that the drivers around you don’t see you. Always assume they will do something wrong one of the big troubles is we always assume someone will wait for us if they want to turn left, if we come to an intersection, we assume that the person is going to stop, because even if you have the right of way, you're still going to lose if you're on a motorcycle,” he said. “You have to drive more defensively than everyone else on the road.”

While you can’t control what others do on the road, motorcyclists can take charge of their own driving behaviour. Not everyone has the driving training of a paramedic, but there are a number of motorcycle schools that offer courses to help refresh motorcyclists of their defensive driving skills.

“Any motorcyclist to get their license should take one of those courses, they're absolutely incredible,” he said. “They teach you a lot about defensive driving. They teach you how to avoid incidents, which is the biggest thing on a bike.

“Everybody I’ve ever talked to who has taken one has been very satisfied with it, and really learned a lot of important things, like how to balance a bike and start off properly without wandering all over the road all those little things that can keep you out of trouble.”

No matter how great your driving skills are, if you don’t have the right bike, you could still end up in a dangerous situation.

“I was in Blackfoot Motorcycle and a dad was buying his son a crotch rocket that was capable of doing 310 km and could get there in a matter of seconds, and I went to him and said ‘I'm a paramedic I can’t just not tell you, you shouldn’t do this. He's not capable of handling this motorcycle, He’s going to die,’” Stegmeier said. “(The courses) teach you how to fit a bike, because they're all different sizes and shapes and they show you how to buy the one that you can handle the best. They're great courses, I couldn’t say enough good things to recommend them.”


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