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GPS Rots Your Brain

GPS Rots Your Brain

By Mike Savidge

Did you ever wonder if some of that marvelous technology that's making our lives easier could also be harmful?

Just about all of us have used GPS (The Global Positioning System) to help us find our way on the bike or in our vehicles. GPS consists of three parts:

  1. Space Segment – a collection of satellites which transmit location and time information.
  2. Control Segment – a set of worldwide monitoring and control stations responsible for maintaining the satellites and the data transmission.
  3. User Segment – these are your phones and other GPS devices which receive the satellite's signals and calculate your location.

With a GPS app, it's just about impossible to get lost these days. Paper maps are mostly a thing of the past as we use Google or Apple Maps, or any of the other electronic apps to help us find the quickest route to get from point A to point B. They can give us traffic and other info as they guide us with turn-by-turn  voice instructions. Oh, the marvels of modern science!

To understand why this system can be harmful you have to understand how the human brain works without GPS. On each side of the brain is a section called the hippocampus which houses our spatial memory and allows us to remember things like locations and how to get there.

A study was done several years ago in England by University College London. Volunteers had their brain activity monitored as they navigated a simulated neighborhood without any GPS assistance. The brain monitors showed activity in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex as the person made decisions about route options as they approached each intersection. However when the volunteers used GPS to assist them, the scientists reported that “the neural activity is noticeably absent as the brain basically lets the technology take over”. The GPS will even make corrections to the route if you happen to make a wrong turn along the way.  

It's been said the machines will eventually take over the world. This could be part of their plan.

Like any other human muscle, the brain needs exercise to stay strong and healthy. Decision making, such as when and where to make a turn, is exercise for our brains. If we've been someplace before, we rely on our memory to have the directional data. We'll look for visual clues along the way to reinforce our decisions. All of this activity puts the brain to work. That builds brain muscle. 

Reliance on GPS kicks your brain into neutral as you go along for the ride. It's Mental Cruise Control. There are so many other electronic devices that are “making our lives easier” by doing all the little things we used to have to remember. Things like measuring coffee in the morning, now we just pop in a K-cup, or whatever. Know anyone's phone number, without looking it up in your Contacts List? Ever do math without a calculator? See, we need all the mental stimulation we can get.

One highly recommended (by me) Brain Builder Activity is to use the FMR Scenic Ride Maps to give your Cerebral Cortex a workout. They're FREE. You can print them out just like those old fashioned things your Dad used and you can even read them from your phone too. And if some of our maps get you to thinking and head scratching as you try to figure out our directions. Don't worry, you can always pull out your GPS to get you home.

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How To Ride Dirt

How To Ride Dirt

By Lowell Anderson

One of my work buddies recently managed to wrangle a dirt bike from his brother-in-law. This is great news for me because living in the middle of nowhere, I am always looking for friends to ride with. So he is pumped about having the bike, and I have been giving some thought about where to take him to teach him the basics.

I have had the opportunity to teach quite a few people the basics of riding, and it is always a fulfilling/fun experience when things go well. It’s not so fun when the new rider falls, gets hurt, starts crying, or starts losing confidence too quickly. Yes, I have had a few kids start crying…they usually don’t stick with it too long. I have also seen a few adults start crying, but that’s usually due to an accident or extreme pain…You’ll have that.

If you have never ridden a dirt bike, and you watch the guys on TV, you normally think the same things I originally thought ....”I can do that”… This thought is the same thought you have to keep in your head as you are learning to ride. Unfortunately, it is also the thought that can quickly change to “I can’t do that”… faster than you can actually say it. I have learned a few things along the way that can help if you are looking to teach a child, or an adult to ride. If they stick with it, it can be something they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives. 

The first thing is to be sure they have all the proper protection. This is something I refuse to skimp on, especially when I'm teaching kids. Usually, the kids have nice gear, a helmet, and boots. That is a good start, but they also must have knee and shin protection. I had a kid fall on a track a few years back and land his knee on a small rock.  That small rock shattered his kneecap into pieces. It was a long recovery for him and he quit riding a. Not worth it. I felt terrible because I should have known better, but I didn’t check that day.

I also make sure that they are in a large enough area to learn. If your child decides to accidentally hit the gas, they need to have enough area to think and slow down. Don’t try to teach your child in your backyard unless you have a few acres of land. If I am teaching a child, I usually use some kind of throttle governor on the bike. This will keep them from going too fast in the beginning, and the governor can be adjusted back as the rider learns.

Teach them to start and stop properly. This is easy for auto clutch bikes, but making the rider start and stop over and over again, is not a bad idea. Keep the new rider away from any obstacles in the beginning. Let them get used to the controls and how to react. Knowing how to ride and control the bike is one thing, but knowing what to do when the bike is out of control is another. Once they have that, then they can slowly learn how to ride over hills and obstacles. 

Another thing I like to do is follow the rider. Getting on a bike and following them will help you see where they need help, and also will allow you to call out instructions if something goes wrong.  Many times I’ve had to yell “Let go of the throttle! Let go of the throttle!” and if I was too far away for the rider to hear me…well…ts

If you are teaching an adult rider, make sure you consider their physical condition. New riders expend a ton of energy just trying to stay on the bike. If they get too tired they will start making mistakes that can be very dangerous.  Take plenty of breaks.

Finally, keep encouraging them, and be patient. I had a hell of a time learning to ride a dirt bike in the beginning, and the people that were teaching me had to endure me falling over again and again. They stuck with me, so I stuck with riding. Now I can’t imagine not riding.

(Originally published in Go For A Ride Magazine – April 2011)

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Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming Obstacles

By Lowell Anderson

One of the toughest and most enjoyable things you can do while riding off road is clearing obstacles. Now it doesn’t have to be a jump, but most of the time, that is what you are doing. I personally love to ride moto, and because of that, I have to be able to jump. Jumping obstacles is fun, but can be very intimidating.

I have friends who don’t ride, but follow the sport quite a bit, which is cool. I am glad they like to watch, but sometimes the comments are annoying. For example we will be watching a supercross on TV and someone will say, “Why isn’t he jumping that?” I have to laugh because they do not understand what it takes to ride at a pro level. Those guys on TV are risking life and limb every time they get on their bike. And they make it look so easy. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy! I wish I could get all my buddies out and put them on a bike in front of a jump and just let them try it. They would get a clear understanding of the risk real quick. Obviously I can’t do that because it would mean several trips to the local emergency room and I would quickly be out of friends.

I ride at different tracks all the time and that means I have to get used to different obstacles. The jumps I attempt are much smaller in scale of course, but still challenging to me.  I often find myself battling with one obstacle on the track that I can’t seem to pull the trigger on, and that can be really frustrating. I really don’t have any issues not jumping certain obstacles anymore. I’m old and slow nowadays, so letting one or two go is not something I really struggle with. I do however get really pissed off when I can’t pull the trigger on a jump that I know I can do. Sometimes when I ride I wear a Go Pro so I can watch the video at home and show the wife and kids what I did all day. It’s funny how depressing  that video can be sometimes. Seeing myself pass an obstacle lap after lap and wondering why the heck I just didn’t do the stupid thing.

When you find yourself struggling with that one jump, there are a bunch of things that you can consider in your mind. There are usually two different conversations that I have with myself inside my helmet.  The first one usually goes, “Well there is that jump again… I don’t have to do that thing. I’m no spring chicken anymore, and I gotta work tomorrow.” The other conversation is much shorter and to the point; “You Pussy! Freakin hit that thing!” Now If that second conversation happens, that usually means come hell or high water the next time around the track I’m going to do the jump. It’s not always the best decision, but it’s what I love. The challenge to overcome your fear is a rush, and it makes the accomplishment that much sweeter!

Anytime you jump something for the first time, there is a sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach just before you hit the face of the jump. Kind of like when someone tells you something really bad is going to happen. It’s a fear of the unknown. To clear any jump, the first thing you have to do is commit. Committing to something without knowing the outcome is one of the hardest things you can do. Scary as hell, and all you can do is keep it pinned and hope for the best. If you make it, the feeling is great. If you don’t, it usually means a trip to the hospital or, at the least, you are gonna experience some pain. Coming up short hurts! I seem to come out on the good end of the stick most of the time, but on occasion the cards don’t fall my way. It’s amazing how long a few seconds can feel when you are in the air and you know you are going to eat crap…not fun.

When you do finally clear a jump for the first time, there is a huge feeling of accomplishment that you get. The feeling instantly changes and a sense of relief overwhelms you. It’s got to be one of the best feelings you can experience. I guess that’s why people love this sport so much. 

Next time you catch some motocross on the TV, try to picture yourself really doing something like that. It changes the way you watch the race.

(Originally published  in Go For A Ride Magazine – May 2014)

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A Look at Recent Motorcycle Crash Data

A Look at Recent Motorcycle Crash Data

By The Fran Haasch Law Group

As a motorcycle rider, you already understand that riding can be statistically more dangerous than driving, especially when negligent motorists are on the road. What are the odds of getting into a motorcycle accident, though? Are they as high as people seem to assume? Taking a look at some recent motorcycle crash data statistics can shed some light on the situation.


Recent Data from the NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal entity tasked with tracking and reporting yearly motor vehicle accident statistics. They are a reliable source for information regarding motorcycle accident trends and interpreting what they mean. Since it takes some time to collect data and analyze it accurately, 2018 is the most recent year available for motorcycle crash data from the NHTSA.

According to NHTSA’s recent findings:

  • 4,985 motorcyclists lost their lives in motorcycle accidents in 2018.
  • Motorcyclist deaths declined almost 5% from 2017, which was 3% lower than in 2016. This is an encouraging trend.
  • Approximately 25% of motorcyclists who lost their lives in crashes were drunk while riding.
  • 29% of motorcycle riders who lost their lives in 2018 did not use a Department of Transportation compliant helmet while riding, which dramatically increased their risk of death in a crash.

The quick takeaway from the NHTSA data is that more riders need to wear approved helmets while riding. It also reveals that there is a significant problem with intoxicated riding that must be addressed. Please always wear your DOT-compliant helmet and never drink and ride.


Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles Crash Data

What does the data show for Florida specifically? The Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) department has recently published 2018 crash data about all accident types in the state. Looking through their findings, we can learn a little more about trends in Florida motorcycle accidents.

Key notes from the FHSMV 2018 statistics:

  • 531 fatal motorcycle accidents were reported throughout Florida.
  • 7,849 motorcyclists reported being seriously injured in crashes.
  • 25 motorcycle passengers lost their lives in reported crashes.
  • 621 motorcycle passengers were injured in serious motorcycle accidents.
  • Only 1,225 motorcycle riders in crashes reported no injuries.
  • Roughly 50% of motorcycle accidents involved a motorcyclist with a no helmet or a non-DOT-compliant helmet.
  • Volusia County reported some of the highest numbers of motorcycle crashes in Florida with 503 reports in 2018 or one motorcycle accident every 18 hours or so.


Additional Data from the III

The Insurance Information Institute (III) is an independent safety organization that uses insurance claim information to compile crash data each year. Without direct ties to the federal government, the III sometimes takes a little longer to research data and release their findings. Currently, most of their information is reliant on 2016 data, but it is still quite useful when getting an understanding of motorcycle crash statistics in the country.

According to information gathered by the III:

  • Proper motorcycle helmet usage has actually increased by about 15% in the last 10 years. The lowest point on their records is a concerning dip to just 48% in 2005.
  • In 2016, the motorcyclist fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 25.85, the highest it has ever been recorded by the III.
  • In 2015, approximately 88,000 motorcyclists were suffered nonfatal injuries in crashes. This amount is about 10% of all motorcycle riders with registered rides.
  • 21% of all fatal motorcycle accidents are reported between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Another 20% occur between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM.

From the III provided information, we can readily see a couple of important notes. Firstly, learning that 10% of all motorcyclists are injured in a crash each year is concerning. Every rider must always be cautious and aware of their surroundings to stay off this high statistic. Secondly, it is clear that traffic complications caused by rush hour and the sunset spike the chances of a motorcycle accident. If you need to ride during these hours, then you should pay even extra attention to the road.

From all of us at The Fran Haasch Law Group, we wish all motorcyclists safe rides each and every day. If you’re ever in an accident in or around Clearwater, we would like to see if we can help you pursue compensation.
Call (727) 784-8191 to connect with our Florida motorcycle accident attorneys.

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There Are Two Kinds Of Riders

There Are Two Kinds Of Riders

By Stacey “Ax” Axmaker

I’m sure that we have all heard this phrase – “There are two kinds of riders; those who have gone down, and those who will go down.” 

I’d like to suggest that we STOP saying this – especially to new riders. Let’s talk about why I feel that way.

#1 – It’s an opinion, not a fact. It can be proven true (but it also can be proven untrue; just find a rider who has never crashed and has recently passed away of natural causes.)

#2 – There are multiple strategies and techniques that arm riders to avoid crashing. You can find them in books, videos, and rider training courses. 

#3 – Giving up. This one is probably the least thought of reason, but can have some severe consequences. Let’s picture a new rider who has been told that ‘sooner or later, all riders crash’. When this new rider gets into a situation with crash potential (skidding rear tire, car pulls out in front of them, starting to run wide in a curve, bike starts to fall over at low speed, etc.), they may simply decide that ‘this must be my time to crash’ – in other words, they give up and accept the crash as inevitable. When the human mind holds a thought like this, the motivation to think of solutions and act on them diminishes, and the belief that there simply may not be a solution grows. 

The late Ron Shepard (former MSF staffer and director of the Idaho STAR program) was fond of the phrase “Never throw away a perfectly good motorcycle.” What this means is that while crashes do happen, and any given riding situation could end up in a crash – you don’t have to help it get there (don’t lay it down to avoid the crash). Another longtime rider education expert put it this way, “If you’re going to crash, ride it all the way to the ground.” The reasoning being that if you keep riding it (stay on the bike, stay in control, use the controls, look where you want to go, etc.), you stand a good chance of not crashing. In other words, don’t give up.

We want all riders to ride with the belief that what happens to them when they ride is primarily up to them. Yes, crashes happen, and all riders should be aware of and prepared for that possibility (armed with skills and dressed to survive a crash). However, the reality is that crashing is not inevitable. We – as veteran riders – have a responsibility to the new riders. Let’s NOT teach them to give up.

(Stacey “Ax” Axmaker is the Founder and Owner of Be Crash Free)

(This article originally appeared in Go For A Ride Magazine July 2011)

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