I posted this article many years ago, and still get people asking to see it again. It was written by Dave Despain back in 2002, but is still true today. Of course we support his position. Enjoy
An Open Letter to the Soccer Moms of America
Bishop, Georgia, Feb. 3
— First, this is not what you think. It's not about your driving. The
soccer ball in your mini-van window has long-since replaced the
dangling "Baby on Board" sign in the Civic. Your children are growing
and developing, even if Mom's vehicular skills aren't. But let others
complain about your unpredictability in traffic. I'm over that. In
fact I appreciate that you put those little signs in the window or on
the bumper, those early-warning signals of a driver not paying
attention, of someone with more important things to think about than
driving in general and the presence of my motorcycle in particular.
Precisely because you are so inattentive, getting around you is
rarely a problem. And once you're in my mirrors, you are much less a
threat to me.
Maybe it's a sign of maturity or perhaps you just wore me down. But
whatever the reason, my road-going patience level has increased over
time; my inner Don Quixote no longer tilts at the windmill of bad
driving. I accept the fact that bimbos use the rear-view as a make-up
mirror, yuppies check the Journal stock prices at freeway speed, and
blue hairs with the blinker on forever plug up the passing line. I
now accept that it's too late to change the ingrained habits of
existing drivers. But it's not too late for your son.
And so I'd like to offer this simple proposition: I think you should
buy your kid a dirt bike. I'll wait a moment now for the explosion to
pass, the emotion, the expletives. I can almost hear it: "My kid will
apprentice for Marilyn Manson before he'll ride a damned motorcycle!"
Look, I understand how you feel. I really do. My mother felt the same
way. But let's try to get past the emotion and deal with a very
unpleasant reality: The greatest danger confronting your son in his
late teens will be death by automobile accident. Much as you may fear
the motorcycle, with all the connotations of danger our society
attaches to it, the truth is that more young men are killed by their
cars than by any other cause.
So I ask you for a moment to think beyond the soccer years. I know
this is a great time for you, offering the luxury of control over
your offspring. At this age, Junior has no choice but to do what you
tell him. My challenge to you is to understand that this will change
in years to come, and to prepare him for the day when he goes out
into the big bad world of motorized travel, alone with his driving
Fast-forward to his first year out of high school. He's cruising in
the car you bought him for graduation. Suddenly, by dint of
mechanical failure, someone else's error, his own shortcomings or the
simple fact that "stuff happens," he's in over his head. He will lose
control in the next couple of seconds unless he's capable of
threshold braking, steering inputs at the traction limit, and
instantaneous high-stress decision-making. Those terms are Greek to
you, but in that moment of highway crisis, they are the only things
that can save your kid's life.
And will Junior be prepared to effectively deal with this potentially
life-threatening moment? Not likely. The fatality stats are what they
are because there is precious little opportunity for the average kid
to learn the skills he needs to stay alive in traffic.
The people our society chooses to put in charge of such matters seem
to believe that unskilled and slow drivers are safer than well-
trained and aggressive drivers, statistical evidence notwithstanding.
Driver education? Try Sears! Teach him yourself? The less said about
that the better. The sad fact is that your son will have little or no
chance to learn about vehicle dynamics before he begins to drive.
Unless, of course, you buy him that dirt bike.
Riding motorcycles in the dirt is spectacularly effective training.
It tests traction and balance skills that will otherwise never
develop. Far from the danger of oncoming cars, the beginning dirt
rider is free to make his mistakes, fall down, and learn from the
experience. The skills developed on two wheels quickly and easily
translate to the much simpler challenge of operating a vehicle with
four wheels. Racing history is full of evidence that motorcycle
riders grow up to be excellent car drivers.
And beyond those important skills, your child will also learn from
his dirt bike an attitude that I consider invaluable for anyone
venturing into traffic. "Crashing sucks," motorcycle riders say,
because they understand important truths about consequences. Too much
throttle here, too much brake there, too much speed for conditions,
not looking far enough out front; these operator infractions all
trigger the predictable consequence of falling down and feeling pain.
In the Pavlovian corners of our brains, we learn not to do those
In other words, dirt riders learn to AVOID accidents, a skill that is
largely untrained and thus grossly underdeveloped in the American
automotive realm. Perhaps catering to the soccer mom mentality,
American traffic safety is all about belts and bags, seats and
restraints, impact resistance and crash survivability. Our system
accepts without complaint the inevitability of accidents and tries to
force auto makers to build more bulletproof cocoons, in preparation
for the moment when the poor dummy runs into something.
Motorcyclists see the world differently. We reject the notion that
crashing is inevitable. We shed the cocoon and rely on accident
avoidance to get us safely through the day. The truth is so obvious
and simple that I fail to understand why you and the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration can't see it; if there is no accident,
there will be no death and injury.
One more thing; aside from the skill set he will develop, there are
tangential benefits to pointing your kid down the dirt bike path.
Given the opportunity to test his personal performance envelope off
the road, he'll likely feel less need to prove anything on it.
Saturday night street drag races are less appealing to a kid who's
focused on Sunday morning riding. And the confidence that comes from
mastering an activity that others view as dangerous is a great
antidote for those deadly companion plagues--testosterone and peer
And so I encourage you to at least think about this motorcycle thing
in a different light. Get past all the "organ donor" jokes and
stories about somebody whose uncle was killed on a bike. Think about
the big picture. Anticipate that day when you can no longer wrap your
child in layers of maternal security. It's a big, bad, dangerous
world out there, particularly for beginning drivers. The statistics
tell us it is so. Give your kid a fighting chance. Give him the
opportunity to learn on two wheels the skills that can keep him alive