Tristin Burdick | September 21, 2023
The Answer: A lot
The exhilarating blend of speed, skill, and thrill draws many to the sport. But with that ‘adrenaline-pumping excitement’ comes a sense of responsibility. It’s not about mastering the machine or conquering terrains, but also about ensuring one’s safety and that of others. Every twist of the throttle or maneuver made is a testament to the fine balance between the pursuit of adrenaline and the commitment to safety. This is what sets powersports apart, providing a challenge to those that are daring and a lesson in discipline for all.
In light of this, we wanted to understand the intricate nature of powersports safety. More so in the sense of how consumers view and perceive safety within the sport. We’re hoping we may uncover something new or provide evidence of existing trends.
The initial findings reveal an almost unanimous sentiment: safety isn't just a concern—it's a cornerstone of the overall experience. The sections that follow will unpack the behaviors and analyze the roles of training, community influence, and manufacturer commitments in shaping the safety landscape of powersports.
Behaviors: Safety Practices & Precautions
Safety, often seen as a responsibility, is directly influenced by individual behaviors. While the thrill of speed and adventure beckon, a majority of powersports consumers prioritize safety above all else.
Confidence and Experience: Experience, for many, becomes a protective shield. Our survey highlights that a significant number of consumers are confident in their knowledge of powersports safety—a confidence often rooted in their years of engagement with the sport. Experience brings familiarity, but it can sometimes lead to complacency. Hence, continuous learning may be key to refreshing or improving safety skills among seasoned riders.
Protective Gear: There’s no question that protective gear plays a major role in consumers’ behavior toward safety. Most will opt to wear safety gear (no surprise there). Helmets often being preferable (especially for motorcyclists). It’s understood that any protection worn can be the difference between a minor mishap and a life-altering injury.
Safety Courses: The first line of safety is protective gear. But the zero line is knowledge about safety. Roughly 70% of respondents in our survey have participated in a powersports-related safety course. These courses, with a predominant focus on motorcycles but also covering boats and snowmobiles, provide participants with the skills required to navigate potential hazards and operate their vehicles in a safe way. It's also notable that many of these consumers have witnessed or been involved in accidents, suggesting that firsthand experiences could serve as catalysts for seeking structured safety training.
Weather Awareness: Nature, while offering breathtaking backdrops for powersports, can also be unpredictable. A significant number of respondents (59%) always ensure they're one step ahead by checking the weather before embarking on their journey, while another 36% do so most of the time. This behavior tells us that personal precautions aren’t the sole proprietor to safety, but that external forces also play a role.
Our findings thus far paint an optimistic picture of the safety behaviors within the powersports community. However, safety behaviors aren’t static, it’s a continuous journey to enforce or sometimes reinforce behaviors. The fact that so many consumers are already on this path is encouraging. Yet, there’s always more to learn, more to adapt, and more to teach.
Vehicle Choices & Maintenance as a Behavior
In powersports, a vehicle isn't just a mode of transport; it's an extension of the rider. Therefore, the choices consumers make about their vehicles, and the maintenance routines they adopt, reveal a great deal about their safety behavior.
Motorcycles, especially, stand out in the survey. Given their inherent exposure on shared roads, where they compete for space with larger vehicles, over half of our respondents have installed safety modifications. These adaptations, often prioritizing braking systems and visibility enhancements, are proactive measures to reduce vulnerability.
When purchasing or evaluating powersports vehicles, consumers exhibit observable preferences. They scrutinize key safety components, with a remarkable 81% prioritizing the braking system. The suspension system, maintenance records, and engine power also emerge as vital checkpoints, revealing that consumers seek a holistic understanding of a vehicle's safety profile rather than isolated features.
Maintenance isn't just about vehicle longevity; it's a direct contributor to safety. Different vehicles have varying care frequencies, influenced by usage patterns and seasonal considerations. For example, while a Personal Watercraft (PWC) might demand frequent servicing due to intensive summer use, a snowmobile might have maintenance peaks in winter. Regardless of the vehicle type, proactive maintenance – whether as-needed or periodic – underscores a behavior rooted in ensuring optimal vehicle performance and safety.
In essence, every decision, from vehicle selection to its upkeep, is instilled with safety considerations. For powersports consumers, the vehicle serves as both the thrill-provider and the safety shield, and their choices reflect this dual expectation.
Perceptions of Community, Training, & Manufacturers
The survey reveals that 65% of consumers believe that the powersports community actively and effectively promotes safety. This communal backing reinforces individual safety behaviors and fosters a collective responsibility. Yet, there's a caveat: the notable mention of 'lack of training' in our survey as a perceived shortcoming indicates that the community, while on the right track, still has milestones to achieve in its safety advocacy.
Continual training emerges as a recurring theme. Despite the evident participation in safety courses by many respondents, there's a consensus that more can be done. The emphasis on training, combined with the experiences of accidents among participants, underscores the need for regular, updated, and diversified safety training.
The manufacturing giants in powersports aren't merely profit-seekers; they're seen as pillars of safety. The perception that manufacturers prioritize safety in their designs is a significant vote of confidence. As technologies evolve, consumers have noticed and applauded advancements, especially in braking and traction control systems. This mutual expectation and acknowledgment between consumers and manufacturers ensure that safety remains a core value in design and innovation.
Bridging Perception and Behavior
Our insights offer a window into a community that deeply values safety, both as a perception and a practiced behavior. While consumers chase the thrill of speed and adventure, they are acutely aware of the symbiotic relationship between enjoyment and safety. From wearing protective gear to investing in continuous training and valuing manufacturers' safety innovations, their choices consistently mirror this commitment. Yet, as with any dynamic community, there's always room for growth and learning. By fostering a tighter alignment between perception and behavior, the powersports community can ensure that safety remains as the cornerstone of powersports.