American 'Road Rash Queen's' message to Kiwi motorcyclists

Any motorcycle buff will understand why Brittany Morrow is happiest on her bike.

"I'm not in a box, I'm not covered up by a roof or glass windows," she says. "I'm experiencing everything there is to experience about that place. It just makes me feel alive."

Fourteen years ago, it seemed her riding days were over. At just 20, she came off the back of a motorbike at well over 100 kilometres an hour, wearing a borrowed helmet and no protective gear.

She left half her skin on the gravel as she skidded an agonising 160 metres down the road.

This week, the 34-year-old American heads to New Zealand to share her remarkable story with Kiwi motorcyclists. She'll speak to crowds at 'Shiny Side Up', a joint initiative between ACC's Ride Forever safety programme and the NZ Transport Agency. The name comes from a saying among riders about keeping your bike upright.

Organisers say anyone who attends the 11 events nationwide will leave a better rider than when they arrived. They hope to tackle statistics which show:

120,000 motorcyclists make up three percent of all road users, but account for 16 percent of road deaths, and 10 percent of injuries.

One in every 20 bikers will be injured within the year.

In 2018, 54 bikers did not come home to their families. 

NZTA ACC Shiny Side Up
After a serious motorbike accident Brittany Morrow is supporting the Shiny Side Up campaign. Photo credit: NZTA/ACC

"It's a must for all motorcyclists," the Transport Agency's Safety and Environment Director Harry Wilson says. "A great chance to meet fellow riders, see the latest technologies and protective gear and improve their riding skills."

In sharing her story, Brittany wants to put a human face to 'all the numbers that get thrown at us as motorcyclists.' "It takes a bit of personalising the message in order for someone to think twice," she says.

Known as "The Queen of Road Rash", she'll talk about not just the pain she endured to graft her skin back together, but the lasting scars.

"My normal skin that is connected to the scar tissue constantly feels like it's trying to rip apart. It feels like I'm in a leather skin suit that is too tight for my body.

"My main message is anything can happen at any time, and we can prepare ourselves to either prevent those things from happening in the first place or we can reduce the amount of damage when they do happen."

NZTA ACC Shiny Side Up
Brittany Morrow shares photos of her scars after her serious motorbike accident. Photo credit: NZTA/ACC

Other world-leading experts in their field are also flying in, including Australian gear safety expert Dr Chris Hurren, American suspension guru Dave Moss, and Survival Skills' Kevin Williams, from the UK, who will discuss visibility and evasive action.

The four Bike Fests in Nelson, Kapiti, New Plymouth and Hampton Downs promise a 'Big Day Out' for motorcyclists, with riding skills demonstrations, mechanics workshops, international speakers, gymkhana and entertainment.

In addition, there is a talk series, with evening presentations by international tech gurus and personalities in Christchurch, Napier, Gisborne, Tauranga, Taupo, Auckland and Invercargill.

Brittany says every motorcyclist in the country should be attending. She's spent the last 10 years working as a motorbike safety instructor, and knows how vital ongoing training is.

"Most riders, especially if we've been riding for a long time, we think we know everything. We think we're good riders and we know all there is to know about motorcycle safety. But one of the most important messages is 'you don't know what you don't know," she says.

NZTA ACC Shiny Side Up
Brittany Morrow enjoys time on her motorbike. Photo credit: NZTA/ACC

At Shiny Side Up, motorcyclists can sign up to refresh their skills with Ride Forever coaching, a training programme developed by ACC.

Their figures show riders who have completed the course are 27 percent less likely to have an injury (and an ACC claim) compared to riders who haven't.

The subsidised cost for the course is from $20 (four hours) to $50 (eight hours.)

Brittany still rides fast. But she knows her limits. Every time she gets on her bike, she thinks about who else is affected by the decisions she makes.

"Whenever I'm on the motorcycle I imagine [my parents are] with me on the back of the bike. If I'm safe, they're safe. If I crash, they crash. That's my motivation for making good decisions. I've already done that to them once. No family deserves that sort of pain and grief if it's preventable. "

Shiny Side Up runs between February 3 and March 4, 2019.

This article was created for NZTA and ACC.

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