Motorcycle Safety

Rob Caughlan

Tame The Iron Horse

1986-1996: California Highway Patrol

For a decade the Roanoke Company managed all the media for the California Highway Patrol motorcycle safety program.

“Between 1986 and 1999, California enjoyed a 13-year decline in motorcycle-involved fatal and severe injury collisions.” -

The Roanoke Company had billboards made, ran magazine ads, and even made decals. Nothing was too small to get the point across.

Decals encouraged riders to “Tame The Iron Horse” by taking a California Motorcycle Training course.

billboard for motorcycle safety

Billboards that said “My Grandson Rides a Motorcycle...Please Drive Carefully” encouraged drivers to be more alert to motorcycles on the road. Too often motorcycles are hit because drivers don't see them and change lanes or turn without looking for them.

motorcycle license awareness

Ads that headlined “Riding Without Your License Can Ruin Your Whole Day.” also included copy that explained: “It can leave your bike hanging--from the back of a tow truck. Your wallet empty--from fines and fees and charges. Your legs tired--from miles and miles of walking. And if you happen to be riding with a suspended or revoked license, it can leave you stuck in jail. So get with it. Get licensed. – California Campaign To License Motorcyclists”

The Roanoke Company's campaigns helped reduce motorcycle fatality in California by 70%.

Sadly, without campaigns like this, today the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) will tell you that starting in 1999, motorcycle-involved fatal and injury collisions steadily increased over a 10-year period and peaked in 2008.

“A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report shows that for the same per-mile exposure, motorcyclists are roughly 28 times more likely to die than occupants of other vehicles.” -

– and –

“The primary cause for 59 percent of the motorcycle collisions were attributed to three factors: unsafe speed, improper turning, and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.” -

For more information on the California Motorcyclist Safety Program go to:

Caughlan on PSA Motorcycle Blues: “The California Department of Motor Vehicles hired Roanoke to try and get more motorcycle riders to obtain their licenses. Unlicensed riders get killed at a much higher rate. Our focus groups showed that they were not afraid of death or dismemberment. They weren't too concerned about their riders. But they were terrified of thinking about their bikes dangling from the back of a tow truck. I first thought up the towing conclusion for the ad, then I worked my way back to the beginning of the ride. We also produced a short educational video that we sent to schools and motorcycle shops.”

Caughlan on PSA The Driver series: “The Driver series of television public service announcements was part of a major project Roanoke did for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The goal was to see if prime time messages could influence an accident statistic. We targeted the messages to the worst area for drunk driving in California. We looked at l00 PSAs that had been done on drunk driving.They all showed either scare tactics, or intervention. Our fabled TV director Christ Blum came up with something that hadn't been tried before - The Designated Driver. He made it actually cool to be The Driver. It worked! The young guys bought into it and the accident rate dropped by a significant amount.”