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Motorcycle Insurance Agent Rides One Herself

I read an article once that said women truckers are better drivers because they're more attentive. And I've always kind of felt that carried over to motorcycling. But I don't know if it's true.

I started riding a motorcycle around 1990. A family member was a motorcyclist, and I went on a fairly long trip. I loved being on the motorcycle, but I hated being the passenger. So I became determined to learn to ride myself.

I started learning on a Yamaha Virago 750. I had my first accident on the way to the DMV to do my riding test. I turned right on a red light, and a woman was changing lanes in the intersection - so we ran into each other. I still have a dent in my leg.

During all the years I've been riding, I've gone from a Virago to a Honda Shadow 1100 and a Kawasaki Vulcan 1500. Then I got into Harleys and had a Dyna Wide Glide and a Road Glide.

Personality and bike

Different personalities are drawn to different bikes. I think I'm putting on different personas and addressing different parts of my personality on each bike. The Harley is much more of a showoff bike. It's loud. It's "Look at me. I am pretty cool."

My husband taught me dirt riding. And he also taught me that it's OK to drop your bike. He's a geologist, and he would find places for us to go and camp out. I would always try to follow him, and inevitably I would drop my bike. Every major trip with my husband, if I don't spill once we haven't had any fun.

30-30-30 rule

I tell everyone that I believe in the 30-30-30 rule. Thirty percent of the people on the road hear you, see you, feel you, make room for you, let you white-line. They really appreciate who you are and watch out for you. They're like guardians on the road.

Another 30 percent of people on the road, if they killed you, they would hate themselves. They'd feel guilty for the rest of their lives. It would be a horrific, traumatic experience. They just didn't see you.

And the other 30 percent hate you. They don't like the way you ride. You're in their way. You're a hazard. You're getting where you want to go, and they're not. And I'd say about 1 percent of those people would take you out if they could.

A motorcyclist has to be more vigilant than a car driver. You're small; people don't see you. And on certain bikes, they don't hear you. I do believe that loud pipes save lives.

Biggest killers

When you're in traffic, you keep your antenna up. You watch eyes, you watch heads move. You watch hubcaps, because you might not see a car moving but you can see the hubcap moving. And a lot of accidents are around cars turning in front of you - coming out of an intersection or turning at a light because they've not judged the distance of the bike.

Fear and nonattention are the biggest killers. I've had near-misses. I've been day-dreaming or thinking about something else or looking at something else, and all of a sudden I look ahead of me and the traffic has stopped. And I'm lucky that I looked.

Insurance rates are cheaper for motorcycle riders than for car drivers. The damage a biker can do to someone else is less than what you could do if you were driving a car. The liability exposure is less. Except for a Harley and some other bikes in the $15,000 to $20,000 range, motorcycles are less expensive than most cars.

Focused on bikers

The biggest misconception about insurance agents? I think we're looked upon as salesmen looking at the commission as the most important part of our job. Good insurance agents know their client, understand their client risks and advise accordingly.

I love being on the motorcycle. I love the freedom. The wind. Versatility. Convenience. I like knowing that I'm going to be able to get where I'm going because I can white-line if there's traffic. I like the feeling of flying.

I feel like I become part of a machine, understanding that the metal is by far much more determined to do what it's going to do if I lose control of it. So I have a great respect for that.

In the advertisement she runs in an Oakland neighborhood paper, Susan Bernosky writes, "Get your motorcycle insurance from someone who rides a motorcycle."

An insurance agent since 1987, Bernosky, 52, runs an independent insurance agency in the Rockridge district of North Oakland. She has three grown children and two stepchildren, and lives in Fremont with her husband of nine years, Dave Bernosky. The couple met at Burning Man.