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Think it Through 


The Jack Daniel’s Indian Scout says “bottles and throttles don’t mix.” But statistics prove they mix all the time


In March 2018, Indian and Jack Daniel’s announced a limited edition Scout, the two brands “celebrating shared values” with an “ultra-premium” motorcycle inspired by the paint scheme on Jack Daniel’s Tennessee distillery firetrucks. The bike, according to Indian president Steve Menneto, would “honour the passion and dedication of firefighters and emergency medical responders who serve our country.” Bike number one of the edition of 177 was reserved for a raffle restricted to first responders.   


One month prior to the Jack Daniel’s Indian Scout introduction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, released motorcycle accident data. In 2016, in the U.S., 5,286 motorcyclists were killed, a 5.1 percent increase from 2015. Per vehicle mile travelled, according to the NHTSA, motorcyclists were killed 28 times more frequently than were those fatally wounded in car crashes. Of particular note, found the NHTSA, the rate of alcohol impairment for motorcyclists killed was higher than for “any other vehicle type.” Twenty-five percent of dead motorcyclists were alcohol impaired. For single-vehicle motorcycle deaths, 37 percent were officially drunk, a number that jumped to 55 percent at night on weekends.  


Since we’re running the numbers, The University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences, in a 2017 survey of first responders, found 85 percent have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues. Eighty-four percent experienced a traumatic event on the job. Thirty-four percent received a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder. Twenty-seven percent have been diagnosed with depression. Ten percent have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. 


Given the loaded history of motorcycling’s relationship with alcohol, Jack Daniel’s and Indian are a suspect pairing. Even Indian’s caveat (the “bottles and throttles don’t mix” disclaimer is a front fender sticker) and a prize (the raffle bike) do not make this escapade less dubious. Polaris, with the distaste of the Victory motorcycle debacle still on its palate, is so keen to equate Indian with successful heritage brands like Jack Daniel’s that they didn’t ponder the ramifications of the union. President Menneto said, of Indian and Jack Daniel’s, “You won’t find two brands that better represent the American dream.”    


But even more problematic than the alcohol and motorcycling aspect of this “American dream” co-production is the “frontline worker” reference. Frontline workers face the unimaginable, and, as statistics show, our drinking and riding forms no small part of the emotional trauma they’ll forever live with. Foolishly, I asked an ambulance attendant about her experience with motorcycle crashes. The images that remain from her detailed description I shall never shake, nor retell to another. But know this: there is horror far worse than death itself.

Firetrucks were inspiration for the Scout's paintwork. Or a '74 Commando. The Jack Daniel's Chief came with a wooden flag. This time the perk is an axe. If you use it to break into a convenience store, just don't leave it behind. Your name is engraved on the head.   

Film footage below is an excellent example of the correct use of Jack Daniel's. Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark knock back Tennessee's finest while singing songs 'round the table. Note, however, that Earle has been married seven times, which is not unrelated to the spirited ingestion of Jack Daniel's.

Rather than elevating the status of your motorcycle by riding on the coattails of emergency workers, wouldn’t it be admirable if Indian (or any motorcycle company, or better yet, all of them) made a meaningful difference in the lives of those tasked with helping us when things go horribly wrong. Given the risks inherent to motorcycling, a motorcycle company earmarking a portion of its profits to support counselling and rehabilitation services for first responders would be corporate governance at its most laudable.

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