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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Riding and Risk*

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
August 15, 2010
as "Motorcycles Can Be Risky Rides"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

A couple of years ago I discovered a neat tool, part of the Google universe, called “Google Alerts.” You designate key words and an email address, and Google then searches the ‘Net 24/7 for results. As the backbone of my job is research, this has made things easier to find those needed snippets of information. Most of my alerts are work-related, but some of them are there just for fun.

One alert I titled simply “motorcycle.” My intent was to keep up to date on new developments in the industry as well as finding about motorcycle events around the nation.

However, as a by-product of that search I also get news reports of accidents as well.

I read these, not out of a prurient or morbid interest, but as a way to learn more about safe riding. Surprisingly, in these reports, it seems that most of these accidents involve factors that are in the control of the rider.

These are a representative sample:

In Clearwater, Florida, a car pulled out of a driveway on one side of a street at the same time a motorcycle pulled out from a driveway across the road, turning in the opposite direction. The two collided, the rider taken to the hospital.

Near Sacramento, California, a group of sport riders were practicing stunts on the streets of an undeveloped subdivision. One rider, after completing a trick made a sharp U-turn, turning into the path of another bike. The two collided, killing the rider of the second bike. Said one of the witnesses, "Each one of us... We got a real reality hit. We gotta think twice about everything. I told myself: I'm not riding anymore. Physically can't. Mentally can't."

In Emery County, Utah, a man driving a Mazda sedan drifted across the centerline, colliding with a motorcycle. The rider died.

A U.S. Army Sergeant from Ft. Bliss, Texas was riding with a group of bikes. He lost control of his bike and hit a stop sign. He died at the scene.

A motorcyclist was traveling northbound on Aberdeen Road in Hampton, Virginia at around 5:30 a.m. when he hit a curb, lost control and hit a pole. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

In Yorkville, Wisconsin, a biker tried to pass an SUV that was turning left into a driveway. The bike ended up under the SUV, the rider dead.

Near Beaver Creek, Ohio, a riding couple was exiting off I-675 when they hit some debris in the roadway. Both were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Between Campbelltown and Colebrook, PA, a rider was riding on South Forge Road late one night when he traveled off the roadway, hitting a PENNDOT sign and a mailbox. The rider died of multiple blunt force trauma. He was less than a mile from home.

In North Haven, Connecticut, a rider on her way to work crossed the centerline and hit a minivan head on. She later died at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

In Chocolay Township, Michigan, a father and daughter from Ontario were riding eastbound on M-28 when a sedan pulled out in front of them. The motorcycle hit the side of her car. The rider and passenger were both taken to Marquette General for minor injuries. The picture of the wrecked motorcycle showed no skid marks behind the bike. Apparently, he was so close to the other vehicle, he had no time to react.

Outside of Henderson, Kentucky, a motorcyclist was struck by lightning while riding through an intense thunderstorm. A witness said the man managed to get his bike off the roadway and onto the shoulder before collapsing. Against all odds, he apparently survived.

Each one of these reports contains a serious lesson for all riders. Some of the accident causes are utterly outside the rider’s ability to control; others could have been prevented.

For example, most of the incidents where the rider simply drove off the road occurred late at night or early in the morning. If you’re sleepy, pull over. Get off the bike and walk around a bit.

The sad thing is that many of these accidents, and to be honest, most of the ones I read about every day, could have been avoided if bikers rode smarter, safer, and sober. We can all learn from these accidents, adopting an alert, responsible, and defensive attitude towards riding.

Folks, let’s be careful out there. If not for yourselves, then do it for those loved ones who pray for your safe return.
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