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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 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.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Throttle Back and Live**

Copyright© 2011 by Ralph Couey

*WTKR Norfolk, VA
June 17, 2011
as "Throttle back, live"

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
June 18, 2011
as "Throttle back, live"
“Write me up for 125
Post my face, wanted dead or alive
Take my license and all that jive
I...Can’t…Drive…55!”
--Sammy Hagar

Motorcycling, for all of its joys is an inherently dangerous activity. The most common of those hazards are well-known to riders: 
·        Failure to yield:  When another vehicle turns left across a rider’s path, pulling out from a side street or driveway, or changing lanes.
·        Sudden Stops:  A vehicle slows or stops suddenly in the traffic lane in response to a traffic jam or to execute a left turn.  The rider is unable to react in time.
·        Single-bike accidents: Usually a catastrophic loss of control for a variety of reasons, such as road conditions, debris, animals, or a medical incident with the rider or a mechanical problem with the bike.
·        Excessive speed, carelessness, distracted or impaired riding. 
It doesn’t help that many riders are woefully ill-informed with regards to proper braking technique.  Experts now say 90% of a bike’s stopping power is in the front brake.  In an emergency stop, the bike’s weight shifts forward, taking weight and therefore frictional coefficient from the back tire.  Riders who primarily use the rear brake will find their stopping distances increased significantly. 
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009 there were 106,000 motorcycle accidents in the United States in which 4,092 riders were killed and some 90,000 were injured.  50% of those accidents involved frontal impacts; almost 30% involved riders with a blood alcohol content in excess of .08.
But law enforcement agencies nationwide are now seeing a much higher incidence of speeding.  I’m not referring to the nominal 10 mph most of us add to the posted limit, but riders who use the highways for their personal race courses, flying along at speeds topping 100 mph.  In response, municipalities are enacting new laws.  When riders are caught racing and/or executing stunts on public roads, their bikes are seized. 
Not impounded.  Seized.
Speed is exhilarating.  Of that, there can be no denial, especially for young males.  But speed adds a tremendous amount of danger not only to the rider, but to others on the road.  And as sure as what goes up must come down, what goes fast, must come to a stop.
Dr. Marc Green in a journal article in Transportation Human Factors parses the process thus.
--Mental processing time
--Movement time
--Device response time
At 70 mph, a vehicle covers 103 feet every second.  At 100 mph, a vehicle will travel almost 147 feet in a second.  That’s essentially half of a football field.  Human reaction times vary, but federal accident Reconstructionists use the figure of 1.5 seconds from the time a hazard is recognized by the brain and the body moves the machine.  At 100 mph, that means that the bike will travel over 220 feet before the rider can even begin to veer away from danger or apply the brakes. On our imaginary football field, that’s going from the goal line, across mid-field, to the opponent’s 25. 
James R. Davis, a noted courtroom expert in motorcycle forensics, calculates that utilizing perfect non-skid front braking technique on a dry road surface, it would take the rider an additional 417 feet to bring the bike to a safe halt. (Using only the rear brake essentially doubles that distance.)
Add those numbers up.  At 100 mph, the distance traveled from the instant a rider identifies the hazard to the point at which the bike stops: 637 feet. 
That’s two football fields and an end zone.
Bear in mind those are ideal conditions with perfect execution by an experienced and skilled rider who has repeatedly practiced that maneuver.  Most riders couldn’t safely execute that kind of controlled emergency stop on the best day they ever had. 
The forces involved in a collision at that velocity are sobering.  We’ve all seen what happens to  a 2000-lb car made of steel and aluminum.  Now think about a motorcycle; think about the human body; the soft flesh, the fragile bones, and organs within.
We have to face facts here.  None of us are as good as we think we are.  And if we intend to live to a ripe, old age, we need to…
·        Ride straight, sober, and alert
·        Slow down.
·        Leave space between us and the vehicle in front.
·        Ride with our brain instead of our glands.
Do your loved ones a favor. 
Get home alive this summer.
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