I received a sobering reminder of the dangers we face every time we ride last week. One of my good friends and riding buddies left work around the same time as me on Friday afternoon, both on our motorcycles. I got the call around 10pm that he never made it home, and was currently in surgery at the main trauma center for Charlotte. That’s all anyone knew, and let me tell you, your heart just sinks when you hear that about your friend. Granted, if you’ve been around the motorcycle community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard this same scenario played out many times. A car pulled out, they didn’t see the bike, and lives are changed. I’m not saying that I’m not sympathetic to everyone who goes through this, but it certainly hits especially close to home when it’s a good friend.
So let’s talk about what we can do to prevent this.
Number one: is ride like you’re invisible. If you EXPECT them not to see you and pull out anyway, your brain will start to process situations differently. You’ll always position yourself in your lane with the best chance for survival.
Two: be as visible as possible. Good bright lights on your motorcycle, a motorcycle headlight modulator (if legal in your area), and definitely hi-viz motorcycle gear are all things that can help you be seen while on the road. My buddy was wearing a bright red jacket, white and red helmet, and pretty sure he had his high beams on, too – and that still wasn’t enough. Obviously we do what we can – but always follow rule number one.
Three: practice, practice, practice. Go to an empty parking lot and practice emergency braking. Use a mark on the pavement and practice swerving around it and avoiding it – work your way up to approaching faster and swerving later, until you are very confident in you and your bike’s abilities. When you know what those limits are, you are better equipped to make those last minute judgement calls when the unexpected happens.
Lastly: not all accidents are avoidable. In the case of my friend, he had absolutely no time to react – didn’t even get a finger on the brake lever before impact. Sometimes they don’t see us and we just don’t see it coming – or it’s just too late to do anything about it. My friend was fully geared up, head to toe, and because of that his injuries were significantly reduced. He still has a long road to recovery ahead of him – but at least he (and his family) aren’t dealing with a bunch of road rash, or a brain injury on top of everything else. He was doing 45mph on his commute home – not doing anything wrong – just wrong place at the wrong time – so remember to always wear that gear!
Here’s what he was wearing:
Wear good gear, and wear it always!