Motorcycles

I live in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state. Now, I won’t say that we are allowed all the freedoms that our motto implies, but there’s still a few areas that are holdouts… Motorcycle helmet laws, for example. Motorcycles are one area where you still have the freedom to feel the wind in your hair and the bugs in your teeth. And without a helmet you get to add a little extra more risk to an already dangerous method of travel.

Now, I’m not a biker myself (I can’t be trusted on only two wheels), but many of my friends and family are. So I certainly have great respect for motorcyclists, and take extra care where I can during motorocycle season. A person on a motorcycle is already at an elevated risk simply for the lack of any surrounding structure around them to protect them from even the most minor of vehicle encounters. Add to that the freedom of a lack of any helmet, and the risk to the biker goes up astronomically. And so, I certainly try to “Look twice, save a life” and do my part to save the lives of bikers everywhere who, by their very nature and size, are so much less visible.

But, as you may or may not know, motorcycle season has another, less popular name… Organ Donor Season. A ghastly moniker to be sure, but never the less it’s also one grounded in reality, specifically as it relates to helmetless riders. Studies show that motor-related fatalities decline by about 1/3 when mandatory helmet laws are enacted. Now I’m not advocating for or against helmet laws. In fact I’m relatively sure that the overwhelming majority of bikers already know about statistics when they choose not to wear a helmet, just as smokers know that lighting up isn’t the healthiest thing they could do.

But here’s the rub… For all of the conscientious drivers on the looking out for motorcyclists, or for as many bikers there are who are doing their best to wear as much protective garb as they can, there’s just as many Dingleberries out there who could give two shits about any of that. They ride at speeds that are roughly equal to the Ludicrous Speed used in Spaceballs (however the color many of them acheive is anything but plaid). Also, if traffic is less than 90% of the posted speed limit they’ll rocket in between other vehicles in a controversial technique known as lane-splitting, which no driver can anticipate or reasonably react to since it comes from behind, in defiance of any normal traffic patterns. Another favorite is the use of any expanse of unoccupied roadway as their own special dynamic lane they can utilize during heavy traffic patterns; darting between cars, jumping from lane to lane, or dominating the emergency/breakdown lane as needed. All of these techniques lead to any number of deadly results. For example, they may end up earning the “Door Prize” (when a driver opens their car door just as the biker is approaching, leading to a very sudden, and horribly complete, stop). Or there can sometimes be a sudden conflict in the emergency/breakdown lane when the motorcycle comes upon a unexpected vehicle at a dead stop, because the driver had the audacity to break down in a lane amazingly meant for just that purpose (an unfortunately similar situation happens when the motorcyclist is riding at full speed when someone pulls over to use the emergency/breakdown lane for some other type of emergency, casuing yet a new one). And if any of these acts results in a near miss you can rest assured the biker will give the finger the driver of the other vehicle, that universal signal all vehicle come equiped with.

The point is, there are way too many motorcycle accidents, and unneccesary deaths out there that are simply the results of hubris, nothing more. I’m sure there are bikers right now who are yelling at their screen. Who am I to tell them how to ride? They are likely saying that they know the risks when they ride like this, and therefore (I’m sure) are likely asking me to mind my own business right about now… very politely.

But what about the other drivers out there? What about the danger they are being put in? What about the trauma they might experience from taking a human life, even though they themselves did nothing to cause it, couldn’t prevent it, and yet may likely suffer for years from it? Yes, you are free to live your life as you please, and we will all do our level best to look out for you a little more than we would for larger vehicles, but if you are the type of rider who takes advantage of the special conditions afforded to you as a biker, you are putting others in danger and leaving an indellible black mark on all bikers in general, many of whom do not deserve it.

So don’t be a jerk. Help us protect you. And if you don’t care that much for your own well being, at least think of a child, friend or relative… anyone you wouldn’t want put in danger, and pretend they are out there while you’re riding. Look out for them at least.

A final word: While my father was the beneficiary of an organ transplant as the result of a motorcycle death, and although I am grateful that 16 years later he is still alive and well, I can’t help but think that the parents of the young man who’s organs he benefitted from would have preferred it turn out a lot dfferently. So please, think twice, save your own life.

 

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