Monday, May 21, 2007


Our local Rochester paper reported two more motorcycle fatalities this morning. A 34 year old man lost control on a curve and slammed into a parked pickup truck. A 50 year old woman lost control on a curve, hit a guardrail, and was thrown from her motorcycle. It's a routine story these days. That's why the emergency room staffs call motorcycles "donorcycles".

I've owned three motorcycles and put quite a few miles on them. For many years I commuted to work in good weather on my Silver Wing, sharing the four-lane with cars and trying to stay out of their way. I was fortunate enough to only put my bike down three times, twice when I erred in judging the road surface or the behavior of other drivers and once when I was hit from the rear by a truck while I waited at a yield sign. I was lucky - no broken bones.

There's no question that riding a motorcycle is one of the great "highs" that one can experience. The feelings of power, control, and freedom are unmatched by almost any other activity. To be "one" with your motorcycle is to extend your own mobility by a factor of 100. As one becomes more skilled in guiding the bike, every curve becomes a challenge to overcome with just the right amount of entry speed, lean, and power out. Even a ride to the grocery becomes an experience to be savored, and there is joy in hearing the high-revving motor start up at the turn of a key. If only there was less danger...

I've stopped riding my motorcyles because the risks are too great. As an EMT I've been on the scene of crashes where cyclists, driving safely, were not seen by automobile drivers. They had no time to react and avoid the crashes which left them severely injured. But for luck, I could have been them. So I've decided to forego the thrills of motorcycling in order to avoid being a potential organ donor.

If you're a motorcyclist or thinking of becoming one, weigh the risks carefully. According to government statistics, your risk of death on a motorcycle versus a car, per mile traveled, is 18 times higher. You can lower your risk by wearing a protective helmet and clothing, and by driving well within your limits, but you can't control other drivers or make them see you, and you can't rule out the possibility that you will make one fatal mistake in judgment. If you have significant family responsibilities, the cost of your mistake will be multiplied.

I'm all for organ transplants, so if you ride a "donorcycle", make sure that you've checked the box on your license that gives your approval to be an organ donor. Drive safely, and good luck!


Life Hiker said...

Comment from my wife: "I approve!"

Dave said...

My paternal side of the family has a vehicle death wish.

A cousin survived a crash in a Corvette about thirty years ago after being cut out of the passenger side foot well.

My middle brother has a pin in his leg because he, by his version of the story, hit a few pebbles in the road and slide through a guard rail and then down a thirty foot embankment.

My youngest brother, the idiot is forty-eight this year, flipped his ATV and now has a pin in his clavicle.

I rode bikes when I was young and dumb. All of what you say is absolutely true, and deadly. You can be the best rider in the world and die in a quicker second than were you driving IN a vehicle with seat belts, electronic stability control, ABS and six airbags.

I bought my last vehicle for the esc and airbags. All I want in life is about two more miles per gallon.

ThomasLB said...

On my road- which is only 2.5 miles long- we have had three deaths and one extensive brain injury from people on ATVs just in the last two years. Two were hit by cars, two plowed head first into trees.

Parents buy these things for their young teenagers and turn them loose unsupervised. I don't know the statistics nationally, but locally they seem to be as lethal as motorcycles.

When I was ten, a cousin of mine was in a serious motorcycle wreck. A car pulled out in front of him, and he flipped over it. He spent a year in the hospital and lost a leg. That sort of killed the romance of motorcycles for me- which is probably a good thing.