I would like to talk about motorcycle safety. I carry no particular credentials in this area other than 44 years of riding. For as long as I have been riding, the motorist who “didn’t see him” seems to be the most dangerous hazard to a motorcyclist. I personally have had a number of near miss incidents involving this situation. For me – it is a part of riding that I accepted many years ago.
What frightened me the most was on a dark rainy night in Kansas City. My wife, who rides her own bike, was following me in traffic. It was dark but her bike has a unique headlight than I can pick out in the mirror amongst the other lights on the road. As I did my customary scan of my gauges, traffic ahead, side-to-side glances and a check of my mirrors she was suddenly gone. I began to slow and working to determine what had happened to her. I began to work my way to the shoulder of the road to get pulled over. I finally got to a safe location to pull off and began to scan the traffic.
Did we just get separated or did she go down? Finally, after what seemed like an eternity she emerged from the traffic and we spotted each other. Once we got back together she related to me, an SUV changed lanes. The problem was, the SUV was moving into the space she was occupying. Literally moving over on top of her position!
Because she is a good defensive driving she was able to take evasive action and kept from being run down. She was okay. For me, for a few frantic moments I thought I had lost my wife to an errant motorist who simply “didn’t see the motorcycle.” They would have felt bad and certainly didn’t intend to harm anyone but it would not have changed the simple fact that my wife could have been seriously injured or worse.
As a result of that event we plan our trips through most metro areas during off-peak traffic periods and if at all possible we avoid the metro area completely. The other thing we have done is adopt a more conspicuous approach to riding. Much of today’s riding apparel has reflective stripping built into it. We wear the gear! We have added some additional lighting to the bikes. In this situation she was doing everything right but could have still been hurt. It is incumbent on the rider to secure their own safety. A lot of times it feels like the other motorists really don’t care about us!
A motorcyclist today MUST be on the defensive at all times. Wear the protective gear that enhances conspicuity. Take a rider safety training class. Be physically and mentally fit to ride. What might be a simple fender bender for a car will be a trip to the hospital for us – at the least, a trip to the morgue at the worst!
Mike Bright is the District Four Office Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Transportation