, Port Arthur, Texas


May 19, 2013

Your attention could be worth a life

PORT ARTHUR — There are few things in life quite like the feeling of riding a motorcyle, whether it’s the wind beating the troubles out of you or the rumble of the exhaust drowing out the worries in your head.

But along with the thrill comes an immense concern about whether that little red sports car at the stop sign up ahead is about to pull out in front of you or if that big ol’ 18-wheeler isn’t going to see you riding up alongside it on the interstate because you happen to be temporarily in his blind spot.

I’ve been in both those situations, including one involving a large wall-like panel van pulling out in front of me while I was riding along at 75 mph. I left a nice streak of black across the asphalt but managed to keep my bike upright and learn a little lesson in the process.

What lesson you might ask?

Never expect a driver to see a small motorcycle heading at them traveling  quickly when they are used to seeing something much larger. Their minds simply don’t see it.

That’s the premise of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s  Look Learn Live initiative. And I’m really glad that it’s there; I’ve almost become a number on several occasions.

In 2012, 460 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes and more than 50 percent involved the bike being struck by another driver. Oftentimes it was when the vehicle struck the bike while turning left into their lane, often saying they simply never saw the motorcycle.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the “Share the Road” signs and the scrolling traffic marquees that say “Look Twice for Motorcycles.” Whenever I ride anywhere and see those signs it makes me feel like there is someone that wants to make sure I get where I’m going without dodging a few cars to get there.

When it comes to the majority of my rides, I’d venture to guess that they are very enjoyable and I don’t face the threat of a vehicle barreling out of nowhere at me. Even with the experience of riding a motorcycle for many years I still find myself learning something new or feeling like my skill level increases a smidgen with each trip I take.

My father also rides and once spoke with me about a “game” he plays at times during his trips — he often travels cross-country on his bike. The “game” was simple, he looks for situations in his mind that would cause a wreck or a problem he’d have to avoid and mentally runs over the various scenarios. I thought that sounded like a great way to prepare for whatever the road throws at you, sometimes quite literally; I’ve been hit by rocks, a coke bottle and all kinds of trash flying out of the back of pick up trucks.

I try to play this game any time I’m on the road. Whether I see a stray board lying on the side of the road and try to think about whether I would ride over it or attempt to avoid it or see a car inch a little farther past the stop sign than I’m comfortable with, I always try to condition myself to react quickly and correctly.

There is one more thing that I am steadfast about and that is a helmet. I didn’t wear one when I first started riding and everyone was really adament that I start. The only thing that really convinced me to do so was after my daughter was born and I realized that a car pulling out a few feet farther than it should could mean that we’d never see each other again.

The helmet went on and I don’t generally ride without it. Life is too short and the whole point of riding a motorcycle is to enjoy it even more, to get that open air rush that feels so fantastic.

A report released in April from the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that motorcyclist deaths increased by approximately nine percent in 2012, to more than 5,000 lives lost. That is a very scary thought and I know that I could be a factor in those numbers any day, but I’m going to do everything I can when riding and driving my car to make sure that I’m not one of those 5,000.

Taking an extra split second to look twice can and will save a life. No one’s time is that short that they can’t give a moment for the life of another.

To all the bikers out there, ride hard and ride safe. I’ll give you a wave when I see you.


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