Women Riders

Please Be Safe Out There

Written by  November 30, 2010

As a motojournalist, I am constantly scouring the internet in search of ideas for articles. I get two daily alerts into my Google mail plus have subscription notices to a couple of forums. The email alerts usually contain the latest news, and I read most of those articles with a bit of trepidation and sadness. If a fatality is written about, most times mention is made on whether the rider was wearing a helmet.

I am a helmet advocate and would never consider riding without mine, both DOT approved. I feel novelty helmets do nothing but keep the cops at bay (New Jersey and New York are strict helmet law states) and shudder when I think of one of my best friends wearing his. My take on this issue is this: Approved helmets save lives. The choice to wear one in those states that do not have strict helmet laws in place is all well and good until one should have been worn. Then the choice passes on to the next of kin.
Everyone wants to believe they are very good, safe riders but even the best, safest and most experienced rider is at a disadvantage simply due to her machine when she is up against formidable iron foes, i.e.; cars, trucks, buses. To me that is not the time to forsake protection.

I know first-hand what a split second of not thinking can do. We never make the decision to harm ourselves, but not making the right decision can do harm that stays with us the rest of our lives. This was, once again, brought to my attention with a phone call no family member wants to get.

I grew up with my second cousins, three boys and their older sister, because my mom, dad and dad’s cousin, Evelyn, were the best of friends. As we became adults we naturally drifted apart, but still managed to get together every so often, and I saw Evelyn frequently. Evelyn hates motorcycles and would ask me how my leg was doing each time we met. Her middle son offered her a “special gift” for her 80th birthday this year, a ride on his bike. She emphatically declined. All three of her sons ride, much to her horror.

My sister called me with the news. Evelyn’s youngest son, Mark, had had an accident on his chopper. On a curvy road, trying to avoid the bumps, he was straddling the yellow line. Coming toward him was a bus. Mark was only doing 30 mph, but the impact equaled 60 mph and Mark was thrown 20 feet. He is in the hospital in critical condition. As he landed, his helmet popped off. The doctors have him in a medically induced coma to control the bleeding on the brain. Every vertebra in his spine is fractured, and he is on a ventilator. He has muscles bleeding internally and several other fractures.

I can not imagine how fast he was going or what he was thinking. Choppers are not as forgiving as some other bikes might be; they can be difficult to steer and impossible to swerve or maneuver tightly. The statement, “His helmet popped off as he landed” leads me to believe he was wearing a novelty helmet. Of course, nothing short of being wrapped in pillows would have prevented his bodily injuries, but his brain injury could very well have been avoided or lessened.

Of the three brothers, Mark was the most handsome. A truly nice guy who doted on his mother and enjoyed a good life, he drew an audience all his life with his natural friendliness and model good looks. Now he is not allowed visitors.

We never know what is around the corner waiting for us. Anticipating and preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best starts long before we turn the key or kick it into first gear. Giving a little thought to your loved ones goes a long way to ensuring that you have done everything you could do to get home in one piece. Prepare, think, enjoy.

I sincerely hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday season with those you love.

By Louise Reeves