Wednesday, August 5, 2009


What day is it today? Do you know what your name is? Who is the president of the USA? Ever been asked those questions? Did you ever have to stop and think about it a bit before answering? The human body is amazing. The human brain has natural defense mechanisms that we do not fully understand. There are parts of your brain that you have complete control over but many activities of the human brain are automatic and you couldn't change them even if you tried. Many bloggers, perhaps most eloquently, Dan Bateman at Musings of an intrepid Commuter, has written about achieving a level of motorcycle driving skill such that, depending on the hazard presented in front of you, your best response will be automatic. A voluntary decision as to the rider's response may not be necessary. An automatic response to a hazard will occur based upon your level of training and ability. This can be especially important when a hazard occurs suddenly, requiring a quick response. There have only been a few times in my life when when I have been rendered unconscious. Most have been related to a medical procedure such as a surgery. Last Friday there was another brief instance. No need for any suspense. I was involved in an accident, my first on the scooter. There is no longer any question as to "when" or "if" I would ever be involved in an accident, because the "when" has definately now happened. In a strange way I am glad to get that question out of the way. As far as seriousness goes I would rank it maybe a 5 or 6 on a 10 point scale. I am banged up a bit, but nothing broken, just extremely sore right now, and Thank God for the invention of helmets and gear. Without them it could have been much worse. The strange part is that I am having trouble remembering exactly what happened. I was very politely (yes, politely) riding down a 4 lane street in the right lane, when a car surprisingly made a left turn from the opposite direction immediately in front of me. Remember the phrase: "Do not always assume that the other driver will always do the correct thing". Well in this case he screwed up 'major league'. He admitted it to the police and was ticketed accordingly. It happened very quickly, with very little chance on my part for a reaction. All of a sudden, there he was directly in front of me with me bearing down on the rightside of his car at about 25 mph. I remember it being a beautiful afternoon. Sun shining, not too hot, a perfect afternoon for riding. I remember braking hard (probably as hard as I could) when the car appeared in front of me. I just knew that the outcome would not be very good. The next thing I remember is lying on my back on the pavement and someone asking me If I was okay. I briefly took inventory of major body parts and systems and determined eventually that I thought I could stand up. My left shoulder and hip were sore, but the pain was not too bad (yet). I was able to get up and walk around a bit. Time was a bit of a blur at that moment. Obviously some time had passed from the vision of me bearing down on the right side of his car to my waking up and saying I was okay. Have no idea how long it was, probably just a moment or two. I remember police cars. An ambulance showed up too. I was relatively coherent but events are fuzzy and I am sure I was not all there for some of it. They checked to see If I was having any back or neck pain. I was not. I remember someone asking me those questions at the first of this post. I must have passed that part of the test. I called my wife and she showed up very quickly in the car. My son showed up as well. We declined the ambulance ride and they left. We did however go to the hospital a little later to get checked out a little more as the pain was increasing and I was having some trouble walking. It was painful to put weight on my left leg. Suffice it to say that at the hospital, they found no major anomalies other than a large vacuum inside my head that they noted on the CT scan. No broken bones and they gave me a sling for the shoulder and a prescription for Lortab and I was on my way. But ever since it happened, I have been trying to piece together what happened. It has been a little bit like trying to solve a puzzle or becoming a detective and try and figure out what happened based upon the evidence. I, for one, being a supposed eyewitness was not a lot of help because of the amnesia or whatever. I didn't talk to the other driver much either. The policeman kept us apart. I think the policeman thought that I might try and kick his ass. Not sure I was capable of that at the time, but my wife was sure angry. I don't remember hitting the ground although from the evidence I know my left side hit the pavement pretty hard. I know that I didn't hit the car. I am not sure how. The evidence on my gear does not show much of a slide, hardly any in fact. My helmet has some major scratches just above my left ear and the visor mechanism is broken. My gloves show some scrapes on the back side.(?) One guess I have is that in braking so hard I locked up the front wheel, probably hit just enough of a patch of sand or dirt, and down I went. If that was the case, then maybe a more proper response to the situation would have been to brake hard, taking care not to lock the front wheel and look for a possible swerve to the left around the car as I passed by. I fully admit to Irondad, the Jedi Master, that my response to the threat was probably not very sophisticated in terms of ability. But I also do not think that any reaction, conscious or sub-conscious, would have been sufficient to avoid the accident. Given the situation, I believe it would have taken someone like Luke Skywalker to avoid it. I do not have that much of "The Force" in me. (Yet!) But it troubles me that I cannot remember hitting the ground. Why is that? I know that I apparently blacked out for at least a brief moment, why would that memory loss start at a point in time just before the impact. Then it has been suggested to me by my family that at the point when I was bearing down on the car, and impact seemed unavoidable, that my subconscious brain took over. The conscious part of my brain was shut off temporarily and my subconscious brain maybe decided that, in the best interests of the body as a whole, that the best course of action would be to lay the bike down and try to avoid the car, even If it knocked me out to do it. I don't know about that, but it seems sort of plausible. Also sort of makes me wonder If a higher power of some sort intervened. I am not one to normally give a lot of credence to notions like that, but can't rule that out either. But then again I am not going to fret or dwell on what might have happened or what I should have done as much as to be glad that it was not any worse than it was. I do not have a clue as to what I might have done differently. It all happened so fast. But I wish that I could remember a little better what exactly happened. Because I would like to be able to learn from the event and If it happens again, I might be able to react in a better manner. As a relatively new rider, I know I still have a lot to learn. One thing I can guarantee you is a fresh new distrust for other drivers (who I didn't trust much to begin with). I pride myself on being a safe and careful rider. I really feel that what happened to me was rare enough that the chances of it happening again to me are very small. The exact same situation has presented itself to me hundreds of times on the road and never before has a car driver done something quite so stupid. You F***ing A**hole !!!! There, saying it makes me feel a little bit better. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger says in the Terminator movie, I'll Be Back. !!!!! P.S. It has been a bad week for motorcyclists in our area. In 3 separate incidents involving single vehicle accidents, 2 people are dead and 2 others critically injured. All of the accidents involved the failure to negotiate a turn adequately. Only 1 of the 4 people had a helmet on. She is still alive. P.S.S. I was heading home when this accident occurred. Ironically I had just been visiting a local motorcycle dealership and looking at (can you believe it) new helmets. I have one picked out. Guess I need to purchase it a little sooner than I thought. P.S.S.S. Max appears to have just some body panel damage. Mt good friend Lloyd drove him away from the accident site. Thanks to John also for giving Lloyd a ride. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed


  1. cpa3485:

    OH NO !! All this training that we riders are forced to take, but no training is required from drivers to watch out for bikes/scooters/motorcycles . 90% of drivers here are also blabbing on their cell phones or fiddling with their mp3 players. Everyone is in a rush to go nowhere fast.

    A battle-scar is like a metal of hono(u)r . Hoping that you return to normal fast

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  2. Glad to hear you are all right!

    When considering the adage "brake, THEN swerve" and the window of time during most accidents (read: very short), max braking is not a bad choice. If you can get a swerve in, that's a bonus.

    Braking bleeds speed, which is pretty much a good thing no matter how you slice it. A skid will bleed off less speed, which is why we try to avoid them during max braking. Not to mention the common side effect: laying down the bike, which bleeds off even less speed...

    Ahh well, at least you have some fodder for your next posts: pictures of your trashed gear and pictures of the new gear this idiot driver is going to be buying you...

  3. It's a good thing you were not more severely injured...Thanks God, you are safe...!
    A friend of mine had a similar instance on his P150 in Montreal, but unfortunately he hit the car right smack in the middle and flew over the car to the other side..he was hospital;ized for six months in casts with counter balance weights until they put him back together...needless to say he's no longer riding.

    Thanks for reporting this incident to us as it will make us more aware of the dangers out there.
    You take care of your self and keep well

  4. Glad to hear you were able to walk away from the accident with only minor injury's.

    It's true that scooterist and motorcyclist must expect everybody to invade their space. When riding around other vehicles I find my left thumb lightly pressing on the horn button and my right first two fingers on the brake lever.

    As a youngster I took a fairly bad spill on a dirt bike (breaking my collar bone) and I was never able to recall exactly what happened from the moment I lost control of the bike (I can still vividly remember that moment) until I was getting up from the ground. I have a small numb area above my right knee to remind me of that event, some 25 years ago.

    I hope you are back feeling better soon and back on the road.


  5. So sorry to hear about this, Jim. Hope you're back in the saddle in no time!


  6. CPA3485, damn glad you're OK.....the accident scenario you just went through accounts I am told for about 70% of collisions involving a car and a motorcycle.....

    I look forward to your further analysis of the event as things roll into your mind, and they will, stuff still pops into mine from when I went down due to ice over a year ago.

    Glad you were wearing your gear as well, never have understood folks who don't.

    Heal fast.....

  7. I am sorry you had to experience this. I'm a so glad that you are okay--with the exception of a few bumps and bruises. While I don't think you should beat up on yourself, I do think that you must as much as possible reconstruct what you can and devise plans/strategies for future encounters.

    I'm going to present some things for you and all of us to think about. What matters most is that we are trained and skilled enough to eliminate all rider errors. That puts the focus on us as people who accept the risk of riding. We must, as a result, be the best risk managers we can be. That requires great skills that can go into effect in emergency situations. It also requires us to be excellent observers of all the potential hazards we encounter on the road. That alone, will make us far safer out there.

    Here are a few things I read in your detail account that I think should be considered when you're feeling better and before you're out there again.

    1) We know the left hand turner is a major cause of accidents and fatalites. Therefore, you should always move into that space with your hands covering the brake. Just having to take time to put your hands on the brake in the event of an emergency, takes up precious time, which you won't have. The second thing is to alway slow your speed a little when entering an intersection where there is a left turner. Reducing one's speed--no matter what it is-- will also shorten stopping distance in case of an emergency stop.

    2) You mention that you want to know how this happened so that you can "react" better the next time. Reaction is not good enough! We have to, each and every time we mount our iron horses, have a strategy already in mind for escaping potential hazards we see. That means each ride must always have us thinking ahead, identifying potential hazards and have a strategy to get out of or away from that potential danger. You and I should spot that left hand turner immediately, we should already be thinking that the person behind that wheel holds the power to kils us. We should be taking a quick look at the wheels--are they inching out? We automatically should be prepared to do an emergency stop, swerve, etc.

    3) One cannot do well what one hasn't practiced. A poorly executed swerve or emergency stop might not save us. We can't execute a safe, calm, controlled emergency stop and/or swerve if we haven't practiced it. I don't mean having done it in our last safety class. I'm talking about having a regular time in your riding schedule that you/we put aside practice pime for honing our skills. Then when a panic situation presents itself, we don't just react, we execute the appropriate technique that has become second nature because of all our practicing.

    Inexperience and weak skills lead to things like grabbing a handful of front brake in a lean, for example; or swerving in the wrong direction; or, panicing or not being able to process information clearly.

    4)Don't beat up on yourself. These are opportunities to learn. Our brain and our eyes are critically important to us on two wheels we should always be using both to scan our environment, identify potential hazards, and know confidently how to get out of them because we've got a plan in place.

    I agree, this has been a bad motorcycle period here to. The past weekend had many people injuried or worst. On the SV650 forum I frequent, a wife yesterday posted a note asking us to "delete" her husband from the forum as he had been killed on his motorcycle days before. I never knew him but recall his helpful, thoughtful and considered posts. He won't get a chance to learn from his accident. We can all learn from yours.

    Again, I'm very glad you're okay. I don't mean to sound like I'm lecturing. I'm not. I'm saying to you the very things I need to hear and apply to myself.

  8. One technique I use a lot since I learned it, is to gently waggle my handlebars when i am approaching a car that is turning or thinking about turning. Apparently the side to side motion of the headlight triggers a response from even a brain dead car driver who doesn't "see" the motorcycle. Having said that shit happens and happily the brain shuts down the memory circuits at the critical moment and had you lost a limb you wouldn't remember it being sliced off either. If there is a higher power she's been asleep at the wheel around here with three recent fatalities and two serious injuries in less than week. Human error is much more likely. By the way my right thumb still tingles two months after my own wreck...

  9. I'm not going to offer anything except support. Well, one thing. Prevention by scanning aggressively is best. Sometimes things just happen. It's quite possible that you did the right thing for the distance involved. Hard braking probably reduced the impact speed and thus the injury level. Falling over from a standstill and smacking our head on the ground can be enough to knock us out for a bit. Are you SURE you slid the front wheel?

    I think our brains hide certain unpleasant things from our conscious thought. Then we're left to fill in the blanks with our imagination. That's the frustrating part because we really want to know. You'll probably never know exactly what happened in detail. Let it go, dust yourself off, and start fresh.

  10. I'm glad you got away mostly unscathed. Many years of dirt riding and some dirt racing taught me the hard way that sometimes certain things (like crashes) can happen so very quickly that there is really no time for the brain to process everything that's going on except perhaps vague impressions that can be similarly recalled later on. Instinctive or trained reactions might be the saving factor but sometimes even that is not enough. Years ago I saw a woman whip a left in front of a motor cop and with all his training he managed to get on the brakes but still hit her car. He was uninjured and very angry. Sometimes stuff just goes all wrong no matter what we do so all that leaves is doing our best.


  11. Jim, I am glad you are OK. Take care and rest your body. We'll see you back on the road in due course.