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Ducking Responsibility

Read the headlines in the paper or listen to the news broadcasters as they tell about crashes on our highways. “Last night's snowstorm caused several crashes.” “The morning fog caused a multicar crash.” “Flooding causes crash on local highway.” “Alcohol is the leading cause of motorcycle crashes.” It seems like everyone is able to identify a cause for a crash, but it seems like no one is willing to assume responsibility for one.

While snow, fog and flooding can certainly be contributing factors in a crash, you cannot blame them for the crash. Although alcohol is implicated in many crashes on our highways, it alone was not the cause of any of them. In fact, there rarely is a single cause of any crash involving a motorcycle or any other vehicle. Almost always it is an interaction of factors that precipitate a crash.

"Even when it seems like there was nothing a rider can do to avoid a crash, there are usually other factors involved in the crash."

Let’s examine of few of these headlines and see how accurate they really are. The morning fog was clearly a factor that played into the reported crash. It reduced visibility and made it hard to see other vehicles and objects on the road. Isn’t that obvious? Doesn’t everyone know that? The real question is what the driver did about the fog. Did he slow down to accommodate the reduced visibility? Was he more watchful for others who might not adjust for the fog? Had the driver altered his driving style for the less than perfect driving conditions, might the crash have been avoided?

 Spring flooding is a problem on many roads, especially in low lying areas. With heavy rains and a flood watch issued, perhaps the driver should have been more aware of the possibility of water on the road. Mentioned deeper in the article was the fact that speed and alcohol might have also played a factor in the crash. What if the driver had been driving a little slower dropping into the gully between hills? What if he was expecting water to be covering the low spots on the road? Perhaps the flooding wasn’t the only cause and maybe this crash could have been avoided.

Alcohol undoubtedly impacts a rider’s ability to operate a motorcycle. one effect is that it lowers inhibitions and the drinking rider accepts a higher level of risk. Many times the biker will ride a little faster than normal and be less attentive to the road. Although alcohol is blamed for the crash, what if the rider had seen the curve coming up? What if he had been riding a little slower and not entered it so fast? What if his reaction was to press more on the handle bars instead of using his brakes? Could this crash have been avoided?

Even when it seems like there was nothing a rider could do because someone ran a red light or turned in front of their motorcycle, there are usually other factors that contributed to the crash. What if the rider had slowed prior to entering the intersection? What if the biker had seen the wheels start to roll on that left turning vehicle? What if the rider had seen the car heading towards the corner with no apparent intention of stopping? If he had better braking skills, could he have stopped before the crash?

Motorcyclists must think about the consequences of their riding behavior on the streets and highways where they ride. They must be conscious of their surroundings and adjust their riding style accordingly. Even when the rider may not be legally at fault, there is usually something he could have done that might have avoided the crash. It’s time to stop ducking responsibility and accept the challenge of our vulnerability. We can have an enjoyable ride.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!