Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watch Your Ass

Last I heard, 4 of the 8 bikers hit by a dump truck the other day are dead. I've been thinking about that wreck quite a bit recently. I have no doubt that lots of the other bikers in Phoenix are watching their mirrors with as much anxiety as I am.

A few years back, I was in a friend's car and we were rear-ended when a couple cars ahead of us slammed on their brakes. My friend stopped in time, but the car behind us didn't even notice traffic had slowed. There were no squealing tires, or horns. We came to a fast stop, and then were hit from behind by some guy going at least 45 mph.

Incredibly enough, apart from a ruined pair of pants and a big mess in the car (my coffee spilled everywhere, what were you thinking?), we were OK.

But for the next 6 months, I got extremely nervous any time I was in a car coming to a quick stop. I always expected a neck-snapping jolt and hot coffee in my lap.

Getting rear-ended on a bike, I've heard, is no laughing matter. There's no telling where you might end up because someone else didn't understand basic physics. Personally, I'd prefer not to experience such things.

As such, I keep an eye on my mirrors at stop-lights, watching for rapidly approaching vehicles. I'll flash my brake light a few times if they're moving too quickly for my liking. Usually, that slows them down (Why does that work? Does anyone know?). I also stay in gear at intersections. Maybe it's more superstition than effective plan, but I'd rather have the slim chance of noticing I'm about to be hit and getting out of the way than the alternative.


Lady Ridesalot said...

I was watching my mirrors a lot more than usual after watching the coverage of that horrific accident. I usually have my bike in first ready to go. My hubby on the other hand takes this opportunity to relax his arms and hands down by his side (not always, but often). I noticed, while we were out on the bikes last Saturday, I didn't see him do that one time.

I'm very sorry for the families and friends of those riders who were just out trying to enjoy a lovely day.

Thanks for reminding us to... "watch your ass".

Two Buck said...

It's a strong argument for lane-splitting. I try to never get stacked up at lights like that, exactly for this reason. I split my way to the front of the line if I can, or at the very least stop with a good cushion between me and the car in front of me, with my bike angled for a quick escape to one side or the other if necessary.

For a large group like this, though, those kinds of precautions really aren't possible. They just got run over by a dump truck full of bad luck. What a tragedy.

dave said...

30 yrs ago I was stopped, car going ~ 40mph didn't... I still get a little nervous whether I am in my F250 or on the Goldwing.
A little inattention goes a long way, whether we are in a cage or on two wheels.

Canajun said...

I'm a leave it in gear, clutch in kinda guy until I have at least one car stopped safely behind me. I also try to position myself to one side of the lane or the other so someone who does make a mistake at least has some room to get by me - if he sees me in time.
But like Two Buck says, in a group all that defensive stuff is hard to do.
At the end of the day a driver wasn't paying attention, 4 people are dead, and he'll probably end up in jail. Lives ruined all around for no good reason. A tragedy indeed.

Gymi said...

I had a narrow miss about twenty years ago. A Ford Country Squire station wagon, failed to see us stopped at a red light until it was too late..Using a couple of the methods you have listed at the end of your post I was able to escape into the right turn lane and avoid being compacted between that wagon and the car that was in front of me.

He hit that car hard and I'm sure I would not be sitting here today if I wasn't paying attention. Great post Lucky

Anonymous said...

I watch my mirrors too but the fact remains that most accedents happen because of what is happening infront of the motorcycles which means most of your attention should be placed on what is going on up there.

Lucky said...

Lady Ridesalot - A friend of mine who no longer riders says she's selling her last riding jacket because of this wreck. I can't say I would do the same, but it's well established that I'm nuts. ;)

Two Buck - Agreed about lane-splitting. I once heard squealing tires behind me and I didn't think twice, just went straight between two lanes. The SUVs I went between would probably weather an impact better than me!

Dave - Yikes! It amazes me that people don't pay better attention while driving. I think it's because cars insulate people so much from the outside that they get bored. Distractions can lead to inattention on the bike too. I always try to remember before I start the bike that my problems will still be waiting for me when I get off, so I can worry about them then.

Canajun - Yeah, once I've got a solid chunk of wall behind me, erm, a car, I relax a bit too.

Gymi - I'm glad you avoided becoming the meat in a car sandwich. Just knowing how close that must have been makes my ass pucker.

Anonymous - Thanks for posting. I agree that your attention should be focused where the risk is. Most motorcycle wrecks happen because the rider failed to negotiate a turn. The next most common is because of some doofus turning left in front of or into the rider. So yes, while moving, I agree that objects in mirrors are irrelevant.

It's my opinion that when not in motion a rider should have his or her head on a swivel, including frequent mirror checks, unless all other traffic is also stopped. If you're stopped at a stoplight, you need to watch where someone is likely to run into you from. Most of the time, if you're stopped, they're going to run into you from behind.

irondad said...

I avoid riding in groups. Once in a while I ride with fellow instructors but no more than four bikes. We know riding is more dangerous than driving. We accept the risk and each of us takes responsibility to ride our own ride.

In a group like the one that got hit, it's likely there was a big distraction factor going on. Nature of the beast. Don't mean to throw any sort of insult at the rider.

As to tapping the brake lights, I think most people tailgate because they forget how terrifyingly quickly the space closes. My opinion is that the majority of tailgaters do so out of stupidity rather than aggression. Nothing like a quiet car with a loud stereo to bend reality.

People pick up the change of state better than a solid state. That's why flashing is more effective than walking around naked.