Yes, it can happen to you

  • Published
  • By Mark Sprayberry
  • Propulsion Maintenance Group Safety Specialist
I've always been told "if you ride a motorcycle, it's not if you'll crash, it's when."
   I've always hated that statement, but this morning, it happened. It was a simple case of information overload.
   A little background first.
   I've been riding steady since 1995 and teaching and coaching the Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses since that same time.
   I also teach the American Automobile Associations Drivers Improvement Program and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of Americas All Terrain Vehicle safety course. I ride an average of 5,000 miles per year and  purchased a second motorcycle in the last year.
   Oh yea, did I mention, I'm a Safety Specialist for the Propulsion Maintenance Group?
   I guess today was just my day.
   I was heading towards Choctaw Road on Southeast 29th Street when I noticed for a second time the car following behind seemed too close (tailgating).
   The rain had just started, but was coming in fairly big drops (they all seem bigger on a bike).
   Yesterday was dry, but the wind had been blowing, laying a fresh layer of dust over the now wet road. I caught the fact there was a Ford Dually pick-up at the north corner and something at the west corner.
   Tally to this point: Tailgater, wet, slippery road, multiple vehicles at the intersection (the most dangerous place anyway).
   Now, with the rain just starting and me in jeans and my Joe Rocket mesh jacket (besides my yellow vest, DOT/Snell approved helmet, boots and dirt bike gloves) I saw the Chevron station and thought "I should put my rain gear on" (that's always with me).    New tally: Tailgater, wet road, multiple vehicles at the intersection, new destination (the covered area of the Chevron station).
   As I approached the stop sign, with all of these thoughts in my mind, I allowed myself to get too close to the sign to casually brake to a stop. I applied both front and back brakes simultaneously and unfortunately locked the rear wheel.
   This is not usually a big deal, except the road surface is rutted out at the stop sign and the back wheel followed the rut to the left.
   I steered as much as I could to correct the slide, but ran out of steering room (the fork hit the stop). The bike was in a real pretty slide until my right foot came off the back brake and the bike high sided me (throwing me over the bike), placing me square on big white line at the stop sign.
   Luckily, I had slowed down to about 8 mph (I'm guessing), so damage to the bike is very minimal (bar end, a few bolts and maybe new bars) but my knees are pretty bruised up (as is my pride, as this is my first incident at other than crawling speed).
   Lesson learned: Never, ever let you guard down. Driving a car or riding a bike is a full time job.
   The tally of activities going on was only five. What if I was attempting to find a new station on the radio in my truck? Cell phones? Breakfast? Kids in the back? Activities that take our mind off of driving (distracted driving) is a large cause of vehicle accidents.
   Most of us believe "it'll never happen to me."
   Looking back, I now see myself falling into that trap. Complacency (I've done this so often I don't even think about it) can kill you. Please keep your mind on the task at hand and pay attention to the clues that direct your actions (wet road, busy intersection, tailgater, etc.)
   I was hoping to never fall into that "when" category, but my complacency got me. What about you?