Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wasn't Wearing a Ball Gown

I meant to comment on a story that appeared yesterday in the Arizona Daily Star. Better late than never, so….

The Star reported that a driver used his minivan as a weapon, deliberately rear-ending a motorcyclist who was blown off his bike and underneath a car waiting to make a U-turn. The driver was booked into the slammer on suspicion of second-degree murder.

The rider was dead at the scene. The Star story ends with the apparently obligatory observation that the rider was not wearing a helmet. Oh well, that explains it, it’s really the rider’s fault.

This tired old refrain is really very poor reporting, unless there is evidence that a helmet would have saved the rider’s life. If there is no such evidence, then the report that he wasn’t wearing a helmet is no more pertinent than the observation that he wasn't wearing a ball gown. All across America car drivers kill motorcyclists. In many (and I suspect most) cases they’d be dead helmet or no helmet.

It is not motorcycles that are dangerous, it’s automobiles and their drivers.


George Tuttle said...

I think you are using a VERY broad brush to paint those who do not ride motorcycles.

I hvae seen terrible drivers, as I have seen terrible motorcycle riders. Let's not blast everyone who doesn't drive on two wheels as unsafe.

Art Jacobson said...

Oh, come on, George. I didn't say every driver is bad. It's fair to observe, however, that bikers don't kill car drivers by turning left in front of them, running stop lights, or driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or cell phones.

There are single motorcycle accidents, almost always the result of biker carelessness.

You can kill a motorcyclist with a car and get away with a ticket for failing to yield the right of way.

George Tuttle said...

All evidence to the contrary.

Art Jacobson said...

George... the following paragraphs are from the American Motorcyclist News

A van driver in Iowa crosses the center line of the road, running head-on into a group of six motorcyclists. Three are killed, and two more are seriously injured. The driver gets off with a fine of $70—less than an average speeding ticket.

In Oklahoma, a driver runs over a motorcyclist who was slowing to make a right turn. The driver pleads guilty to negligent homicide. She is sentenced to 30 months probation and ordered to perform unspecified "acts of kindness."

A U.S. congressman from South Dakota with a long history of traffic offenses blows through a stop sign at over 70 mph, causing a crash that kills a motorcyclist. A jury takes just a couple of hours to convict the driver of second-degree manslaughter, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. The judge gives him just 100 days.

A Maryland woman who drove her car into the back of a motorcycle, killing the rider, avoided a vehicular homicide charge by quickly paying a fine for the lesser offense of negligent driving.

Since the woman, in essence, pleaded guilty to negligent driving by paying the fine, she couldn't be charged with vehicular homicide in that same case. To do so would violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy, which involve trying a person twice for the same offense.

9:09 PM

SonoranDesertRat said...

I know, a few days, er, weeks, behind on this post here.
The newspaper reports on whether or not the rider was wearing a helmet because this is part of the information that is given to the reporter by the police. It is the same thing with car crashes - they almost always report on whether or not the driver and passengers were wearing their seat belts. The paper has reported on several deaths involving riders who were wearing helmets. It's simply another fact of the case.
I am a rider, and I put my focus on safe riding above all else. I wear my gear and practice safe riding techniques. (In other words, I don't take the "it's not the rider, it's the crazy drivers out there" approach; I take the "it's my responsibility to not allow any of the other drivers to hit me" approach. ) One thing I did notice here is that apparently the rider exchanged words with the driver shortly before the incident. One thing I have had drilled into my head for a long time is that you do NOT argue or otherwise do battle with a cager. The simple reason for that is if the cager decides to escalate the confrontation, you WILL lose. A bike is no match for two tons of car. This driver is going to jail, and hopefully it will be for a long time. I'm not blaming the rider here. However, in a case like this, it doesn't matter who is right or wrong when you're the one bleeding on the asphalt.