I’ve had my own violent and inevitable death described to me casually, by complete strangers, an inordinate number of times. It’s always a friendly conversation accompanied by knowing nods and benevolent looks. It’ll be a closed casket funeral, they say. Your mother won’t be able to say her last goodbyes. Mmmm. This place makes great doughnuts. Tried them yet? Is my reply.
It’s a bit surreal listening to casual declarations of my doom. I’ve gotten a bit more used to it though, and I don’t have to work as hard to disguise my shock. One can adapt to almost anything, they say.
So why do people tell me I’m going to die on a motorcycle? It’s as if everyone feels morally obligated to tell me of my imminent doom. They tell me because they care about my safety, and don’t want bad things to happen to me. Everyone knows someone who died on a motorcycle, or was badly injured. The details are all a drone that, quite frankly, I don’t want to hear about.
The conversation raises a few good questions, which I now want to pose to you: Am I going to die a gory, grievous death? What can I do to prevent that? And what can I say to my morbid fortune tellers which will help keep me safer?
Statistics Canada states that in 2014, 1,834 people died in motor vehicle incidents in Canada. 189 of these were motorcyclists, which amount for far less than 10% of all traffic. So yes, statistically I am more likely to die in a motor vehicle incident than someone surrounded by a steel cage. Big surprise there.
Do you know what the top three leading causes of death in Canada are? Cancer, heart disease and stroke. Accidental deaths come in 4th. Really, odds are that I’ll die a different sort of painful, gruesome death, drawn out over months or years. My death on a motorcycle would be financially beneficial to Canadian tax payers! Is it just me, or am I being unnaturally selfless here? You’re welcome.
There are plenty of articles and courses that teach you how to be safe on a motorcycle. When I chat with potential new riders worried about the dangers of riding, I give them warnings. I tell them that they are marked targets, and that every single driver on the road is a potential murderer. Pretend they’re out to get you. Forget eye contact, they’ll look straight through you and claim you came out of nowhere. The loudest pipes, the blinkiest lights, the most high-vis clothing on the market aren’t going to change that. This means that it’s your responsibility to prevent an accident, each and every time you climb on your bike. Imagine that there are no traffic rules, that it’s a lawless frontier and everything is your fault. Can you handle the responsibility? If not, don’t get a motorcycle. And please, please, don’t drive a car either. Because you’ll probably kill me.
Finally, when people give me the inevitable doom speech, I get frustrated. Here is a car driver, instigating a conversation about motorcycle safety! They are parroting words that they’ve heard other people saying, and not giving it much thought. So now when the conversation happens, I take the opportunity to say something, to hopefully make them think.
You’re absolutely right. I take my life into my hands every time I get on my bike. And you take my life into your hands every time you get into your car. Most motorcycle deaths occur when there is an incident involving another vehicle, and very often it’s the driver who didn’t see the motorcyclist.
A minor motor vehicle incident for you can mean injuries, a big hassle and an insurance nightmare. The same incident for me means an urgent trip to the hospital, if I’m lucky. So if you really care about motorcycle safety, please remind your friends and family to be aware of me on the road. Ask them not to drive to close to me or make sudden movements around me. Ask them to pass me carefully and respectfully, and let me pass. Ask them to signal.
When you see me, know that there’s a mother, or a son, or a dreamer, or a type-A personality, or someone who cries easily, or a pet owner, or a terrible guitar player under my helmet. I am very vulnerable. I’m going to work, or enjoying my weekend, or on an epic bucket-list adventure. If I pay you any sort of attention on the road, you’re probably making me nervous. Please back off.
Thank you for caring about my life and the life of my brothers and sisters. Drive safe! Please look for and respect motorcyclists!