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The life of a stranger

July 24, 2010

Years ago my dad told me that most people who hit a motorcycle later tell the police; “I never even saw him”.

This poster is on the side of a garage along US highway 51 in Normal, Illinois.  It’s been there for years, and is pretty self-explanatory, I think.  But I also think that when many people see a motorcycle, they are inclined to forget that it carries a human life, a person, with loved ones who would miss them if they were gone.  Instead, they may see the motorcycle as just an annoyance.  The bike is smaller than their cars, so it isn’t important.  They’ll crowd the bike, they’ll tailgate, they’ll just fail to see them at all

In my lifetime, I’ve seen attitudes towards drunk driving change.  It was always deadly, but there was once a time when, inexplicably, it was considered funny.  People would say; “Man, I don’t remember driving home last night at all!” and their friends would laugh.

Not anymore; if you tell your friend that you drove home drunk last night, you’re likely to get a richly deserved rebuke, and they won’t go anywhere with you.  They may take your keys, or even report you to the cops.  And they’d be doing you, and some stranger, a favor.

Some of this change came about from earnest Public Service Announcements on television, but much of it happened because of MADD and because of individuals who just decided it was worth getting up in their friends’ faces about.

I’m suggesting now that distracted driving is in the same category. People just don’t multitask behind the wheel as well as they think they do, and we should get up in their faces about it.  If you’re talking to a friend and you realize they are driving a car, say; “Are you driving?  Good bye” and hang up.  And if you know someone who texts and drives, refuse to text them at any time until they stop doing it. 

Clearly it isn’t just for motorcycles either: it could save a pedestrian, another driver, a bicyclist.  Or of course, you.  But it also saves the people who love you, or who love those strangers, from the suffering that follows the phone call no one should ever have to receive.

(This is for Justice Day, who heard the knock on the door that no one should ever have to hear, on July 04 this year.  I don’t know if cell phones or texting or tuning the radio was the reason, but clearly someone just wasn’t seeing motorcycles that day.  I couldn’t read what she wrote and not weep, or not write this post afterward.  Visit her blog and offer a kind word.  Or at least remember her when you drive.)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 25, 2010 at 01:37 | #1

    This post is right in so many ways.

    Something that really infuriates me: the cell phone company I work for won’t let us end the call if we discover the caller is driving while trying to troubleshoot their phone.  A lot of the things we have to have them do in order to fix cell phone issues require them to take their eyes off the road and fiddle with the device, going through unfamiliar menus and so forth.  And we’re expected to do it, because somehow, the customer is always right – even when putting their lives and others’ at risk.

    That also needs to stop.  It’s like telling a bartender not to take the keys if someone says they’re perfectly fine to drive.

  2. Karen
    July 25, 2010 at 18:42 | #2

    I once worked with a really wonderful guy who’d been in a motorcycle accident.  He’d been properly dressed and wearing a helmet, but the accident had still left him with impaired hearing and motor coordination and fairly constant pain.

    His situation?  He’d been SITTING on his motorcycle, stopped at a stop sign on a country road, waiting for cross traffic to clear.  A car behind him just barreled into him.  Didn’t see the motorcycle.  Presumably didn’t see the stop sign, either.

    I always enjoyed Bill’s humor and live-and-let-live attitude, I was continually amazed at the tidy engineering solutions he could come up with, and I always grieved for the brilliant, sweet guy in the screwed-up body.


  3. July 26, 2010 at 02:33 | #3

    People who talk on their cell phones while they’re driving drive me crazy. They’re instantly not paying attention. They let up on the gas. Then they get distracted. I was riding with someone who was on the cell phone while she was driving. She cut someone off changing lanes, and didn’t even notice.

    But you can’t tell them that they’re not paying attention. Hey, what about the people who play with their radios, or do their hair?

  4. July 26, 2010 at 15:31 | #4

    Perhaps I should start seeing signs. Until you took this picture, I never realized it was there.

  5. August 9, 2010 at 00:06 | #5

    Cell phones are not the only problem, just stupidity and arrogance mostly. I saw someone reading a magazine while driving. It was completely unbelievable to me, but as I told the story to more and more people they stated they saw similar things too. WTF? How does someone not understand the importance of getting behind such a powerful and heavy object of a car and being responsible for others around us.

    Honestly I can’t wait for vehicles that drive themselves and better public transportation. Take the stupid people from behind the wheel and the control out of their hands.

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