Dont Let Confidence Become Complacency
JOSEPH E. RICHARDSON
9th Mission Support Command
Fort Shafter, Hawaii
It’s no secret that over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of motorcycles on the road. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that motorcycle mishaps are on the rise. I am now a part of both of those statistics.
After retiring from the Navy, I was hired as an executive assistant for the 70th Regional Readiness Command by the Army Reserve in Seattle. The new job was about 65 miles from my house, and, for the first month, I drove my vehicle to work. After dishing out about $360 in ferry and fuel costs, I started looking for alternate modes of transportation.
Unfortunately, buses didn't run early enough to get me to work on time and nobody responded to my requests to carpool. While driving around one day, I went into a motorcycle dealership to check prices. Because I never had any desire to own a motorcycle, I decided to start small and found a 50cc moped that showed a top speed of 40 mph on the speedometer.
I thought this was the answer because I didn't need to go any faster than 40 mph on my route to work. I purchased the moped and started riding it to work, saving myself more than $200 per month in transportation costs. Additionally, in Washington, if the bike is 50cc or less, there is no requirement for a motorcycle endorsement on the driver's license. Because it was just a small moped, I also didn’t feel the need for a motorcycle safety course.
It took about three months before my first mishap. I was on my way home from work, riding at about 40 mph (the posted speed limit), when somebody sped out of a gas station. The vehicle sideswiped me, sending me into one of the car’s windows, which smashed on impact, and then to the asphalt. I was wearing my helmet (which never hit the ground), a short-sleeve shirt, work slacks and dress shoes, so I wasn't protected very well from the ensuing road rash and glass shards entering my arms and legs.
Once I healed, I decided the moped wasn't worth fixing, so I bought a 600cc motorcycle and changed my route so I wouldn't have to ride around the curve where the accident occurred. Determined to do things right, I attended a Motorcycle Safety Foundation-sponsored riding course and got my motorcycle endorsement on my license. I also purchased a riding jacket with padding in the back and around the elbows, over-the-ankle boots and a reflective vest — absolute styling.
The more I rode, the more confident I became in my abilities. I even went on a three-day, three-state bike ride with my friends. Everything was going well until one fateful morning in September, just two weeks after being hired as a safety and occupational health specialist.
I was on my way to work and going to the ferry landing like I had every morning for the past couple of years. On this day, however, I had to travel down a different ferry lane than normal. As I checked my blind spot for an upcoming lane change, I inadvertently pulled my bike into a 7-inch-high concrete lane divider.
I was only traveling about 5 mph, so instead of just going over the divider, the motorcycle bounced off, throwing me to the ground. The bike then fell on my leg, breaking my fibula. The new safety guy was now an accident victim.
For all you riders whose motorcycles are a daily necessity, I have a little advice. Don't let confidence become complacency because accidents can happen to even the safest of riders. Make sure you remain vigilant; others might not be. Finally, be safe and don't become an accident statistic like I did — twice.