My First Motorcycle Accident
Yesterday I had my first motorcycle accident. I’ve been riding for fifty years, and this was the first (and hopefully last) significant accident. Oh, I’ve had some spills on dirt as a kid, and I’ve dropped a bike on a sloped intersection or similar situation, but this was a real road crash.
Everyone says, “It happened so fast”, and that is exactly what I experienced. One minute I’m driving on a country highway, the next I’m in the air. I’m writing this to help discover what went right and what went wrong that day.
This was the first of a three-day trip driving the mountain roads in western North Carolina. I was riding my 2005 BMW K1200LT and my buddy was on his brand new, 2018 Honda Goldwing Tour. We had finished a 200 mile morning and were early into a 150 mile afternoon on a two lane highway of curves and hills in the country.
As I came up a rise in the road, my buddy, who was leading, said into our headset communications, “SHE’S STOPPED”. I looked up, saw the stopped car in front of me, pulled on the ABS-Linked-Brakes but didn’t have enough space to stop in time.
I went fast into the back left corner of the car, did a forward roll over the bike, landed on my back on the roof of the car, proceeded to slide off the roof by the driver’s door, landed on my feet on the double yellow lines, and started walking down the road. Amazing!
I proceeded to walk to the front of the car and walk around to get my bearings. Then, to the rear of the car I saw my poor motorcycle - front end crunched and bleeding (brake fluid). It was at that moment I realized our trip is officially over; and my motorcycle, a 2005, will probably be totaled by the insurance company.
It was then I noticed my buddy’s motorcycle on its side in the grass at the side of the road, with him inspecting it. I had clipped the side of his bike on the way into the rear of the car, damaging his side bag and top case, while knocking him and the bike onto the shoulder. Talk about an abrupt and crappy end to what had started as a great riding day.
Over the next few hours, while fire department, EMS, police and eventually a flat-bed tow truck arrived, my buddy and I had time to reflect on the events of the day and think about what I could have done better.
I read motorcycle safety books & articles regularly - was I practicing all the skills I had learned?
• Was I driving defensively looking at every intersection, driveway, or parking lot for the threat of a car, truck, or motorcycle entering my roadway? NO, I was enjoying a beautiful spring motorcycle ride and was not focused on the potential dangers that I know exist.
• Did I slow down on every curve I couldn’t see around knowing there could be something in the roadway ahead? NO, I stayed at the speed limit most of the time.
• Did I slow down before cresting every hill in case there was a dog, deer, or stopped vehicle waiting for me? NO, again, I stayed at the speed limit most of the time.
• Did I keep my attention on the road at all times? NO, I had just passed a group of motorcyclists riding the other direction and I waved (a good thing), but I also looked in their direction for a second (a bad thing).
• Was I practicing emergency stopping every month or quarter? NO, my last emergency stopping practice was last summer, eight or nine months ago.
• Had I attended an advanced or defensive motorcycle riding course in the past year? NO, my last defensive motorcycle course was probably five or six years ago.
I knew the right things to do – I just ignored them on this particular Sunday – with unfortunate results.
So, what did go right?
First, I was extremely lucky to have a guardian angel watching out for me. How else can you explain the outcome? I hit a car, flipped over the bike, landed on my back on the roof of the car (hard enough to put a large dent in the roof), then slid off the roof down the driver’s side window and landed squarely on my feet. Except for a number of impact bruises, pulled muscles in my legs, and a sprained wrist and thumb, I’m okay.
Second was my gear. I’m a believer in ATGATT (All the Gear All the Time) and on this trip I was protected. Full Face Modular helmet, Mesh Riding Jacket with armor in the shoulders and elbows plus the optional rubber back protector, Leather Riding Gloves, Textile Riding Pants with Armored knees and padded hips and lower back, and finally, motorcycle boots. I suspect many of my bruises would be broken bones or serious gashes had I not been properly protected.
I will ride again once I heal and buy another motorcycle. I’ll get “back on the horse” as they say, and continue motorcycling. It is one of my passions and I plan to do it until I’m too old to hold up a bike. But I know I’ll ride with a renewed focus on safety, knowing anything is possible.
Post Script: So, why was the car stopped in the westbound lane of this two-lane highway? I learned hours later that a second car (in front of the car I hit) had stopped at that part of the road to make a U-turn and head back east. Why s/he couldn’t have turned into the entrance to the horse farm we were next to and then make the U-turn, I’ll never know. But it is a lesson to everyone – you never know what’s around the next curve or on top of the next rise.
2005 BMW K1200LT
2004 BMW R1150RT (sold)
1998 BMW R1200c (sold)