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September 14, 2011 1:35 PM   Subscribe

21 year old Brandon Wright found himself trapped under a burning BMW after his motorcycle collided with it on a highway outside Salt Lake City. What happened next has to be seen to be believed.
posted by scalefree (183 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love humans.

But that guy in the suit. Is he the driver of the car? He didn't help much.
posted by chavenet at 1:38 PM on September 14, 2011


Yeah, Big-Dude-In-Suit, just STAND there.
posted by Windigo at 1:39 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


There may be hope for us after all.
posted by tommasz at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2011



Fucking suits, man.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


He looks like he's checking his BlackBerry. Also, the cop: you could help lift the car too, pal.
posted by chavenet at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Spoiler ahead] I know the people were trying to get away from the burning car and all, but I laughed out loud at the way they dragged the guy out and then just *scrammed*. Like the world's least curious onlookers or something.
posted by Rykey at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


Nice. I saw this on the news last night, and was wondering about Mr. Suit standing there. Perhaps he had a cliche excuse?
posted by IvoShandor at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2011


Ok, he's out. Let's all go get a shake.

Seriously, what about some first aid?
posted by procrastination at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


So, uh, what's the condition of motorcycle guy now?
posted by Babblesort at 1:42 PM on September 14, 2011


Law + Suit.

Had this gone less well.
posted by chavenet at 1:42 PM on September 14, 2011


Seriously, what about some first aid?

The standing around implies second aid was on its way.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2011


Ahh never mind... I see that's in the Huffpo link.
posted by Babblesort at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2011


Here's the other side of the story.
posted by kcds at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [100 favorites]


But that guy in the suit. Is he the driver of the car? He didn't help much.

Yeah, Big-Dude-In-Suit, just STAND there.

Nice. I saw this on the news last night, and was wondering about Mr. Suit standing there. Perhaps he had a cliche excuse?

Yeah, it's not like his monkey brain could be warning him that fire is dangerous OR maybe he might be arsonphobic OR he's in shock that he's just run over a fellow human being OR he's physically invalided to the point that he's unable to lift a car. Let's just be glad for the positive outcome.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [31 favorites]


"Er...hey guys"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [74 favorites]




Yeah, Big-Dude-In-Suit, just STAND there.

If you don't know what you're doing or are too shook up, it's best to stay out of the way.

Also, the cop: you could help lift the car too, pal.

He appeared to be thinking of the overall situation and checkign to make sure traffic wasn't going to the hit the burning car. When others started lifting, he started helping with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man, you can feel the awkwardness of that poor suit guy. Like he didn't play enough rough-and-tumble games as a kid or something.
posted by michaelh at 1:44 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ahh, teh internets. Let no good deed go unmocked or unmemed.
posted by chavenet at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [26 favorites]


Maybe they thought the car was going to blow up? Or they'd get sued for improper pulling of limp body from under burning car? I don't know either, it was definitely strange. Actually, the way the cops came in soon after with fire extinguishers, I'm guessing they were yelling at everyone to get out of the way.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


For half a second - for really just about half of one second - as the crowd dispersed, I thought ever so briefly that maybe what was about to happen was that they were all going to walk away, all of them, and just leave this guy splayed on the ground a respectably safe distance from the burning car and the remaining runtime of the video would be him on the ground, slowly coming to, looking around confused. I'm not ashamed to say I would have felt bad about laughing incredibly hard if that happened but I still probably would have done so.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


You see a couple people shaking their hands afterwards. I'll bet that car was HOT.
posted by rollbiz at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I suppose there wasn't much choice but I started to worry they were going to kill him by smothering him with fire extinguisher powder.
posted by Babblesort at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2011


I would say better they didn't jostle him around after dragging him out, or worse yet, wait for him to "get up" before accidentally dropping the car on him. Alhtough, W(hy)TF was the motorcyclist not wearing anything resembling safety gear?!? Just popping out to the shops?

A Darwin award runner-up...
posted by obscurator at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2011


If my car suddenly became a flaming death machine and a dude was trapped under it, I'm not sure my brain would be thinking clearly enough to say "hey try to lift the car off of him."
posted by rahnefan at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've seen enough crappy movies and played enough videogames to know that cars on fire blow up.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


We can't know for sure what's in his head but it looks to me like Suit Guy really is just completely un-self aware, rubbernecking the whole time & even wandering back & checking out the victim as paramedics start working on him. I'm not positively disposed towards him.
posted by scalefree at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2011


My first thought (in the "engineer asks why the blind golfers can't play at night" sense") was to open the car doors to get more torque to flip the thing.

The second was "Yay! they got 'im!"
posted by notsnot at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's great that all these people got together to lift the car up and pull this guy out, saving his life. However, seeing as they already moved him, couldn't they have moved him a few more feet? They just left him there while they all moved further away. You've already moved an injured person (which you should certainly do if they alternative is death), so get him away from the burning car.

And yeah, judging the suit guy or the cop based on what you see in a one minute video clip is kinda silly.
posted by bondcliff at 1:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess, looking at it again, Suit Guy may have been the driver and in a state of shock. But upon first glance I was definitely, "WTF? Are you updating your Twitter?"
posted by Windigo at 1:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I figured one of the cops or EMTs just told them to move away once the guy was safe.
But yes, sometimes people can be completely amazing.
posted by pishposh at 1:54 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey guys? You weren't there. And if you had been, you would probably have been having one of several amygdalic reactions, most of which were already on display in this video.

No one really knows how they will react in an emergency. That's why it requires so much training to actually work in the field of responding to them.
posted by hermitosis at 1:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [63 favorites]


Seriously, what about some first aid?

Maybe none of them knows what kind of first aid someone in that situation could use and they didn't want to make things worse by guessing.
posted by kenko at 1:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am practically never faced with situations like these, so I can't claim to know how I would react. I could be amongst those lifting the car, or I could be the dude in the suit. Maybe I wouldn't think about CPR. Maybe the cop would order me away afterward (like he seemed to be doing) and I would comply instead of performing first aid. I'm not trained to handle crises like these and they're not events I can set up for some backyard practice.

I'd like to think that I would do the right thing, and I'd like to believe that a need to help my fellows will overrule my flight/survival instincts, but of course there's no guarantee. Because of that, I think I will withhold judgment on the actions of select individuals shown in this video.

I do judge everyone lifting the car to have performed a heroic task, though. I heartily approve.
posted by CancerMan at 1:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


Put simply: This is the best of us. Next time you are sitting around bummed by monkey behaviour, remember this.
posted by djrock3k at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


Actually, the way the cops came in soon after with fire extinguishers, I'm guessing they were yelling at everyone to get out of the way.

I saw one of the cops (or rescue guys, maybe?) on the Today show yesterday, and he said yeah, they were telling everyone to get away once he was out.
posted by COBRA! at 1:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


The way suit guy was looking at the crushed guy reminded me of how I felt when I saw a pedestrian fly over the roof of a speeding car and then landed about two feet away from me. It was like 'ohmygodhumanbeingdeadishedeadofuck' in my head.

Or he could just be a douche. The interents will sort this.
posted by angrycat at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


But that guy in the suit. Is he the driver of the car? He didn't help much.

From what I read in some of the news reports, the driver was definitely in shock and wasn't thinking straight. Not so much updating twitter as much as trying to contact the police, thinking the motorcyclist was a goner.
posted by samsara at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2011


There are already cops on the scene, and presumably first responders are on their way.

The proper course of action is to follow the directions of the cops and first responders, which is what these people were doing. Kudos to them for stepping in and mostly keeping a clear head.
posted by muddgirl at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what about some first aid?

The first step is always to make sure that the scene is safe -- that the responders won't be hurt. It does no good to "help" and in the process get people hurt or killed. So once the guy is out, priority number one is to get the fire out... which is exactly what the police officers do.
posted by Forktine at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


You see a couple people shaking their hands afterwards. I'll bet that car was HOT.

I've driven past burning cars on the freeway before (no one was in them) and the heat was uncomfortable from the opposite side of the freeway. So I would assume the heat was quite painful for the people around that car. It would explain why they all cleared right after getting the guy out from under it.
posted by tracknode at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's just assume the suit guy was dialing 911, ok? Seems like the most rational thing he could do.

Oh, and no helmet. Jeez. That motorcyclist is one hell of a lucky guy.

(And speaking of putting the fire out, is there a reason why they didn't use foam to put out the fairly small fire? The guy on the ground almost certainly got scalded by the steam...)
posted by schmod at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2011


The moral of the story is: if you're going to be riding your motorbike without safety gear or a helmet, it's best to smash & fall under a burning car right next to a bunch of burly construction workers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


when i saw them start to pull the guy out, i had a moment of terror that there was some back or neck injury that was going to be made worse. (yeah, back/neck injuries better than burning to death, but still)
posted by rmd1023 at 2:01 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The first step is always to make sure that the scene is safe -- that the responders won't be hurt.

Yeah, this too. It's actually the first step of First Aid response.
posted by muddgirl at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2011


I earned my Redundancy Award Badge today.
posted by muddgirl at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


...almost certainly got scalded by the steam

Most likely that's either flame retardant powder or carbon dioxide, not steam.
posted by de void at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The guy on the ground almost certainly got scalded by the steam...)

That wasn't water - cops carry fire extinquishers designed for gasoline fires - usually CO2.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2011


> Law + Suit. Had this gone less well.

Would it have? There are a lot of angles to that, but what kinds of protections do so-called "Good Samaritan" laws offer people if the car fell and crushed someone?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2011


I think it's great that all these people got together to lift the car up and pull this guy out, saving his life. However, seeing as they already moved him, couldn't they have moved him a few more feet? They just left him there while they all moved further away. You've already moved an injured person (which you should certainly do if they alternative is death), so get him away from the burning car.


Its bad to move an injured person more than is necessary. You may cause spinal damage.

I remember when I was a kid and a fellow player on my high school soccer team took a huge blow to the head when a goal he was hanging on to tape the net on fell on his head. We carried him across fields to the parking lot. The ambulance met us half way there and pointed out that they can drive over fields and said we should leave an injured person in place so they can get a backboard under them.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:06 PM on September 14, 2011


I don't understand how the poor guy got trapped under the car. It seems impossible, from looking at how the bike is wedged into the front of the car.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:06 PM on September 14, 2011


was to open the car doors to get more torque to flip the thing.

I bet the door hinges would twist off way before the angle was large enough to pull out the biker.

Got a spare car we can try this on?
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:07 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


what kinds of protections do so-called "Good Samaritan" laws offer people if the car fell and crushed someone?

Assuming you mean "someone" be be any of the rescuers, and not the motorcyclist, then contributory negligence would probably sort that out.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:10 PM on September 14, 2011


Cool thing what those folks did, but couldn't help noticing the lack of helmet on motorcycle guy. had he been wearing one (and in fairness it might have been torn off in the wreck) he might have fared better. still, those are some stand-up samaritans.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:14 PM on September 14, 2011


I don't understand how the poor guy got trapped under the car.

As a guess, the car probably pushed the bike along for a while after the collision (which corresponds with how it's wedged in there, and not lying randomly fifty yards away). Rider fell off, and the car rolled over him. This kinda points to it not being a massively high speed collision.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:15 PM on September 14, 2011


Driving cross country I had to drive past two pickup trucks that had collided and caught fire and the police/fire dept were letting them burn out (northern ontario - no hydrants handy). I was 2 lanes away and moving about 10mph and the car door on the fire side got very uncomfortably warm in seconds.

So yeah they must have endured some heat.
posted by srboisvert at 2:16 PM on September 14, 2011


had he been wearing one (and in fairness it might have been torn off in the wreck) he might have fared better.

Or it might have been to big to fit under the car with the rest of his body. He's extraordinarily lucky.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:17 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to rain on anyone's parade, but am I really the only MeFite who's a tiny bit disappointed that a mysterious hitchhiker didn't show up, turn into the Hulk, flip the car off the guy with one hand, and then run off before he changed back?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:17 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Twenty years ago a boyfriend and I were at a red light when we saw "POW" a guy blow the light and hit this car. The car spun around and then *POOF* it started on fire. I see the driver slump over. I scream "HE'S OUT, HE'S OUT" and ran to the car. Boyfriend followed. We broke the glass, opened the door, and dragged the unconscious driver out.

It wasn't to be a hero, get a reward, etc. but because leaving someone to burn to death is a shitty thing to do and a miserable way to go out let alone live through it.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by stormpooper at 2:18 PM on September 14, 2011 [42 favorites]


If you watch the video carefully, you can see one of the cops motioning to get back from the scene of the fire. Following the rescue, he's trying to prevent others from getting urt from a possible fuel detonation or whatever. Everyone does immediately after. One cop disappears, the other stays on the scene to keep it clear. He has to do this; a couple of the construction workers try to reenter from the bottom and he keeps them clear. The other cop returns with two extingushers (almost certainly from the cops' cars). They then put the fire out using a pair of Class C dry powder extinguishers (and they do it properly, aiming at the base of the flame).

Looks like a pretty textbook case of good scene management to me.
posted by bonehead at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Like the guy in a $3000 suit is going to lift a burning car. Come on!
posted by gngstrMNKY at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [93 favorites]


Ok, he's out. Let's all go get a shake.

Seriously, what about some first aid?


You're certain they all have first training, then? 'Cause I know that if I am ever in a highway accident and find myself splayed beneath a burning car and some passersby lift the car off me, I definitely want them to guess what they are doing when it comes to medical assistance rather than wait for the EMTs.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:20 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm gonna not slam the suit guy, for not helping. I witnessed a car hit a dog and take off, and was among the four people trying to help the dog, who could not get back up -- paralyzed lower half. It was a big dog, and between the four of us we literally could not figure out how to get the dog safely into the back of one car without getting bitten (and one guy did get a bite, a very obvious, non-skin-breaking, "dude WTF don't fucking lift me you piece of shit" bite.)

Then a random person drove up, saw what was going on, and said "you have to throw a blanket over her to calm her down and protect yourself", and proceeded to do so. Which is something I knew! But in the moment, I just didn't think of it, for the several minutes before that random guy showed up.

The stress of being in a high-intensity unexpected situation sometimes fails to bring out the best in us.
posted by davejay at 2:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Utah still doesn't have a helmet law (except for riders under 18 years old) and Utahns are stupid enough to ride without them.

My Utah in-laws don't like it much when I refer to their state as "danger country." But at least I'm nice enough not to call it "idiot country," too.
posted by The World Famous at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


[Spoiler ahead] I know the people were trying to get away from the burning car and all, but I laughed out loud at the way they dragged the guy out and then just *scrammed*. Like the world's least curious onlookers or something.

What? Are they supposed to be curious what their flesh will look and smell like when burning car goes boom? No, no, no...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:25 PM on September 14, 2011


I like the cars, the cars that go boom.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have seen NYC firefighters run up to an (empty) burning car, look inside and then get the hell away from it - in a hurry. It quickly burst into a small fireball and then a very loud BAAAAMMM! It was damn scary.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty amazing stuff.

I'm gonna not slam the suit guy, for not helping.

Me neither. I have zero idea what is going on with his life, whether he is medically capable of lifting anything (let alone mentally), whether he was calling for assistance, or what.
posted by grouse at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I first watched the video, even knowing that it would end in them getting the guy out, I couldn't help but think, "they're going to roll that car right onto the guy's head." One side goes up, the other side goes down, right? I'm still trying to figure out how they didn't hurt the guy when they were tilting the car sideways - rather than actually lifting it.

Other thought that occured to me when they pulled him out - why doesn't that idiot have a helmet on? What is it with motorcyclists in the U.S.? Do they all have a death wish? I drove across half the U.S. and back a couple of summer ago and saw precisely two motorcyclists wearing helmets. It's like they collectively decided they didn't really care about living too much.

As for the suit guy, he was probably in shock and not sure what to do. Judging people's reactions in emergencies from the safety of your computer screen is almost never fair.
posted by Dasein at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2011


Let me tell you what happens when you are in a head-on collision. One, you're completely dazed and in shock. Once the adrenaline has left, you have no idea where you are or what you're doing. Meanwhile, you've been punched in the face by a giant burning-hot boxing glove, also known as the air-bag. Your hands are probably blistered with second degree burns, and your fingers or wrists may be sprained, or at least sore, if they were resting on one of the spokes rather than the rim of the steering wheel. Your shoulder will be deeply bruised with a welt that will last for a week or more, and maybe a broken collarbone or rib from the seatbelt jerking you back.

Guy in a suit looked like he was walking around in a daze. It was probably his car, and while he walked away from the wreck, assuming he was unharmed or in full control of his faculties is way too much of a stretch.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


"you have to throw a blanket over her to calm her down and protect yourself"

Good point, but in this case the victim was unconscious so no one had to worry about getting bitten.
posted by perhapses at 2:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm just sorry the suit guy stayed out, because I was working on a Squirrel Nut Zippers cover to put over the video called "The Suits Are Picking Up the Grille."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


A Darwin award runner-up...

ER staff don't call 'em donorcycles for nothing.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I drove across half the U.S. and back a couple of summer ago and saw precisely two motorcyclists wearing helmets.

Definitely depends on things like helmet laws. Most motorcyclists I see in California have helmets (but its the law here). In Texas (with no mandatory helmets for riders over 21) you definitely see people without them.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:35 PM on September 14, 2011


Why did they have to lift the car at all, i'm confused by that part of it.. did he just not fit?
posted by empath at 2:36 PM on September 14, 2011


I have seen NYC firefighters run up to an (empty) burning car, look inside and then get the hell away from it - in a hurry. It quickly burst into a small fireball and then a very loud BAAAAMMM! It was damn scary.

The standard evacuation distance for a car fire is 50 yards/150 feet (according to the guide on my desk). Burning cars can be pretty dangerous.
posted by bonehead at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, you can feel the awkwardness of that poor suit guy. Like he didn't play enough rough-and-tumble games as a kid or something.

But that would mean he wasn't anywhere close to any of them. What someone who had played them awkwardly would do is crouch down in a position as if ready to pounce into action but be far enough away that action could never actually come to him.*

Or so I've been told.

I'm not going to slam this guy for any reason -- but I certainly see why its meme worthy because it looks hilarious. Not that being hilarious is necessarily a characteristic of all memes.

Speaking of, if somebody could just go ahead and put all YouTube videos posted to MetaFilter in gif form so when I'm at work (YouTube blocked) or on my phone (impatient), I could still view them, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!**

* Also known as "8 year old MCMikeNamara in the outfield"

** 36 year old MCMikeNamara is not as physically awkward, but still too demanding to be asked to most parties.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:39 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna not slam the suit guy, for not helping.

I'm not going to judge you for your comma error.
posted by goethean at 2:40 PM on September 14, 2011


I drove across half the U.S. and back a couple of summer ago and saw precisely two motorcyclists wearing helmets. It's like they collectively decided they didn't really care about living too much.

I know lots of folks who ride motorcycles and have yet to see any one of them without a helmet. Were you driving in circles in Utah or something?
posted by nzero at 2:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I drove across half the U.S. and back a couple of summer ago and saw precisely two motorcyclists wearing helmets.

you must have confined your travels to the skull-fracture belt. Lots of states require helmets, and it's one law the cops enjoy enforcing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lots of states don't require helmets, or require them only for minors.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were you driving in circles in Utah or something?

you must have confined your travels to the skull-fracture belt.

Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa.

Almost no one rode with helmets. One of the two guys who did have a helmet was wearing shorts and a t-shirt on the Interstate.
posted by Dasein at 2:49 PM on September 14, 2011


My Utah in-laws don't like it much when I refer to their state as "danger country." But at least I'm nice enough not to call it "idiot country," too.

As a native Utahn, I'd just like to say I appreciate both of your actions. I think the general population there could use some polite but focused harassment on this issue (and probably a few like it) without outright abuse.
posted by weston at 2:54 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the related Huffington Post article, for those interested in how he got there in the first place:

The crash happened near Utah State University, where Wright was headed to study at a computer lab, Riggs said. The BMW was pulling out of a parking lot.

Tire and skid marks on the highway showed that Wright laid the bike down and slid along the road before colliding with the car, Curtis said.

Riggs said Wright tried to protect himself by laying his bike down.

The bike hit the car's hood and bounced to the ground, while Wright, who was not wearing helmet, slid under the car and then both vehicles burst into flames, Curtis said.

posted by argonauta at 2:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


hey you saw this on the yahoo news feed too?

It was in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday - the only time I can remember when something like this has shown up there before Metafilter. Usually they're about 2-3 days behind because something something old media something checking sources something.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2011


Almost no one rode with helmets. One of the two guys who did have a helmet was wearing shorts and a t-shirt on the Interstate.

Oregon. Helmet law state. Way too many dudes and dudettes with helmets, shorts and athletic shirts on crotch rockets. Yep.. So much safer.
posted by jgaiser at 3:09 PM on September 14, 2011


I couldn't help but think of that Republican debate question and the "Let him die!" chanting that followed. Maybe the world isn't as bleak as they make it out to be...
posted by dave78981 at 3:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This really wasn't that amazing. I felt seriously disappointed at the end of the video. I guess I have no soul after all.
posted by MattMangels at 3:09 PM on September 14, 2011


At the end when there is a fade to white at first I thought that the car or motorcycle exploded killing everyone and in my head I was like "What a twist!"
posted by I Foody at 3:12 PM on September 14, 2011


Why did they have to lift the car at all, i'm confused by that part of it.. did he just not fit?

It looks like his leg or ankle was trapped under the front passenger side wheel. You can see when the girl lies down on the ground to see, and then she gets up and is pointing at the leg area, and then they do the big lift. Of course, that's the leg they dragged him out by.
posted by Gator at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2011


Michigan

i rarely ever see a motorcyclist in michigan who isn't wearing a helmet - it's the law here that you do so
posted by pyramid termite at 3:30 PM on September 14, 2011


In contrast to Awkward Suit Guy, hooray for small lady who gets right in there, lays herself on the ground to check out exactly where he is, and then joins the lift--the angle of the car when it begins to lift gives the illusion that she's doing major hauling, like some sort of small-framed, casual-wear Xena.
posted by availablelight at 3:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [27 favorites]


Why did they have to lift the car at all, i'm confused by that part of it.. did he just not fit?

Yeah, he wasn't under that BMW so much as that BMW was on top of him. Not a lot of ground clearance on those sedans.

Nice little slice of humanity. Thanks.

PSA time: Wear a helmet. Drive safely.
posted by carsonb at 3:34 PM on September 14, 2011


People: We need to lift this car off this guy.

Car: Don't be silly, I am much too heavy. You can't lift me.

More people: DON'T YOU TELL US WHAT WE CAN'T DO!
posted by FishBike at 3:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [31 favorites]


Only about 20 states have laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet. Most of the rest only require riders under a certain age to wear a helmet.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:42 PM on September 14, 2011


what kinds of protections do so-called "Good Samaritan" laws offer people if the car fell and crushed someone?
Assuming you mean "someone" be be any of the rescuers, and not the motorcyclist, then contributory negligence would probably sort that out.


Well no. Contributory Negligence is about the contribution of the injured party. The idea is that if you are injured but you were partially responsible, even a tiny bit, then you get nothing. this only applies in Alabama, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Most states use some kind of Comparative Negligence rule. In Utah it's a '50% bar' - if you are 50% or more at fault, then you get nothing. So (for example) if the BMW driver was speeding or on his cellphone, but the motorcyclist rolled through a red light or a stop sign and got hit as a result, then the driver of the car would be off the hook.

Helmet-wise, the motorcyclist has assumed some of the risk of a head injury, and might not recover, or recover less, for any kind of head injury or for extra medical testing over and above what a helmet-wearing rider would have received. I'm reflexively pro-helmet, but can't help thinking that since he was actually under the car, the extra size of a helmet might have resulted in a broken neck too...yikes.

Utah has a broad Good Samaritan act, which exempts any person who offers emergency care from liability, as long as it is offered gratuitously and in good faith. Some states only confer such protections on trained emergency workers. The emergency is so obvious here that I can't imagine anyone being held liable even if the motorcyclist had died as a result of the rescue attempt.

Utah does impose a duty to rescue on the person who creates a hazard. If the guy in the suit was responsible for the accident, I'm not sure just how much is expected of him in this situation. Looks like I just gave myself a new homework assignment.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


A Darwin award runner-up...

ER staff don't call 'em donorcycles for nothing.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:34 PM on September 14 [+] [!]


So it's about the kebabs?
posted by chavenet at 3:45 PM on September 14, 2011


People: We need to lift this car off this guy.

Car: Don't be silly, I am much too heavy. You can't lift me.

More people: DON'T YOU TELL US WHAT WE CAN'T DO!


YouTube: Oh, my gosh.
posted by The Bellman at 3:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Utah does impose" should read "Utah courts have recognized..." Note to self: do not use MetaFilter as scribble paper.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2011


When I was 16, my mother, grandmother and I drove up on an accident where a man had run his car off the road and into a tree. We tried to get him out of the car, but he was a big guy and wedged under the steering wheel.

Suddenly, the whole thing caught fire. People are driving past us the whole time; I finally had to drag my grandmother out of the fire and off the car before she went up with it.

I have always hoped that the people who zipped around three 5'3"ish women trying to pull a man out of a burning car were hurrying home to call the fire department. I wish any one of these folks had been there.
posted by headspace at 3:50 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Riggs said Wright tried to protect himself by laying his bike down.

Major rookie error. I'm not trying to be all, "That would never have happened to me," but mistakes like this one could be avoided if more riders would learn and practice emergency braking technique. Getting max braking power without locking up either wheel and skidding is not an instinctive reflex (like panicking and laying down the bike), but a vital skill.

I know it's asking a lot, but I wish news reporters and the police would stop citing "laying down the bike" as a reasonable way to reduce injury in the event of a collision. It's a pervasive misunderstanding about bike physics and rider safety, and does nothing to encourage riders new and old to get proper rider training.
posted by keep it under cover at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


There is something really interesting going on here. The way the first gentleman tried to do something impossible, but also introduced the idea that became reality.
posted by rcdc at 4:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [41 favorites]


"Riggs said Wright tried to protect himself by laying his bike down."

Wright is a liar. Wright panicked, grabbed a handful of brake and dumped his bike. No rider who is in control of his motorcycle will (or should) ever intentionally choose to "lay his bike down" in order to protect himself, nor would he do so in such a way as to maintain such close proximity to the bike if he did.

That Wright probably didn't receive training in safe and proficient motorcycle operation (or didn't take that training seriously) is prima facie indicated by his lack of any safety gear whatsoever. I cannot take riders like that seriously.

...with that said, what the bystanders did was simply amazing. I hope I'm so lucky if I'm ever in Wright's position.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:14 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Looks like keep it under cover beat me to it.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:14 PM on September 14, 2011


Salt Lake Tribune: Brandon Wright was riding east on U.S. Highway 89 about 11:40 a.m., when a driver steered his BMW 530XI into the motorcycle’s path from a parking lot across the street from the Utah State University campus, said Assistant Logan Police Chief Jeff Curtis. The driver of the BMW did not see Wright, who laid down his bike and slid into the car.

Ouch. True about the risk of laying down the bike; I took a short flight from a motorcycle over the roof of a car once, and although it was scary the only injury I sustained was some bruising. On the other hand, I was wearing leather and a helmet, and it was a pretty low-speed impact.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:16 PM on September 14, 2011


Why does the make (and model!) of the car appear in all the articles as a relevant detail, but not the make and model of the bike?

Call me crazy but I think that is contributing to the idea that the guy wearing the suit was the driver... and that he deserves blame.
posted by danny the boy at 4:25 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like the "We Are The World" group is there and then the Village People show up. It was like a feel good 80s reunion.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I just moved out here where the accident happened and I cannot believe how the motorcyclists here don't wear helmets or any safety gear whatsoever. They'll be driving down the freeway in nothing but a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and I panic every time that they're going to get in an accident and just be skinned for life.

Anyway, this is awesome to see and I hope I never hit one of these because I don't know if I'd have that kind of strength.
posted by Marinara at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2011


Call me crazy but I think that is contributing to the idea that the guy wearing the suit was the driver... and that he deserves blame.

If it wasn't a BMW, I would say it has more to do with the size of the car. This was no subcompact. But in the popular press, BMW driver = dick.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2011


If you don't know what you're doing or are too shook up, it's best to stay out of the way.

Seriously, if you don't know what to do with a spinal injury and your guy's breathing and has a pulse, leave him to the professionals. You don't move people in that situation around if you don't absolutely have to.
posted by mhoye at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2011


Why does the make (and model!) of the car appear in all the articles as a relevant detail, but not the make and model of the bike?

Judging from the video, the simplest explanation is that the make and model was visible on the car. On the bike... not so much.
posted by pokermonk at 4:41 PM on September 14, 2011


Seriously, if you don't know what to do with a spinal injury and your guy's breathing and has a pulse, leave him to the professionals. You don't move people in that situation around if you don't absolutely have to.

Ummm.... Car on fire.. Person under car.. No, just leave him until rescue gets here.

Thanks, but drag my ass from under the car. I'll worry about spinal injuries later.
posted by jgaiser at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. The opening and ending commentary on the Huffington Post version of the video is incredibly useless—I wonder if they just had to add something, anything to the video in order to use it? Or if they worked out the rights to use the Today show footage and still decided they needed to add some "original content" to it?

It would be interesting to know how they made the decision about what type of commentary to include around that video, 'cause as it stands, it just seems kind of tasteless that the ending kicker on that video is a woman saying, "There are currently 20 states that require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet." That seems more like a factoid that should be included somewhere in the text of the story, if anywhere at all, rather than in the video. The way it's placed, it sounds very...judgmental. Like, "This guy got himself into this mess, and all of these people still helped him."

Granted, the guy probably should've been wearing a helmet—and that's completely fair game to mention in, say, a discussion thread like this one—but it still strikes me as a bit out of place as the only commentary at the end of what's supposed to be a news video.
posted by limeonaire at 4:48 PM on September 14, 2011


stormpooper: We broke the glass, opened the door, and dragged the unconscious driver out.

How did you break the glass?
posted by skwt at 4:54 PM on September 14, 2011


Wright is a liar. Wright panicked, grabbed a handful of brake and dumped his bike.

"Liar" is unnecessarily harsh. Crashes happen really, really fast, and memory works by narrative reconstruction; it's not at all hard to see how he would look back on what happened and remember there being some good reason for whatever it was he ended up doing, whether or not that was what actually went through his mind at the time.

Last time I crashed a bike was just shy of two years ago, when some oblivious driver ran a stop sign at a cross street. I can tell you a story about what happened between the instant I realized the car was not going to stop, and the moment I sat up and checked to see if I was injured, but I don't actually know whether I remember it or am just reconstructing it. I was a bit too busy staying alive at the time to be focusing on remembering what was happening.

So, lay off him a bit. It's one thing to question his recollection of the event and quite another to call him a liar. (And quite another to point out that trying to slide a bike is bad physics whether you're doing it on purpose or not!)
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


A pickup truck caught fire in my work parking lot one night as I was closing, and alone except for a lone florist in the back....it was uncomfortably close to our front window and we scrammed out the back after calling 911. That thing was blazing, and camethisclose to setting our old wooden building on fire


The firemen told me after they put the truck out that vehicles on fire rarely if ever blow up.


That video up there is still heroic and cool, tho. (Well, not LITERALLY cool.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:05 PM on September 14, 2011


Seriously, what about some first aid?

Proper triage is always important in these cases, and I think it's more important to ascertain the state of his medical insurance before giving any aid, let alone first aid.
posted by the noob at 5:05 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well no. Contributory Negligence is about the contribution of the injured party. The idea is that if you are injured but you were partially responsible, even a tiny bit, then you get nothing.

I interpreted Horselover's question as "what if one of the rescuers had the car dropped on them?" in which case we're talking about the rescuer as the injured party, who is arguably partially responsible, because going about lifting burning cars contains a reasonably foreseeable risk of personal harm, coupled with a lack of reasonable precauctions to avoid that harm (ie keeping the hell clear).
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on September 14, 2011


Ummm.... Car on fire.. Person under car.. No, just leave him until rescue gets here.

Yeah, I was talking about after he'd been extracted from under the car, and how people just got out of the way. I think we all understand that you don't leave people under burning cars.
posted by mhoye at 5:09 PM on September 14, 2011


also, about the helmet thing - sure, it's safer to ride wearing a helmet, but it's safer still to drive in a car, and even safer yet to stay off the road entirely. So where do you draw the line? Everyone has their own risk tolerance, and once you start playing the safety one-upmanship game there's nowhere to stop.

I never get on a bike without a full-face helmet, leather jacket, gloves, and boots, because that's what I need to feel like I am taking reasonable precautions. But I don't wear a hi-viz jacket or reflective panels, I don't always wear leather pants, I ride at night and in the rain, and I don't pay much attention to speed limits. So am I a safe rider or not? If I get in some horrible crash, am I supposed to take the blame because I didn't choose the same set of safety precautions you might have?

Everyone who gets on a bike is taking a risk. There's no right and wrong, there's only risk management.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a cyclist, ursine scootician, and motorcyclist, a few things come to mind for me.

ER staff don't call 'em donorcycles for nothing.

ER staff call 'em "donorcycles" because they're hardened by a constant stream of traumatic injuries and because they have some inexplicable vested interest in working my mother up into a near panic about the very concept of me using a two-wheeled vehicle to get around. Never mind that I don't drink, don't speed, wear ATGATT, have passed both the basic and experienced MSF courses with 100% scores, ride a well-maintained bike with modest horsepower, and actually spend time in deserted parking lots refining my skills and technique—OMG you're going to die on that thing! When you factor in my risk management tactics, I'm not not much worse off than I'd be in my car.

We practice risk management all the time, but for some reason, it's popular to single out what we regard as inherently dangerous pursuits and say "see—this is what happens when you..." because we're a culture that adores the just-world fallacy above almost all things.

Riggs said Wright tried to protect himself by laying his bike down.

This is what happens when your culture's entire language to describe motorcycle issues comes from Harley riders, Sons of Anarchy, and fifty-eight years of starry-eyed dreamers who think Marlon Brando was the epitome of what riding is all about. It's a somewhat rote running joke at Adventure Riders, the trope of "had to lay 'er down," but you still hear it said with the great reverence accorded to true wisdom.

I also knew the second I saw this, before the bit from the Salt Lake Tribune was posted, that this was a SMIDSY accident (aka "sorry, mate, I didn't see you"), the infuriating defense of the clueless American motorist (i.e. all of them, when you account for a 3% error factor in the statistics). The rider's 21, so he's presumably not the wisest and most rational rider on the road, but jerks pull out without a moment's notice all the time. Had to practice my full-out avoidance training three days after getting my new bike when a prison guard literally stared right through me and lurched out when I was thirty feet away from him (I was quite pleased that my unfamiliarity with the bike didn't do me in in that case.), and it takes a lot of inner calm not to grab too much brake in that moment, which will easily trigger a "lowsider."

If you're a motorist, PAY ATTENTION. You think you do, but you don't. PAY ATTENTION.

If you're a rider, watch this excellent UK anti-SMIDSY video, take the MSF courses, and read Proficient Motorcycling and Motorcycling Excellence like they're the Holy Bible and the Tao Te Ching and KEEP LEARNING. You think you're an expert rider, but you're not. KEEP LEARNING.

Also, put crazy neon lights all over your motorcycle, because the world would just be so much cooler if we all did that. I keep thinking my bike needs a luminous Mamie Eisenhower pink bathroom-inspired remodeling, myself, but if, god forbid, I ever did become a donorcyclist, I'd hate for my organs to go in the incinerator just because they worked out that I'm unsecretly Faggy McFaggington, III.

If you wear nothing else, though, wear a helmet.
posted by sonascope at 5:18 PM on September 14, 2011 [27 favorites]


ursine scooticians.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:25 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


this is what really happens in emergencies: the first people to respond are the people right there going WTF? It's called "convergent response." So-called first responders are only the first if there's nobody but victims at the scene. I noticed somebody correctly called the fire/EMT guys "second responders."

In a disaster (emergency that overwhelms local emergency services) the only emergency response for hours or even days will be convergent responders. Smart communities have convergent responder training for anybody that wants it. In really smart communities, everybody gets trained.

It's only natural. Shit gets fucked up and you run and help.

I was in a similar accident (car turns left without warning). It was just reflex but I turned as hard as I could to avoid the head-on and laid down the bike. I knew it was going down, but I wanted to change my heading far worse than keeping the shiny side up. All I got was some scraped paint on my bike and helmet and knocked around a bit, but I'd do it again in a flash.
posted by warbaby at 5:25 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And it's my understanding that the proper libertarian response after he was extracted would be to let him die if he didn't have medical insurance.

GOOGLE RON PAUL!
posted by darkstar at 5:28 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm an MSF instructor, rated to teach all the basic courses as well as the advanced riding courses. I have enjoyed riding motorcycles of every description from the day I could afford to buy my own (per the mom, I couldn't live at home nor expect any subsidy if I bought a motorcycle).

And yet, when I'm living in a state that allows it, I will occasionally choose NOT TO WEAR A HELMET! Handwring away! I like to think it's a managed risk thing. I'm sure there's some of you that don't put your seatbelt back on after using a drive-up ATM when you know you're only going a few blocks further. Same basic principle. If I'm only putzing around to the market and back, on 30mph roads on a warm sunny day, more often than not I'll skip the bucket.

Part of this is that my days of driving like a complete lunatic and giving all motorcyclists a bad name are long gone. I haven't had a speeding ticket in at least ten years. I ride all four seasons, stopping only when the snow and ice accumulate without melting. The donor box is checked on my license. I don't do drugs or drink when I'm on my bikes. I'm totally ageist in thinking that all riders should have to wear helmets until age 21. And on the flip side of that, of the last four motorcycle wrecks I've witnessed, three of them were age 50+ males who had just got their life's dream Harleys yet hadn't ridden twenty years prior. It is NOT like riding a bicycle, you need to constantly polish your riding skills because everyone on the road is trying to kill you.

You know what I think would be neat? In mandatory helmet states, make sure that the only legal helmets are full-face helmets. Those stupid fiberglass yarmulkes so popular with a certain group of riders seem to provide barely a bit more protection than putting a twelve pack box on the noggin. There was an image on the old ogrish, I think, that had a half-helmet motorcyclist on all fours on a hospital gurney, with his face split open all the way to the brainpan. Just two wildly staring eyes and a bloody gaping maw where his nose, mouth etc used to be. That's when I moved to only full-face helmets for me and my passengers.

Not sure this rambling rant really has a point, other than to say that the concept of "all the gear, all the time" is a good thing but occasionally, circumstances warrant not wearing a helmet. On a side note, when the temperature starts cooling down like it is now, I can start wearing leather pants. Which apparently make my butt look mighty good.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have no love for the Tea Party but turning this event into a thing about the Tea Party is only going to backfire.
posted by mkb at 5:45 PM on September 14, 2011


i found a 14 minute version of this video with no audio

interesting - right around 2.15 a guy in a green shirt and a white hat shows up - must be a doctor, as he pretty much takes charge of the victim
posted by pyramid termite at 5:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


in the 14 minute version, it looks like the police are about to move the guy farther away, but mr. green shirt stops them. also, the biker moves his arm around a little at 4:08, not quite an "i'm ok!" wave, but a sort of feeble "i'm not dead!" which, considering the circumstances, is pretty amazing.
posted by brenton at 6:08 PM on September 14, 2011


In contrast to Awkward Suit Guy, hooray for small lady who gets right in there, lays herself on the ground to check out exactly where he is, and then joins the lift--the angle of the car when it begins to lift gives the illusion that she's doing major hauling, like some sort of small-framed, casual-wear Xena.

Yes, this lady is superb.

"Tum-da-dum... just out for my morning powerwalk in my Bermudas... what's this? A terrible accident? A bunch of people standing around? COME ON YOU MOFOS, LET'S LIFT THIS BITCH."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


When you factor in my risk management tactics, I'm not not much worse off than I'd be in my car. ...

I also knew the second I saw this, before the bit from the Salt Lake Tribune was posted, that this was a SMIDSY accident (aka "sorry, mate, I didn't see you"), the infuriating defense of the clueless American motorist (i.e. all of them, when you account for a 3% error factor in the statistics).


I don't know, sonascope, those two statements seem pretty contradictory to me. The thing about motorcycles is that drivers actually don't see them. Drivers are conditioned to look for cars; a driver could look right at you, his eyes might send signals that say "there's a motorcycle there," but his brain, which is looking for a car, says, "road's clear." When I was reading this story by an journalist who was hit on a bike, this part struck me:

the phrase “I just didn't see him” is a refrain well-known to attending paramedics and police. Indeed, that's just what the youthful driver kept saying over and over again to the police – or so I was told. I

He's not very sympathetic to her, understandably, but she was probably telling the truth, and it may well have had nothing to do with whether or not she was paying attention; it's just one part of the fact that humans are imperfect. So, that's problem one - some percentage of drivers will not see some percentage of motorcycles some percentage of the time, through no fault of their own, and that will cause accidents.

Problem number two - when you're in an accident, you've got almost nothing to protect you. If a driver doesn't see me, I'd rather have a high-strength steel safety cage designed to deform just so, and to reduce the forces on me as much as possible, along with a seat belt and air bag, rather than an inch or two of foam in my helmet. There's a reason that motorcycles are orders of magnitude more deadly to ride. I can totally understand that it's worth the risk to some people, but to say that the risk is about the same just seems self-evidently wrong, no matter how you ride. Because it's not just about you, it's about every idiot on the road around you.
posted by Dasein at 6:17 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This video is a lot better than what these assholes did: http://i.imgur.com/SxsGK.gif
posted by tresbizzare at 6:50 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


According to the audio on the Huffington Post video clip, the driver helped lift the car, so Awkward Suit Guy may not have been the driver. Also, he walks off while the cops are trying to put out the fire. Wouldn't they have detained the driver?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:58 PM on September 14, 2011


I bet you ten bucks awkward suit guy is currently telling his friends how he helped lift the car off the motorcyclist.
posted by digsrus at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as we're hijacking this thread,

"Never mind that I don't drink, don't speed, wear ATGATT, have passed both the basic and experienced MSF courses with 100% scores, ride a well-maintained bike with modest horsepower, and actually spend time in deserted parking lots refining my skills and technique...god forbid, I ever did become a donorcyclist, I'd hate for my organs to go in the incinerator just because they worked out that I'm unsecretly Faggy McFaggington, III."

Uhhh, hate to tell you bro...heheh. We should all put cray neon lights on our bikes? There's a whole culture out there dedicated to the idea that every trip out is a gamble with death. Some of us are proud of it, stupid as that may be. It should be flaunted accordingly by removing safety measures wherever possible! joke sort of
At some point, riders are never going to be able increase the level of driver awareness, and cager mentality is just something we all have to learn to deal with as bikers. Truth be told, I'd love it if everyone applying for a driver's license were required to ride a bicycle for a year, and then a motorcycle for another year. It would give people a lot of perspective on how fast they're actually going when they're pushing that giant glass and metal room 80mph down the freeway.
But I have to accept responsibility for the fact that if safety is the ultimate goal on the road, I should be driving nothing less than an armored truck with a roll cage while wearing a nomex suit. There's something hypocritical about getting in driver's faces when I've deliberately chosen to make myself more vulnerable in their presence.
posted by Demogorgon at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dasein, I think my point, and I'll grant that it's a somewhat cynical one, is that it's true, in many cases, that car drivers don't see motorcyclists, but it's rarely true that they can't see motorcyclists. I see motorcyclists when I drive a car, because I know they're on the road and because I know what to look for. What surprises me is that people seem to gloss over the fact that car drivers seem to be unable to recognize a moving object on the road that's not uncommon. I could understand if seeing a giraffe galloping along the road confused drivers, but not being able to recognize another licensed and frequently encountered vehicle seems to me a reason to deny drivers a license to use a motor vehicle.

I disagree strongly that not seeing motorcycles is through no fault of a driver's own—they don't see motorcycles because they choose not to take the driving task seriously. For every legitimate "sun in my eyes" moment (which isn't really legitimate), there's a hundred moments where modern drivers just don't care. They seek out the quietest cars they can, and listen to the radio, which eliminates aural feedback. They pick automatics, letting themselves be lulled into a stupor by a lack of agency in the driving task. They worry about work, think about their kids, and get bored. Sitting in what amounts to an armored car, they feel protected and secure, and don't give a second's thought to risk management. It's illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone in my state, but everyone's holding one. You know, because this call is very, very important, and I don't normally do this.

The thing is, in a car, we give lip service to the possibility that other drivers are idiots, whereas a thoughtful motorcyclist takes this into account. I'm not talking about Mr. "I can finally afford the Harley of my dreams" or "Ms. I'm taking my love of the outdoors to a new level with this KTM even though I've never owned a bicycle" or the guy or gal who just chugs around between bars—I'm talking about the Aerostich spacesuit touring folks who put their mileage on in 100k chunks and the more zen-oriented sort of rider. I can't reduce the number of idiots on the road, but I can look at detailed studies of what crashes happen in the real world and remove the risk factors associated with those numbers. I can pick a bike in a range associated with lower fatalities, and I can avoid risk factors that multiply fatality rates, and I can ride like Fred Rogers, which I do. That doesn't make me safe, but neither does driving a Volvo.

I guess that's the thing that irks me is the presumption that a careless indifference to safety is inherent in riding. I ride because I feel ridiculous hauling a three thousand pound suit of armor around to go to the store, and because I enjoy being able to have nearly unrestricted visibility, even in my full-face helmet, and because I get double and triple the mileage out of my not-particularly slow motorcycle than the average car. I love the physical engagement, the muscle dynamics of riding a vehicle instead of sitting there, inactive, in a moving chair, and the fact that it forces me to deal with the reality of risk, rather than letting me bask in a completely false sense of safety instead of having to be an active participant in my existence.

The problem with your problem number two is that it's not as simple as saying that you're unprotected in an accident can account for fatality rates in motorcycles. In single vehicle crashes, take out alcohol and you've taken out the causal factor in 80% of fatal crashes. That's not a statistical trick—it's reality. Take out speed and it drops further. Take out lack of sleep, lack of learned skills, take out aggression—the numbers drop. In my case, 90% percent of my commute is on a train (your safest means of daily transportation by far), which further reduces my risk, and I rarely drive to do my shopping or otherwise putter around town when I can walk or bicycle. I manage my risk differently, but it doesn't make me less safe, from the standpoint of statistics. Your car may be safer, but if you're in it more, you're not safer.

I could be on the B-W Parkway on either my bike or in my car and have a car come flying out of the woods backwards (something that my father experienced), which would kill me whether I hit it on my motorcycle or in my tiny little car. It might have killed me in my old tank of a Mercedes or the origami Citroën I drove for years, too, but these are things I can't plan for.

There is always risk. For me, when I made the move to ride a motorcycle for some of my trips, it's because I'm tired of our culture of fear. It's inarguable, right? Cars are safer, therefore we should drive cars. Small cars are not as safe, so cars should be bigger. SUVs are bigger, so they're safer, right? Soon, everyone's in a tank, always at risk from the slightly larger tank, and people tut-tut at the shocking irresponsibility of people who don't want to drive a tank. It's a self-fulfilling, interminable escalating reality that leaves us locked in our houses or in our cars, with our kids playing video game versions of actual sports because they could get hurt or killed, and then we ask ourselves why everyone's have trouble with their weight.

For me, there's a deadness to that false security. My car is a small, taut, zippy red roadster, and it still feels dead when I'm swimming in the stream of traffic on the highway of hungry ghosts. It's not much safer than my motorcycle, and offers up the opiate of indifference. Sometimes, I'm okay with that, and it's nice to get out of the rain, but in my case, I reduce my risk substantially by eschewing the riskiest mode of travel, everyday driving, and then elevate it slightly by substituting a riskier vehicle type when I do go on the road.

Maybe I'll jinx myself in this, like when I was going on about risk management with magical table saw safety devices here on mefi and then went out and had my first-ever scooter crash immediately after posting a comment in a thread where I was arguing for active risk management over passive means. Life's funny that way. At the same time, fear's a feedback loop that's stripped us of so much of what's made our lives worth living. Think of the children!

I had the misfortune to emerge in my queerness at the height of the AIDS catastrophe, and that experience left me with a lot of uncertainty about sex. Men having sex with men is riskier than men and women. Should I just play on my twitchy moments of straight curious impulses, because it's safer? Safe sex isn't safe, either—it's only safer. How do we draw a line?

That's about it, and I really do think about these things, hijack notwithstanding, when I see the language with which our society addresses any sort of crash involving a motorcycle. As with all things, we say one thing and do another, or claim vigilance and defend denial. In the end, we do the best we can.
posted by sonascope at 8:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


What surprises me is that people seem to gloss over the fact that car drivers seem to be unable to recognize a moving object on the road that's not uncommon.

I'm equally amazed that pedestrians seem to be unable to recognise a stationary object (my bicycle) chained to a signpost, given the fact that almost anytime I park it somebody manages to walk into it & knock it over.

Knowing this makes me ride even more defensively - if people can't navigate their way around a completely stationary object on foot, what are they gonna be like in a ton of steel at 50mph?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


i can't believe the word beautiful hasn't been used to describe this yet.
posted by acyeager at 9:37 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll be happy if my fifteen minutes of fame don't consist of saying, "oh... my gosh" over and over and over again. That's why I've trained a little part of my brain to check up on what's coming out of my mouth every thirty seconds and yell, "hey moron, shut up!" if it's something stupid.
posted by klanawa at 9:38 PM on September 14, 2011


RCDC has a really good point.

That first man? Who tried to move the car by himself?
HE saved that guy.

Mob dynamics, the bystander effect - they all show that if one person, especially the first person to react, does something useful, then other people will help.
If no one does that, it gets less and less likely that anyone will help, as everyone is standing around, and acting like it isn't an emergency while waiting for someone else to take charge, and that makes the whole situation seem less and less urgent.

Don't shout for people to lift a car, or look around waiting for someone to get there first. If there's an emergency, run, make big motions, try and do whatever you can to help and make it obvious that you are jumping in to help, and people will follow up.
Be willing to look stupid. Check on that person who might be unconscious, or (carefully) that person who could be crazy, or could be having a seizure*

* In a public library, I heard noises from 5 shelves away, and came over to find a woman slumped on the ground having a seizure within sight of at least 6 people who were uncomfortably looking away, as they weren't sure what was going on until I came over, reacted, and yelled for help. She bit her tongue, there was blood everywhere, and when she came to, she was distraught.
I directly attribute that, and some other incidents, to having read ALL about the bystander effect when I was 15 and vowing to try and not be that person - to try and be the black sheep in situations like that. I assumed that it would affect affect me, and that I'd have to check myself, often, to avoid it.
posted by Elysum at 9:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


sonascope, I love your comments. They are one of the things that keeps me coming back to metafilter, seriously. I say that mainly because I feel that what I'm about to say will seem like a sort of "pile-on sonoscope" and if I must say something that might discourage you from posting, I want also to say something encouraging.

I think "a careless indifference to safety" is mandatory for driving motor vehicles. You can't pick out the dumb drivers for special rebuke because we are all dumb drivers at least some of the time. Regardless of how well-trained or safety-motivated a driver is, when we drive them every single day, it is inevitable that a mistake will happen, and it only takes one. It's not about the thoughtful and competent, it's about every idiot, like Dasein said. And one day, whether we care to admit it or not, every one of us will be one of those idiots. The lucky ones will get to wipe the sweat from their brows and trundle on. The unlucky ones will be dead or maimed.

Ask yourself this: What device do I and thousands of others in my immediate vicinity use every day, the mishandling of which can easily cause several fatalities, even my own?

That little old lady white-knuckled driving 10 below the limit is the sane one. We're all nuts to be operating these death-traps so casually.

Cars are extremely dangerous. Motorcycles even more so. And the thing that makes them dangerous is that we are operating them manually.

Certainly, if you must drive a motorcycle, "don't drink, don't speed, wear ATGATT, pass both the basic and experienced MSF courses with 100% scores, ride a well-maintained bike with modest horsepower, and actually spend time in deserted parking lots refining your skills and technique." And also remember that you may die at any moment regardless of all that because idiots are everywhere.
posted by fartknocker at 9:57 PM on September 14, 2011


Regarding my earlier comment, I have to wonder if people of my generation are so used to seeing spectacular things on the internet all of the time that the bar is rising at a breakneck speed? In retrospect the video is sort of amazing, people lifting up the car, but I was still expecting something more...unbelievable. I can believe this.
posted by MattMangels at 9:58 PM on September 14, 2011


Physicists - if they'd started the car rocking, could fewer people have lifted it, or even tipped it over? Seems to work that way in hockey riots. How few people are required to flip a medium sedan through rocking?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:07 PM on September 14, 2011


If this van's a rockin'...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:12 PM on September 14, 2011


Used to love riding my motorcycle... until a truck fell apart in front of me on the 401.

I'd scored perfect on my MSF course, never sped, never got a ticket... truck didn't care. It fell apart anyway. Doesn't matter how safe you are -- there's some idiot that isn't, and he's usually pretty close.

Had I been in a car that day, I'd still be alive.

Okay, I'm still alive anyway, but that's more luck than anything else. And yeah, fullface helmet, leather jacket, leather gloves, leather boots -- middle of summer. I see idiots riding in shorts and flipflops and wonder... "have you never fallen off a bicycle? a skateboard? never tripped on crack on the sidewalk or been helped to your ass by ice? did it hurt? are you a fuckin' moron?"
posted by dobbs at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Think Once, Think Twice, Think Bike!

"I don't pay much attention to speed limits. So am I a safe rider or not? If I get in some horrible crash, am I supposed to take the blame because I didn't choose the same set of safety precautions you might have?"

The answers, Mars Saxman, are "no" and "yes".
posted by joannemullen at 10:44 PM on September 14, 2011


and it takes a lot of inner calm not to grab too much brake in that moment, which will easily trigger a "lowsider."

Considering the amount of experienced motorcyclists on this thread, I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned the thing that will do more to save your hide than any other piece of equipment: non-suicidal brakes. That is to say, get a bike with both ABS and integrated braking (front brake lever activates back & front). Most beemers have them (like my own R1150R), and it's point-and-click stoppage at any speed. I've slammed on them from over 100MPH (having had incremental practice from a much lower speed), and never had the slightest concern about the arse coming out from under me.
posted by amorphatist at 10:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


No rider who is in control of his motorcycle will (or should) ever intentionally choose to "lay his bike down" in order to protect himself, nor would he do so in such a way as to maintain such close proximity to the bike if he did.

I agree that no one should do that, but gazillions of motorcyclists believe firmly that laying it down is a great accident avoidance technique. I couldn't count the number of times I've heard some guy telling a story involving "I had to lay it down." MSF courses try hard to teach people not to do this, emphasizing that tires have much better friction than does metal or your ass, so even if you are definitely going to hit the car, you are better off braking hard until the very last minute rather than sliding down the road.

if they'd started the car rocking, could fewer people have lifted it, or even tipped it over? Seems to work that way in hockey riots. How few people are required to flip a medium sedan through rocking?

I've seen a handful of people flip a car, starting with rocking it. (Of course, if there's an injured guy under the car, rocking it seems like a pretty mean thing to do, unless of course he is uninsured and you are trying to save on medical costs...)
posted by Forktine at 10:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Crazy. What's with the random factoid at the end, though? :) Uhhh, thanks.
posted by rinogo at 12:18 AM on September 15, 2011


Crashes happen really, really fast, and memory works by narrative reconstruction; it's not at all hard to see how he would look back on what happened and remember there being some good reason for whatever it was he ended up doing, whether or not that was what actually went through his mind at the time...

It's one thing to question his recollection of the event and quite another to call him a liar. (And quite another to point out that trying to slide a bike is bad physics whether you're doing it on purpose or not!)



If I may clarify my point a bit, there are riders who:

(a) honestly believe that it's really safer to lowside into an obstacle (as illustrated by sonascope and Forktine's comments);

(b) don't have any idea what to do when faced with the likelihood of collision, and default to panicked reflexes (namely grab a handful of front brake, wash out the front wheel, and hope for the best); or

(c) have both learned and practiced emergency braking, and are more likely to be able to override panicked reflexes when faced with the likelihood of collision.


I meant to emphasize that the reason for practicing emergency braking (and a litany of other safe riding techniques) is to increase your chances of reacting correctly when the only conscious thought you can muster is, "OHHH, SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT." I don't claim that it'll work for everybody all the time, but it has worked for me more than once *knock on wood.*

Based on my own conversations with other riders, a significant portion of them are in groups (a) and (b) - they don't even have a basic understanding of why laying it down is a really, really crappy alternative to staying on the brakes. From that point of view, "I had to lay it down" would seem like a reasonable narrative reconstruction of their thought process and resulting actions (and many riders in group (b) join group (a) after such an experience). Whereas riders in group (c) who've lain bikes down would understand that it was actually a mistake to do so.

So while I don't agree with TheNewWazoo that the kid was intentionally lying about what happened, I do think his narrative reconstruction of the event was based on a misunderstanding of what happened. Two-wheeled physics are simply not an intuitive thing for most people, and that's where classroom learning and training in controlled environments comes in.

Anyway, it's all about forming good habits to better your chances. Afterall, when it comes down to it, the only actions you can control are your own. So you hope that when the time comes, you have the skills to maintain that control.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:30 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think in the original Reddit thread (no attribution, as normal) there was a link to a similar incident with far more tragic results. In a nutshell, the NYPD and NYFD were arguing over how to rescue the victim, the NYPD tried using the jaws of life to lift a car off a motorcyclist, it slipped and crushed the dude. In the video you can actually hear one of the firefighters yell at the cop, "What in the fuck is wrong with you?!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:19 AM on September 15, 2011


It's true that a significant portion of car drivers do not see motorcycles. I used to ride a lot. I could always tell when I forgot to turn on my headlight, because some car would inevitably pull out in front of me, forcing an emergency response. Riders: turn on your lights. Even if your bike has daytime running lights, turn on your lights. If it's daytime, put on your high beams. It's better to burn out some bulbs that to extinguish your candle on the side of a car.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:34 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I ride my Vespa, I assume that I am completely invisible. To 90% of drivers I am.
posted by jetsetsc at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


To clarify, my assertion is that anyone in a panicked state who lacks the training necessary to even understand why saying "I had to lay 'er down" makes no sense isn't the sort that will have the presence of mind to consider their situation and intentionally choose to lowside. As a result, this guy is claiming he took an action that he did not - that of making a choice.

It's an ex post facto rationalization of his poor decision making. That bothers me for all the reasons above and many more, beside.

The comments above, btw, are very good. Anyone who's looking for insight into the motorcycling condition should do well to study them.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2011


Experience is required to handle a crisis on two wheels, happening in a matter of moments, but so is mindfulness. You can't just mentally drift off the way you might in a car on that cross-town drive. Experience will tell you what you can and can't do with the bike in the split-second you have to decide. Mindfulness will tell you that there is or isn't a spot already open for you to escape to, because you checked it half a second ago.

As for gear, I never -- not ever -- rode without full leathers and ffh -- but on 30+ centrigrade days, I envied those who did without (and on rainy days, that meant a layer of wet rubber over that -- I couldn't afford a spiffy rainsuit -- is there talk of integrated braking on beemers upthread? Alrighty then). Looking back, across something like 14 years of riding, I had a few close calls and no accidents, so the decision to wear stinking hot leather every single days seems like a poor one given the odds. If I cared that much about safety, I'd be in a car. So I wonder how much the gear is how we tell ourselves that we're not taking the level of risk that we most certainly are.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2011


You're still taking that risk. Just because you lucked out, a lot, doesn't mean that risk wasn't there. My house hasn't burned down, but I still pay for insurance and the firew department. Crashing a bike at speed is one of those "low probability high cost" incidents.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2011


Looking back, across something like 14 years of riding, I had a few close calls and no accidents, so the decision to wear stinking hot leather every single days seems like a poor one given the odds.

That's like a Formula 1 driver getting to the end of a race where he didn't crash and saying that, in hindsight, he shouldn't have worn a helmet, seat belt, or racing suit so that he could have saved all that weight and run a faster race.
posted by The World Famous at 10:05 AM on September 15, 2011


That's like a Formula 1 driver getting to the end of a race his racing career where he didn't crash and saying that, in hindsight, he shouldn't have worn a helmet, seat belt, or racing suit so that he could have saved all that weight and run a faster race because it was a dozen+ years of, off an on, extreme discomfort.

Seriously, did I imply a performance benefit? Did I take my bike out for a single lonely spin? "Hindsight is 20/20" may be hackneyed, but at least it's not bad faith argumentation, and would have made a far better response.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:07 AM on September 15, 2011


That's like a Formula 1 driver getting to the end of his racing career where he didn't crash and saying that, in hindsight, he shouldn't have worn a helmet, seat belt, or racing suit because it was a dozen+ years of, off an on, extreme discomfort.

That's still unbelievably stupid.
posted by The World Famous at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2011


I'd note that the bike was also my only vehicle for most of those years, not some rec machine only for days when it was pleasant to ride. I rode to work, to get groceries, to shuttle people around, in all kinds of weather. It was still smarter to wear protective gear, because who knows what can happen -- I simply empathize with those who don't, and wonder if the *mind-searingly graphic* results of a motorcycle accident blind us to a real account of the odds.

About half the motorcyclists I know quit either because they had an accident, or because they witnessed one (or the aftermath). The others, by and large, had kids (despite all that protective gear because, let's face it, it's a risky activity).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2011


That's still unbelievably stupid.

It's still a ridiculous analogy, but at least it's an attempt to fit it to what I actually said.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:13 AM on September 15, 2011


The answers, Mars Saxman, are "no" and "yes".

Your answers, yes: but these are necessarily individual.

Some people think it's not safe to ride a motorcycle at all. Some people think it's not safe to drive a convertible. Some people think it's not safe to drive in anything smaller than an SUV. Millions of people in Southeast Asia think it's safe to ride their scooters and motorcycles every day wearing no safety gear whatsoever.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2011


> Millions of people in Southeast Asia think it's safe to ride their scooters and motorcycles every day wearing no safety gear whatsoever.

Just as an aside, I've been to SE Asia many times and while there's no shortage of crazy things happening on little motorcycles, the majority of riders I've seen are wearing full helmets and wearing medium weight jackets (even in hot equatorial spots). They really don't have much of a choice for conveyance since a lightweight motorcycle is the most they can afford.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2011


It's still a ridiculous analogy, but at least it's an attempt to fit it to what I actually said.

We can disagree about the appropriateness of the analogy. Nevertheless, I think you were better off wearing the gear, even if you never crashed.
posted by The World Famous at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2011


stormpooper: We broke the glass, opened the door, and dragged the unconscious driver out.

How did you break the glass?
posted by skwt at 4:54 PM on September 14 [+] [!]



Boyfriend who came runing up had an axe handle with a strap on it. We broke the side glass to open the door. It was jammed otherwise.

Welcome to the Southwest Side of Chicago--all drivers carry some sort of weapon.

Husband---bat
Myself--not weapon but could be use as one--center punch.

What can I say, I still have to go to Marquette Park to visit my parents.
posted by stormpooper at 12:52 PM on September 15, 2011


A better analogy would be cycling, where we often hear this argument. The difference (for me) is I’ve had all kinds of low-speed mishaps on a bicycle, in which my helmet has been a godsend. OTOH, I don’t wear leathers to bicycle to the store, and why not? Surely I’d be safer.

At high speed, there’s a good chance I’d be dead either way. Don’t forget: I chose to wear full protective gear year after year, no matter my impression of the odds. But I’m not quite as judgmental as others in this thread about those who choose not to.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:54 PM on September 15, 2011


I spent a year and a half or so recovering from a severe RSI. I looked typical and able-bodied, but if I'd attempted anything requiring real exertion, I'd have failed from the pain midway (and some of that pain would have persisted for days.) Once I got screamed at by a woman in a subway station for declining to help her carry her baby stroller (with baby) up the stairs. If I'd been at the burning car in that condition, I couldn't have done anything with the car-lifting except hurt myself and get in the way.

So everyone oh-so-willing to think they know the character of the guy in the suit, please note that there are things that don't show up on video. I don't know whether physical ability played a role in what he did and didn't do. Neither do you.
posted by Zed at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one that read the linked article? The first guy to try and lift the car thought he was just retrieving a body. It wasn't until that awesome woman looked under & shouted that the cyclist was alive that people knew they were rescuing a living person. It makes the video that much more intense. Also that woman is my new heroine. (She hasn't come forward apparently, but I'd love to read an interview with her.)
posted by anotherkate at 1:53 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have just enough first aid training for one of my worst fears to be:

I'm injured, and someone wants to drag me out of a car that's not burning. We're having a conversation about it, and I'm telling them, leave me here, go call 911. But they want to be a hero. I'm trying to keep myself calm, and be still. They're trying to wrestle me out of a goddamned seat belt.

I've been in "worse" situations, and think I might prefer experiencing those known horrors again over the scary risk of being paralyzed by an unidentified spinal injury.

This is one of the reasons I drive with my phone wedged under my butt. In hopes that it won't go flying around the car, and I'll be able to, you know, call 911 before overbearing stranger shows up to save the day.

This fear also comes upon me when I'm crossing busy intersections, which I do more frequently than I drive. It's not getting hit that scares me. It's getting hurt worse by folks at the scene who haven't been taught the very basics of first aid.

Additionally, I've been pretty well scared off riding two wheel motor thingies after seeing a scooter ricochet off a palm tree, fling under a very large SUV and get dragged 1/4 mile. The passenger was killed. The driver woke from a coma days later to find that out. I was on a bicycle and across a busy 4 lane street and a good way back, and on my way to work. The enormity of it didn't settle over me until halfway through my evening shift. There was nothing I could have done, but I still feel guilty about it. (Roosevelt in Key West, if you're wondering.)
posted by bilabial at 8:55 AM on September 16, 2011


bilabial: I consider one of my best Good Samaritan moments to have been back in the early 1990's. A truck had driven onto the median strip of the highway from the other side. I got out along with several other people and went over to the truck. I managed to 1. make sure that someone with a cellphone had called the police, and 2. repeatedly dissuaded people from taking the unconscious driver out of the truck. "What if it blows up?" "It's not going to blow up. It's not on fire. Don't touch him til the ambulance gets here."
posted by rmd1023 at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2011


Millions of people in Southeast Asia think it's safe to ride their scooters and motorcycles every day wearing no safety gear whatsoever.

That's really dumb. You might as well claim that thousands of workers in South Asia think it's safe to shipbreak in no protective gear, and handle asbestos without filters. They don't do it because they think it's safe, they do it because they have no other option.

sonascope, regarding your response upthread, I understand what you're saying about the importance of taking risk in life, and if you want to take that risk, it's fine with me. But you seemed to be claiming that you weren't, in fact, taking much of a risk, once you take alcohol and speed out of the equation, and that's just not true. There's a major increase in risk with bikes, and the statistics bear that out. You don't need to be going particularly fast on a bike to be killed. And you can rail all you want against drivers who aren't paying attention - the fact is that drivers around you are going to make mistakes, and nothing short of everyone having Google drive their car for them is going to change that. If connectedness to the road is worth the risk to you, then go for it. But what would be a minor accident in a modern car can be deadly on a bike, and nothing is going to change that.
posted by Dasein at 9:34 AM on September 16, 2011


Somewhere up-thread, somebody said something to the effect that if leathers are important for motorcyclists, they should be important for bicyclists, too. The difference is speed. A 20-mile-per-hour slide on pavement removes a lot less flesh from your bones than a 40-mile-per-hour slide. And it's not true that the higher-speed crash will probably kill you anyway. I am not super, and have dropped bikes at 50 mph and at over 100, and walked away. If you run into something at those speeds, you're almost certainly going to be injured, even with full leathers, but those aren't the kinds of accident that are the reason for wearing them.

I worked for a while in a motorcycle shop. One of the owners showed up one day with no shirt, because he couldn't stand to wear one on his extensive road rash. He'd been out on a motocross bike in the woods with no jacket on, and had gone down at speed. Yes he should have known better. After that, he did. Now you do, too, I hope.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:56 AM on September 17, 2011


I should just let this lie, but I'm not going to.

There's a major increase in risk with bikes, and the statistics bear that out.

Sadly, this goes hand in hand with the whole amorphous "you're taking your life in your hands!" approach to statistics from the tut-tut brigade, and it's just really a sort of tautological construction used by people who just don't approve of motorcycles and who won't approve of motorcycles, no matter what actual numbers have to say.

In raw numbers, motorcyclists come out looking pretty risky:

Per 100 million vehicle miles on motorcycles, 35 deaths occur.
Per 100 million vehicle miles in automobiles, 1.7 deaths occur.

If that was the end of the story, and that's all the story you'll hear from people wanting to claim that you're climbing onto a jagged death machine every time you go out, it would present a pretty grim picture of risk. However, that's not what the facts bear out, because there are all sorts of predictors within those figures that can be changed.

What's irritating about too many anti-motorcycle arguments is that they challenge statistics with amorphous claims. The contention that "you don't need to be going particularly fast on a bike to be killed" as a rejoinder to my point that speeding is a risk factor that I don't engage in is just silly. It's true that you could be rolling your bike out of the garage and trip and kill yourself in a freak accident, just like you could be sitting in a parked car and be killed by a falling tree, but these are meaningless anecdotes from a statistical point. The point that riders who don't speed enjoy a reduced risk isn't a claim—it's a fact, borne out by empirical data.

See, that's the thing. As a rider, I can lower my risk. I can take all the available MSF and other rider training classes, which reduce my risk. I can ride a bike that's in a class associated with less risk (my light touring bike is five times less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a sport bike). I can reduce my risk by not drinking, by not riding at night, and by performing a T-CLOCS inspection of my bike every time I ride. I can enjoy the statistical advantage of my age group, my college degree, and my socioeconomic status, which all factor into crash figures.

I can also train my senses, practice my responses to sudden stimuli, and manage my situational awareness. Where your car dulls your senses with power steering, power brakes, automatic transmissions, blaring stereos, attention-attracting GPS screens, chattering passengers, cups of coffee and handfuls of McMuffin, and tons of metal, glass, asphalt sheet sound insulation, I have an open environment.

On my bike, I have unrestricted vision in a sphere far greater than your mail slot of a windshield, seen from an upright seating position, and I can hear the world around me, feel the road surface I'm riding over through my handlebars and my moderately sprung suspension. My brakes are manual, far more potent than the brakes on a car, and give me feedback that I feel directly. I'm not lulled into a trance by a favorite song or a particularly interesting story on Morning Edition, or distracted by a conversation with a passenger. I can't eat a hamburger, and I can't ride with a phone clapped to my ear, like most drivers seem to do these days, because all those conversations are just so very important. I ride well back from the cars in front of me, and when I see something in the road, I can dodge it, because that lane is four times wider, comparatively, for me than it is for a driver in a car, and because my vehicle has pinpoint-sharp handling that works with body language that is, functionally, the next best thing to telepathic control.

I've got other resources. On the highway, my helmet vents bring in scent. From my place on the road, I can smell the metallic burnt-bakelite pong of brakes on a tractor-trailer. What does this tell me? I can infer that those truck drivers had to stop suddenly for something, or slow suddenly. This could be because of a momentary distraction, like a car cutting off a semi, or something the truck drivers can see from their much-higher position, giving me an insight into something going on ahead. I can react and keep my brakes covered, and open up my awareness a bit more.

With less distractions, I can zero in on other important indicators. There are very few car drivers who pay attention to what tires are doing, but a subtle flick in the front tire of a parked car can tell me that that driver's likely to suddenly lurch into traffic. A prematurely turned wheel on a left-turning car in the opposing traffic lane can tell me that someone's impatient, capricious, and thoughtless, and I can slow down, increase my conspicuity, cover my brakes and clutch, and if necessary, come to a stop.

There are a myriad of these advantages. In a crash, the car has the advantage, but I have more tools to avoid a crash than a driver has. I've got sharper senses, nimble and precise maneuverability, brakes that'll stop on a penny, and enough zip to dart out of a hole if I have to. If something spooks me, I can even get off the road faster than a car.

I may sound defensive here, but I'm not. I just think that the anecdotal "common sense" standard line needs to be challenged, because it's wrong. A person can ride a motorcycle in a way that's as safe, in terms of actual crashes, injuries, and deaths, as a car, and even safer in some regards. Most motorcyclists, sadly, don't do this, and just take their dulled automotive skill sets and stick them in a seat, and that's why the statistics are what they are. Well, that and the fact that the statistics themselves need some scrutiny. Most people who quote those figures don't even bother to find out where they come from. Did you know that most commonly quoted motorcycle crash statistics include off-road accidents? The car safety figures don't include racing and off-roading, so they come out better.

Me, well, I want to live forever, and I ride like it. When my skills don't measure up, I don't ride into a situation. I used to love buzzing along the back roads at night, but when I investigated the deer strike stats in my area, I gave that up. I'm taking responsibility for my life, rather than just hiding behind a passive wall of airbags and upholstery, trusting the nanny car to keep me safe. I ride and I recognize that I am functionally invisible to drivers, and ride accordingly. Nothing in life is safe, but we can manage our risk.

Which reminds me—I'm also a recovering automobile commuter. Changed careers in part because I found a job that let me use the rail line that connects the end of the street where I live to the end of the block where my workplace is. Instead of five days trapped in a car, swimming with the brainless schools of commuters in the clotted highways, I sit on a train four or five days a week, reading, writing on my netbook, listening to music, and watching the scenery, and I've abandoned a commute that was 58 times more likely to kill me each day. When you do the math, even if you don't bother to incorporate the reductions in risk that my particular style of motorcycling create, I'm still doing fine, on balance.

But anything could happen!

A chip of an asteroid, dislodged a hundred million years ago, could finally make its way to Earth, shoot through the atmosphere, miss me by fifty feet, hit a loose brick on the chimney that would knock over my old TV antenna, that would come flying down from above and spear me like a cocktail wiener. Life's dangerous. Sometimes, it's random and sad and there is nothing in the world you can do about that. In the mean time, you can manage your risks and be human.

I spent a number of years working on a National Transportation Safety Board contract, and in that time, part of my job included printing and processing all the crash photos from about thirty thousand vehicle crashes from highway to sea to rail to air, and man, you get a real view of how it really is out there, seeing men bisected by train wheels and women decapitated by fallen powerlines and whole bodies reduced to bloody paddles of meat dangling from trees in plane crashes. I don't ride in denial—far from it. In fact, part of my continuing self-training when I'm not in the saddle includes taking advantage of youtube's massive collection of voyeuristic crash footage, to examine crashes that one can easily avoid and ones that are more random. I watch, I read, and I spend some time every month in the parking lot of a huge industrial park being constructed, where I can practice my emergency stops, my swerves, and my counter-steering technique, among other things.

Life's about engagement, not defense. If that makes people think everyone who climbs on a motorcycle is making a choice to accept risk as a tradeoff for fun, well, there's only so much you can do to correct these misconceptions. This rambling response is my contribution to the effort. I could go on and on, more than I have so far, but I need to do laundry now and go out to buy a bookcase, so I won't.

Your mileage may vary. How safe those miles are depends largely on your decisions.

There are lots of routes to the same destination, however.
posted by sonascope at 6:25 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not to in any way dispute that your choices affect your likelihood of survival, and reinforcing that many others make bad choices, but...

I'm not lulled into a trance by a favorite song or a particularly interesting story on Morning Edition, or distracted by a conversation with a passenger.
You could be. Some of those touring-bike riders rolling by my house have chosen to have radios on their bikes, noise-polluting the areas they pass through. Others have installed helmet-intercoms so they can converse with their passenger.


I can't eat a hamburger, and I can't ride with a phone clapped to my ear...
Here's my most-oblivious biker to date. He must have had one of those "cruise control" throttle devices. Note the shorts. Take my word for it that he was wearing sandals, with socks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2011


You could be.

That's a set of possibilities that I could indulge in, but don't. I prefer to sing in my helmet, which both helps my vocal chops and makes me friends at stoplights. I don't ride with pillion, either, because a core reason I ride is to distance myself from other humans.

I'll see your most-oblivious biker and raise you a hands-free, texting-on-the-highway rider.

Again, though, these are choices, not inherent risk factors.

Choosing to lock the throttle, for example, is likely to end badly.
posted by sonascope at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2011


I'll see your most-oblivious biker and raise you...

You win. That's suicidal.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:42 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In raw numbers, motorcyclists come out looking pretty risky:

Per 100 million vehicle miles on motorcycles, 35 deaths occur.
Per 100 million vehicle miles in automobiles, 1.7 deaths occur.

If that was the end of the story...


I'm actually curious, now, to know what kind of facts make that 20-fold risk evaporate. I mean, really, the basic numbers are screaming that it's 20-times more deadly to ride a mile on a motorcycle than it is to ride in a car. I'm wiling to hear an argument that explains that away, though, but would be curious to know what it is. I mean, appeals to situational awareness, technical competence, etc. surely can be made for cars, too.

(Not trying to grind an axe, just curious about the math.)
posted by darkstar at 7:22 PM on September 20, 2011


To be specific, sonascope, I appreciate all the factors you elucidate for why a motorcycle may afford you greater situational awareness, etc and why you, personally, may be a highly skilled technician when it comes to riding a motorcycle. But that in no way seems to ameliorate the fundamental empirical statistic that, in the aggregate population, riding a motorcycle seems to be hugely more deadly to its riders than riding in a car.
posted by darkstar at 7:26 PM on September 20, 2011


But that in no way seems to ameliorate the fundamental empirical statistic that, in the aggregate population, riding a motorcycle seems to be hugely more deadly to its riders than riding in a car.

I sort of agree with you, in that motorcycles are indisputably more dangerous, probably by an order of magnitude, than driving a car, for any given person, just because of the consequences of having a momentary lapse of attention or a minor screw-up.

But I think my disagreement comes from that the populations of motorcyclists and car drivers are not mirrors of each other. Car drivers encompass most people over the age of 16, minus a few outliers in New York. Motorcyclists, on the other hand, skew very male (a high risk group in itself), plus big cohorts of young guys (super high risk due to testosterone) and older guys returning to motorcycling after a long absence (also high risk, due to slow reflexes and large egos). A high proportion of motorcyclists drive their car to work, and then on a weekend afternoon ride the motorcycle to the bar, drink beers with their buddies, and then on the way home become part of the incredibly high percentage of motorcycle wrecks that involve alcohol. And not only are the drivers/riders different, so are the miles: many motorcyclists simply ride very, very few miles, and concentrate extraordinary amounts of risk (eg coming home from the bar; racing friends; etc) into those few miles; this is not true of very many car drivers.

The point being, aggregate statistics are wonderful things, but need to be used with care, especially when the populations aren't the same. There is clearly a sharp relative risk difference between the two, but I share Sonascopes reluctance to uncritically apply the aggregate statistics to a personal risk assessment.
posted by Forktine at 8:07 PM on September 20, 2011


I take your point(s). But surely the same kind of special pleading could be used in the other direction, couldn't it?

I could definitely make the argument that drivers of automobiles skews to the new and inexperienced drivers (ages 16-18), the elderly (ages 70+), recent immigrants who may not be familiar with road laws (much more likely to purchase a utilitarian vehicle than a motorcycle), etc., etc. All of whom surely have a greater tendency to be more dangerous on the road than the average motorcycle rider.

I'm similarly curious to see any statistics that actually support the assertion that motorcyclists are more likely to be inebriated per road mile traveled than are car riders. I don't doubt it's true - I'm just remaining neutral until I've seen the actual numbers.

I think your comment that "There is clearly a sharp relative risk difference between the two, but I share Sonascopes reluctance to uncritically apply the aggregate statistics to a personal risk assessment" might possibly be more sound if it simply had a period where you put a comma. But honestly, I don't have any dog in this hunt and was just inquiring because it seemed odd to dismiss such a statistically overwhelming difference (20:1!) in relative risk by making an argument that there are mitigating facts.

/math nerd
posted by darkstar at 8:44 PM on September 20, 2011


Much as I hate to say it, motorcycles are intrinsically dangerous in ways that cars are not, and that rider acuity cannot eliminate. When that SUV lurches out directly in front of you with no warning or space for you to react, you will crash. Modern cars are engineered to keep you alive in that crash; there's no way to do that with a bike, without making it into something other than a bike.

One of the reasons I stopped working in a bike shop was the death rate of our customers. The scenario above ended a couple of them. There was nothing they could have done once the vehicles were on their intersecting paths.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:38 AM on September 21, 2011


I'm actually curious, now, to know what kind of facts make that 20-fold risk evaporate.

The easiest way to do that is to break it down by age group, training, affinity group, and riding style, to give a few examples. Combining crash rates of legions of 22 year-old squids on sportbikes and a much smaller category of 40-60 year-old guys riding 12 months a year on BMW touring bikes creates an aggregate statistic that doesn't bear any resemblance to the actual crash figures and fatality rates for each group, but when the sportbike rider and the touring/commuter step out the house, they're not individually facing that 20:1 risk increase.

On my doorstep, a motorcyclist may face a 20:1 increase in risk, but this motorcyclist, who chooses to ride in a way that's very different than the average, is looking at something far less, and the more risk factors I identify and mitigate, the lower my risk becomes. Can I meet or beat the average for cars? Time will tell, but we're seldom just blowing around in the wind here--choices change things.
posted by sonascope at 6:47 AM on September 21, 2011


Sure, you can reduce your risk of an accident on a motorcycle by riding sensibly. You can reduce your risk of an accident in a car by driving sensibly. The point is that when the inevitable accidents do happen - and they happen to drivers and riders who are not at fault - you're dead on a motorcylce where you would be bruised and shaken up in a car. This article from today makes that point - here's a driver who is conscientious, checked her mirrors and blind spot, yet nearly killed a cyclist on the highway. Because she didn't see him - because motorcycles are relatively hard to see.

Look, if you want to ride, more power to you, but the idea that you're not taking a much greated risk than if you were in a car is pure, unalloyed bullshit.
posted by Dasein at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2011


You know, I actually wrote out a long, thoughtful response here, but on reflection, I'm just not going to dignify a patronizing and data-free comment capped off with calling my earlier replies "bullshit." If you feel like trotting out an anecdote that actually proves my point instead of your own counts as worthy discourse, then feel free to take your fear-mongering to someone who enjoys that level of debate.
posted by sonascope at 7:10 PM on September 21, 2011


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