Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Failure to Negotiate

Failure to Negotiate

Two fatal crashes.

30-year old man, driving a 2002 Suzuki G60, failed to negotiate a turn in a two-lane highway. His motorcycle left the road, striking a telephone pole, throwing the man into a field. Helmet use, unknown. Speed, unknown. No other vehicles or persons involved in the crash.

76-year old man, driving a 1989 Kawasaki Ninja, failed to negotiate a right-hand turn in a two-lane highway. His motorcycle traveled across the oncoming lane, left the road, and crashed down a steep embankment. The man was wearing a helmet and protective clothing. Witnesses said the man was the lead rider of a group of six motorcycles. He had over 40 years of riding experience.

Lessons Learned

The news articles are sparse on details. What can cause a rider to lose control in a turn? Let's start with the basics.

1) Speed.

Riding too fast makes it very difficult to make a turn. Too fast means too fast for the conditions. Look for red flags of danger that can signal the need to slow down:

- heavy traffic
- narrow or winding roadway
- rough roadway
- wet, windy, or icy roadway

Nothing in the news report gives a hint that excessive speed influenced these crashes. What else might?

2) Sleep.

This seems a likely suspect, at least for the second, more experienced rider. The leader of the pack crashed at about 11:45 AM, just before lunchtime. I've been there. Meet the other riders at 10:00 AM for an easy 2-hour ride to a diner for lunch, and then back home.

I've always found it difficult to stay awake while driving a car. Seems like an hour or so is all it takes for me to get sleepy, no matter how interesting the view or how twisty the road. It begins with realizing that I don't remember the last few miles - it's like I spent the last five minutes daydreaming. If I don't stop at that point and take a short walk or use the restroom, it gets worse. My eyes go in and out of focus, and I shudder or shake my head, attempting to stay alert.

That's a red flag.

Take a break every hour, at least.

Stop when you start shuddering or shaking your head.

Don't ride sleepy.

Negotiate the turns.

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