True to my unenviable track record, this holiday season has gotten off to its usual poor start. Between the American holidays of Veterans’ Day (which people take very seriously in Northwest Oklahoma and my husband gets treated like he’s a big hero) and Thanksgiving (which is actually a holiday I like), my husband had a senseless, horrific accident while riding his favorite motorcycle (of all he’s ever owned, affectionately known to us as “Goldie”) where he was injured badly. In order to get a motorcycle “endorsement” on his Driver’s License (and thus lower motorcyclist insurance rates), a year to several months ago he had taken motorcycle safety courses sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation which, as a lifetime motorcyclist, he felt were excellent training sessions.
One of the big walkaway points he brought home from the courses was the acronym, AGAT. This stands for:
By this, the developers of these motorcycle safety courses strongly emphasized the use of safety gear, even for short rides. Because he adhered to AGAT for a routine short drive intended just to start-up 20-year old Goldie to maintain its aging engine, he is still alive. Albeit, he has a broken rib and a seriously broken shoulder – the X-rays and CT scans of which are the worst images I have ever seen for a shoulder injury. In fact, we had a hard time finding an orthopedic surgeon who could work on it, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday. Eventually, we had to travel to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City where an excellent trauma surgeon put the “pieces of his 3-D shoulder puzzle” back together (only one week ago today).
For motorcycle enthusiasts, I have to add that Goldie is completely “totaled” and will soon become property of the insurance company’s impound yard. Which is a shame, because for such an old “bike”, Goldie was in fantastic shape, and he was fixing little details so that he could enter Goldie in vintage motorcycle shows. But that dream was ground into the dust when he pulled over for an emergency vehicle to pass (which our law requires), and somebody else sort of slowed down but didn’t completely pull over. The car driver whacked the tar out of Goldie’s rear chassis, spun the motorcycle around by nearly 180 degrees, and sent my husband flying 97 feet (roughly 30 metres) through the air (according to the police investigation).
So what was he wearing which saved his life? For starters, he was wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet with a safety visor. He was also wearing a jacket with “body armor”, or impact resistant plastic protective pads, over crucial joints. His hands were protected by heavily padded gloves, and he wore high top boots that rose above the level of his ankle. Both knees were covered with very rugged knee pads. The basic clothing he wore for this ill-fated short ride was made of heavy fabric (i.e., jeans and a thick shirt).
He has been good always wearing helmets with full-face protection throughout his life, but all the other accouterments were items he learned about in the motorcycle safety courses. The instructors of the courses emphasize fully suiting-up in this type of protective gear every time a motorcyclist drives his/her motorcycle on the road (even for a trivial ride just to maintain the engine). Another plus in this accident was Goldie’s size – it used to weigh over 900 pounds (over 400 kg) – and it was able to absorb some of the impact of the collision better than smaller motorcycles.
I have been on the scenes of many motorcycle accidents as a voluntary “Good Samaritan” doctor looking to see how I could help. Unfortunately, all of those motorcyclists became traffic fatality statistics and organ donors. I have worked in Emergency Rooms (ERs) with the trauma surgeons and have seen many unfortunate motorcycle accident victims (some lived, and some didn’t). After looking at the damage to Goldie, all I could say was “my husband was not only lucky, but he is very smart to have worn the safety gear.” His injuries could have been much worse, and he knows it.
Another major safety tip pertinent to this time of year that saves lives is “NEVER drink and drive”, even one or two drinks. One or two servings of alcohol is just enough to relax a person to the point where one’s reflexes are impaired and drivers can’t react quick enough to avoid accidents. There is never a safe level of alcohol to consume and then immediately operate any motor vehicle (whether car, boat, sand-dune buggy, go-cart, lawn mower, or motorcycle).
I don’t know what the status of the other driver was (other than he was unhurt), but on the scene of my husband’s recent accident, the Emergency Medical Technicians kept asking the police if the driver of the car was sober. I don’t think that question would have come up if nobody detected alcohol on his breath. This time of year, ERs are full of accident victims who have been drinking “a little” and thought they were all right to drive because they weren’t “drunk” (but the legal limits on “drunkenness” keep changing downward all the time, so they could have been legally drunk on the scene).
There are very few accident victims in ERs during holiday seasons who haven’t been drinking at all.
Keep that in mind, along with AGAT (“all safety gear all the time”).
Car drivers remember – seat belts and child safety seats save lives as well.