|Let those who ride decide|
Those of us who pride ourselves on a sense of social responsibility worry
frequently about hitting motorcyclists with our cars. I certainly do. The
wife's new 4WD (okay, AWD, strictly speaking) would make quite a mess of most
motorcyclists and the motorcycles they ride. Actually, a collision wouldn't do
much for the 4WD either.
Fortunately I have never had a road accident, except for being run into by
a car when I was on a bicycle many years ago before the delights of cars (and
the fast women which would come with them) became a financial option.
But I actually had some sympathy for the guy who ran me over. It was night,
and he just didn't see the (admittedly modest) headlight of my bike before he
went through the give-way. Being a very defensive rider, I would rarely trust a
car, but I assumed that he had seen me because he had slowed down almost to a
stop. In the worst possible timing combination, I committed to going through
the intersection at the same time he did and suddenly found myself crawling
around on the road bruised, dazed, and convinced (until reason returned a
short time later) that he had done it deliberately.
Several decades later, of course, I have joined the mainstream motorist
mindset, and curse cyclists and motorcyclists equally. Cyclists slow down the
traffic - you have to virtually run them off the road to get past them in busy
traffic. And motorcyclists are even worse - because they can duck and weave and
travel faster than you can. Sipping your latte from the built-in coffee cup
holder is little compensation when the dragon lady is going to give you the
rolling pin for not getting the kids to their music lesson on time.
But yuppie living aside, there are serious issues about personal risk and
responsibility. Consider motorcycle crash helmets for example.
Every licensed driver has made mistakes on the road. Most of them do not
result in collisions, but some of them do. Careful drivers can reduce, but
never eliminate those mistakes. Free will, it seems is concomitant with making
mistakes in fast changing situations - like Sydney rush hour. Riding a
motorcycle without a crash helmet might not quite be at the level of playing
Russian roulette, but a depressed skull fracture can be just as deadly as a
high-velocity lead injection, and makes a much poorer spectator sport.
Even though the collision is usually the car-driver's fault, the car driver did
not dictate that the motorcycle rider ride without a helmet. Most people have
at least one collision in their lives, this is the backdrop of noise that
we drive in. Who is responsible for the depressed skull fracture? If a 25
year-old motorcyclist gets severely brain damaged because he chose not to wear
a helmet in an accident that was not his fault, who should pay for the nurse to
wipe his bum for the next 50 years?
Apart from just letting him die, the solutions are
- Make the at-fault motorist pay;
- Make the injured party responsible for his lack of reasonable care;
- Make helmets compulsory.
This argument was won (or maybe lost) many years ago, and the nanny state
paradigm has, as usual, dominated. But recently the issue has cropped up again
in the form of whether motorcycles should be banned
completely. The very act of riding a motorcycle, it seems is too
much of a risk for the nanny state to allow us mere citizens to take. And the
arguments for and against, are pretty much the same.
Sometimes it's hard to balance the issues of risk, safety, convenience,
good manners, social etiquette and personal responsibility. It's all too
hard. It's far easier to just get a bull-bar for the 4WD.