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Be patient and watch for motorcycles

A young man had just gotten his lunch. He crossed through a line of stopped traffic glancing quickly, or maybe not at all, before blocking the adjacent lane. His Buick became the wall that suddenly appeared in front of a motorcycle going 35 miles per hour. With no time to stop, or respond in any way the rider flew head first into the rear door of the car.

This was the sequence of events that changed life for my family a year ago April 6. We were fortunate, with God’s mercy and the proper use of a full-face helmet; my husband is alive and recovered to as close to full health as he is going to get.

Our lives, however, will never be the same. My husband can no longer enjoy corn on the cob or any other food that requires a strong bite. He fractured many bones in his face; all have healed with the assistance of metal plates, but his jaw will always be a source of pain when eating. His wrist was completely pulled apart. After two surgeries and eight months of rehab, he is able to use his right hand again but lacks the strength and mobility required to do many tasks. Even the simple task of opening a jar or prying open a paint can cause him pain.

I am thankful every day that he is still with me and has recovered as much as he has. Every motorcyclist I see now gets a prayer for safety.

My husband’s accident was just one of hundreds last year. As the weather warms up, the number of motorcycles on the road increases. Just as pollen and thunderstorms are a sign of spring, it seems motorcycle accidents are as well.

There were 439 motorcycle accidents in Hampton Roads last year; 23 of those were fatal. That is hundreds of families who will never be the same. Many accidents could be avoided with a little extra vigilance. The following tips are composed from various motorcycle safety websites.

  • Look for motorcyclists. In Hampton Roads, there are motorcycles on the road all year. In more than half of all crashes involving motorcycles and automobiles, the automobile driver didn’t see the motorcycle until it was too late. The way a motorcycle is shaped makes it aerodynamic but also causes it to blend into backgrounds when seen in the mirror. Take extra time to check blind spots carefully.
  • Give plenty of space when following, and passing a motorcycle. Never tailgate a motorcycle. Allow space for the rider and car to react to the unexpected. Provide early indication of any passing activity to allow the rider to anticipate the change in wind caused by a passing vehicle.
  • Anticipate the motorcyclist’s movements. A slight change or debris on the road surface can be a major obstacle for motorcyclists, so expect them to make sudden moves within their lane.
  • There are no minor accidents. Any accident involving a motorcycle is potentially fatal. There are no airbags, seatbelts or solid frames surrounding the rider.
  • Avoid distraction. While driving, drive; don’t text, don’t eat lunch, don’t do your makeup. Concentrate on the road. It could be the difference between life and death.
  • Slow down and have patience. No meeting or appointment is so important that a life should be risked to get there on time. Hampton Roads has a high volume of traffic. A bit of vigilance and a lot of patience is essential when transiting.

Finally, if you are stuck in traffic due to an accident, be patient and be thankful. Be thankful that your family is safe, that your husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, or son or daughter isn’t the one who is fighting for their lives in the ambulance. What might cost you 20 minutes of your day just changed a family forever. Rather than complain, say a prayer for everyone involved.

Jen Jaqua is the page designer for the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact her at jen.jaqua@suffolknewsherald.com.