Distractions can be deadly


Recently, my local newspaper ran a brief report on a tragic motorcycle accident.  The rider was killed. His passenger fortunately was not seriously injured.  I immediately thought about what could have caused this accident.  Some knucklehead turned left into his path?  Maybe some driver spilled hot coffee in his lap, or was reaching into the back seat to attend to a child, and drifted into his lane?  Or more likely, some moron was playing with his phone or texting while driving.  If I had a buck for every time a driver has put my life in danger because they were looking at their phone instead of looking at the road, I’d be able to retire to a villa in Tuscany. It’s called “distracted driving”, and it makes me livid. Years ago, I made up license plate holders for my motorcycles that read, “Put Down The Phone And DRIVE !!”

A brief followup story appeared the following day in the newspaper. Apparently, the rider was trying to pass his cell phone back to his passenger when he lost control of the bike, hit a curb and went down.  He died at the scene.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet.  What makes this all the more tragic, was that this was a totally preventable accident.  He had no business fumbling with a cell phone while riding his motorcycle.

If we as motorcyclists rant and rave about drivers who are distracted by their phones, or fiddling with their sophisticated in-car infotainment systems, and who put our lives in danger every time we ride, we can’t be doing the same things while piloting our own motorcycles.  We’ve got to be totally focused on the road and our surroundings in order to stay as safe as possible.  We can’t decry driver’s behavior, but think that it’s okay for us to recklessly behave the same way.

My “custom” license plate holders from a few years ago.

A few years ago, I was product testing a Bluetooth helmet communication system, and I paired it with my phone.  I placed a call to my brother to see how it worked, and test the clarity of the helmet speakers, etc.  I was riding on familiar roads to a lunch spot I frequent.  Within 10 minutes, I realized I missed my turn while chatting away, and almost ran into the back of a car that was stopping in front of me.  Then, I pulled out into traffic to make a left turn and was almost broadsided by a car traveling in the other direction.  I was dangerously distracted.  Talking on the phone while riding is not the same as communicating with a passenger, with brief comments about the ride you’re both on, or talking to a riding buddy who’s a few hundred yards in front or behind you.  Those are not running conversations, but short comments back and forth.

Now my helmet communicator is only paired to my GPS for hearing driving directions, (so I never need to look at the screen) and it has stored music, which I sometimes listen to when I’m out in the country in light traffic.  And the volume is low enough that I can hear traffic around me.

In the last several years, all the big touring bikes from Honda, to Harleys and Indians, BMWs, etc. now come with sophisticated infotainment systems, with integrated GPS, satellite radios, passenger communications, bike to bike communications, and access to all your telephone apps, just like they have in cars.  But using all these features while riding is dangerous, and can be deadly.  Riding a motorcycle requires attention and laser-like focus.  Distracted driving in a car can often result in only bent sheet metal.  On a motorcycle, it can mean a trip to the hospital or the morgue, and a funeral parlor full of devastated family and friends.  Is it worth it?  I don’t think so.

So turn off your phone when riding, and keep the use of sophisticated electronic systems on your bike to a bare minimum. If you need to make a call, or check messages and texts, pull over and do your business.  Being alert and aware of your surroundings and dangers while riding is all the multi-taking you need to do.  Riding should be the opportunity to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings, and to feel the wind in your face.  It should be how you get away from your devices and stresses of being plugged in all the time.  So be smart, be safe, and live to ride another day.

Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman

What are your thoughts on this? Leave us a comment below!


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  1. PC Kenedy

    Excellent advice and well said. We all know this, and we all need to be reminded. Great timing, too. Thanks Hawkeye.

    • Ken

      It seems that the more we get surrounded by electronic devices, it just becomes ingrained in us that we NEED these devices with us ALL THE TIME. We walk the dog while chatting on the phone. Parents push their babies in strollers while texting. We’re looking down at our phones when we cross the street. Young people are beginning to develop spine and neck curvatures, from looking down all the time. I’m never like that and I refuse to ruin my ride, being distracted from what is ENJOYMENT for me. And it’s a lot safer.


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