Mar 25, 2008

Why make a silly mistake?

Okay, this is a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I am more than a little surprised by this. In the recent past, I've had the pleasure of meeting three people who read this blog on a regular basis. One of them asked me a question about helmets which I posted here not so long ago. You know, the one about dropping a lid and 'denting' it.

Recently, I met this chap again for a drink at a lounge bar close to both our houses. The second member of the reader troika joined us there. Since Gentleman 2 turned up in an auto and that's how he went back, so how many drinks he had does not, in the least, concern me. What does concern me is that Gentleman Number 1, who lives ten minutes away, took the precaution of carrying the selfsame dented lid to the bar, and here's where it becomes a the equivalent of sand in a swimsuit... he rode back home when we were done bantering about bikes.

The third gentleman and I also met at a watering hole, and yes, we watered. I, again, was off the motorcycle for obvious reasons and cabbed it home. Gentleman 3 person rode home, wearing a helmet. And I must – I'm OCD remember – point out that this lid is the exactly the sort of item that we like to laugh at – an imitation hard hat.

Now, I know from this person's photographs that he is in possession of a fine helmet and from what I've heard from him, and read about him, sound judgement as well. On the face of it, the former was obviously missing, and the latter chose not to make an appearance. The watering hole and the cab stand are, at this watering hole, separated by a yawning gap. So the gentleman thoughtfully offered to let me ride pillion to the cab stand. Ah but you see, I've not got my kit. That's condition one and it means I cannot get on a motorcycle, in either seat. Besides, not only am I well-watered (far from inebriated, I must freely admit though), you're three drinks down as well. Forget me riding pillion, you shouldn't be riding either. You, my friend, should have left the bike at your place and cabbed it as well. If nothing else, the walk to the cab stand would have been very pleasant. And it would have given us another twenty minutes to prolong the lovely bike banter.

It strikes me as strange that two motorcyclists, both seriously into two wheels and both deeply in love with our countersteered world would make such an obvious error in judgement. As far as I can tell, both ride safely and within their limits. Both are aware enough to either already (or aspire to) own good riding kit. Both are good men, nice to chat with, knowledgeable about motorcycling and have clear logical and rational thought processes. And yet.

I don't know if Gentleman 2 cabbed it home because he planned to drink, or it just turned out that way. But the point is, that this is a serious, even potentially fatal mistake. One that shouldn't be taken lightly. That alcohol impairs your judgement and slows your reaction time is known beyond any hint of a doubt. That alcohol in your bloodstream causes other problems is public knowledge too.

Statistically, you should already know that it close to your origin or destination that you are more likely to crash. You should also know that short, routine rides figure in far greater numbers in all manner of crash stats than the odd long tour (related links: 1 | 2| 3).

But more important is the fact that the chap driving blissfully while yakking away on his handphone doesn't care. When he hits you, the damage is the same. But if there's alcohol in your blood, it becomes your fault (see this. Look at point #7 in the Claims section). If you die, your family loses all hope of getting any aid from insurance. If you live, the car driver, who was probably at fault skips away scot free because you tippled.

A long time ago, I was a lot more militant about motorcycle safety. Oh yeah, I mean that in the past tense. I used to tell everyone to be careful, to wear helmets and so forth. I used to insist, insist and when I could, I would force people into line.

I don't do that no more. It isn't worth my time and effort. I like you, and if something were to happen to you, I'd be sorry – no matter who was at fault. But I will only try to ensure that you have all the information you need to make your own decisions. I will hope that you make the right decision.

But at the end of the day, it's your life. You can strive to preserve and enrich it. Or you can throw it away.

15 comments:

vibhu said...

Wondering about the identities of these people... do i know them ?? :)

but this is all too prevalent even here in pune. I see people who profess to be bike junkies, but will snip out on their bikes helmet less. people with good helmets, who save them for the highway, and ride with bad/fallen/dented helmets in the city.

At the end, i guess its about how much you value your own head.

Anonymous said...

very well said rearset. i am in 100% agreement with you.
Sneh

Yogesh Sarkar said...

Couldn’t agree more, I have seen a lot of serious riders who invest in riding kits etc. act foolishly in this manner.

What further enrages me is the fact that when a drunken person drives/rides, he/she not only puts his/her life in risk, but also of that of others. While it maybe their life and they might be in full right to throw it away for a moment of fun, same can not be said about the safety of other road users.

irondad said...

Amen, amen, amen! As an active instructor I totally share your views and shake my head like you. I'm a little more active in intervention. It's so sad that almost half of motorcycle fatalities are alcohol involved. And that's a self inflicted condition. Sometimes I want to shake people but can only shake my head. Thanks for at least publicly commenting on it. Someone, somewhere, may think twice.

Sankoobaba said...

Some people take their chances....some people laugh at me for wearing jacket,gloves..knee guard etc...wearing helmet is pain for me as my hair have grown and my helmet is very snug-fit and to make matters worse..my specs are also wierdly designed...though i am contemplating buying a new lid as my current one is pain to wear and remove frequently which is the case for short distances...still i always try to wear the lid all the time...and protection is very important since i m earning member of family...and also a fall could cost me and my bike a lot of money..but still people take chances//// maybe a near-death experience may change their opinion ..what say???

Sankoobaba said...

and one more thing..
I think this idea of not having protection while riding stems from ur home and peer -biking culture so if as a kid u see people around you wearing protective gear..u would also have one ..when u buy a bike..also if read more about accidents in newspaper..it may move u to make serious investments in safety gear...
...
maybe if u post some pics about bike-fatalities without helmets a fraction of people may at least wear a lid for sometime

Anonymous said...

Hmm, there was a time once when I used to ride even when slightly drunk....then I got caught for drunken driving once (that time I had just 1 shot)....and I have NEVER ridden the bike when drunk...u learn....
anonymous for obvious reasons.

rearset said...

@Vibhu
It isn't about who these people are, really. It is about whether you can look in a mirror and say that you haven't made this kind of a silly mistake... And yes, this is a silly little mistake that will cost big one day... sort of the like the stitch in time that saves nine, or the nail for the want of which the battle was lost...

@irondad
Thanks. I also deeply appreciate the fact that your comment is not prescriptive, but is careful and descriptive. I used to be prescriptive about motorcycle safety. But yes, I gave up and now, I remain descriptive...

Absolutely love you blog, by the way. I love commuting and as far as I can tell you're the only other one I've spotted who does as well...

@Everyone
Allow me to introduce, to those who don't already know him, Iron Dad, who runs the Musings of an Intrepid Commuter. Specifically, check out this post

snapper said...

well..this is often the case that i face...and for the record i am a teetotaler...

i've on various times let oppurtunities of going on a trip go as if any in a group was lidless or inebriated or both...

and fear not rearset for this can't be categorized as OCD.

on the other hand...i do remember going though some link where there is mention of how long one should wait after drinking to drive...
will post later

Anonymous said...

Came/went by auto because it was obv. that at a bar i wouldnt be having just softdrinks :)

rearset said...

Thank you Gentleman #2.

Respect.

Anonymous said...

Come on Rearset, old girl, lighten up a bit! I did most of my biking in the 1970s, when Barry Sheene and Co. would drink, shag the birds and go on wild bike rides. And usually one activity would follow the other, non-stop. Go on, LIVE A LITTLE!

Sure, helmets possibly save lives, but to each his own. Live and let live, please, and for anal retentive problems, may I suggest some excellent laxative - a pint of you-know-what...

;-D

rearset said...

Ah but my friend, I've never said at any point that a certain course of action is how everyone else is behaving. I just think that I wouldn't do it that way. Re-read the last bit... they are free to do as they please. And I am free to think that there is a better way to do this... No prescriptions were offered, just an opinion

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm anonymous # 2

there are things I would not do.

again

not cops

I'd like to think of it as wisdom:)))

anonymous # 2

The Ultimate Motorcyclist said...

Well i did speak to two of the gentlemen after this incident..but then...also happened to go into a Biker's Shack in Lonavala where the owner offered me Beer to drink and challenged me to a DRAG..o a abike...

So i guess somewhere this is being promoted by so called pseudo bikers...

But i feel..rather i assume..Motorcycling and Liquor..kinda goes hand in hand..doesnt it....why wud a beverege company sponsor india's biggest BIKER get together...

Cant say much from experiance though as the only alchohol which has slipped past me vocal chords is GLYCODIN...