Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fall Down, Go Boom

Wednesday the 18th of January was not quite the night I expected. Here are some things I learned:

- Rolling to a stop (from 45mph in this case) feels different when there are no wheels involved.

- Paramedics can have a sense of humor.

- Ambulances look clean from the stretcher because of the bright lights overhead, which you are forced to look at due to the collar.

- The ER doctor won't come into the room unless you are passed out, but they will still charge you for it.

- When it is time for the road grime to be scraped from your wounds, they send in the lowest paid person possible, except for the janitor maybe.

- Drugs can make the world a happy place (for a while)

- Everyone everywhere has some relative who was killed or maimed on a motorcycle, and they want you to know about it.

After clinic on the 18th I had to go out to the parking lot to move my bike. Unfortunately I failed to notice that I left the parking light on. When I came out to leave an hour and a half later, I saw my error. I decided to take the long way home once I got it to start. That way I could charge the battery up a bit.

As I pulled up to wait at a light, the railroad lights started to flash and the safety arms for the crossing came down. I decided to take a left and go the long way 'round my long way home. This new route would take me past A&M's campus.

I turned right (west) onto George Bush Dr., crossed over the railroad tracks, which had no train on it at this end, and accelerated to the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Traffic up to this point had been moderate, but all of the traffic that was moving in my direction seemed to be making the left to go to McDonald's. I was the only person continuing west on GB Dr.

There is a street which passes behind the McDonald's. It is a T-intersection without a light. A young lady pulled out from the cross street to the left, crossed over the eastbound traffic side, and got to the median where she paused for a moment. Unfortunately, her pause didn't allow her the ability to see through solid objects. I saw her pause, but only the front fender. The vehicles in the left turn lane were blocking her line of sight in my direction. She pulled out thinking that all was clear. All I saw was the back of her head. I thought she was pulling out to head west on GB Dr., but this is where I misread the situation. While I was trying to give her room on the road, she was trying to get to the right turn lane, four lanes over. She didn't look my way until I made contact with her car. The impact was just in front of her right front wheel.

The time from when I saw her front bumper to the time I made contact with her car was just over a second. If she had looked my way for a moment, this whole thing could have been avoided. If she had tapped the brakes a little bit, I could have made it around her. My swerve to the right wasn't aggressive since I thought (and I am no mind reader) she was heading my way. If I had swerved more aggressively, I would probably have been under her tires instead.

I did not understand the interactions at that intersection. I am not in that part of town very often. I didn't understand what was out there. Next to the McDonald's is a large student housing complex. The right turn lane (the lane to my right) is there to get students on campus. Do the math folks. mollo and I went out the next day and dozens of cars and trucks did the same thing this lady had done the night before.

The best response probably should have been maximum braking. Hindsight is 20/20 afterall. If I had used braking, I could have reduced the speed of the contact. I probably would have still hit her car, but the damage to me and the bike may have been reduced. As it is, we will never know.

I caught a glimpse of her face as I passed over the hood. I don't know if she had connected with the situation. I hit the ground and knew this was going to hurt. After the fourth roll I realized that I still had momentum and quite a lot of speed to scrub off. The chin of my helmet had been pushed to my chest. I tried to make sure my arms and hands were close to my body so they weren't being slapped into the ground repeatedly. I was going to bring my legs together a bit, but when I tried to pull them in, my left one hurt a lot. I just had to leave them out there and hope for the best.

When I stopped rolling, I wondered if I should be happy or upset that I had been conscious through the whole thing and still was. I came to rest against the curb, my left arm and leg over the curb as if I were spooning it. I tried to move but found it very painful. I took inventory of what I could tell was wrong before trying to roll onto my back again. My left knee was screaming at this point. I think I hit it against the car before going over the hood. Great way to start. My right leg hurt and I wanted to get off that side to try and relieve the pain.

As I finally rolled onto my back, I heard people's footsteps and chatter. I could swear there were a hundred people shouting that a man on a motorcycle had been hit. There were quickly three people standing in my field of view who had cell phones, each saying to the others that they had 911 on the phone. I was trying to take inventory again and get my left leg in a comfortable position (I am still trying to find one!)

One of the people put her phone down after a bit and squatted next to me. She was in tears, sobbing and apologetic. I couldn't help feel sorry for her. She had been through something very traumatic. I put my (injured) right hand on her knee and told her that everything would be ok. The doctors would fix me up and we would all be up and around in no time. It's going to be alright. (can you say ironic?)

A girl on my left side helped me take off my gloves, unzip my coat, and unstrap my helmet while I listened to the approaching sirens in the distance. For some strange reason I was suddenly worried about the paramedics cutting my gear off me. It has to be replaced anyway.

When they got there, the medics asked if anyone had seen the accident. I couldn't see anything but straight up in the air, but I knew at least 3 people were there. We were blocking traffic. There had to be more. Another medic started cutting and ripping my pants around my knees. He needs to work on his bedside manner. You don't say to the guy laying in the road, "You look pretty messed up here." Shouldn't it be, "It'll be ok. We'll have you patched up in no time."?

I started to relax at this point. The professionals were on the job. Good response time too. I got a collar put on and loaded in the ambulance. They grabbed the bag in the road but left the other bag strapped to the bike to be towed. That one had my homework. (One of my teachers said that was the first missing homework excuse she had heard and would accept!) Once we were underway, I called mollo with my cell phone and said, "Sorry I am so late getting home. Guess where I am. I'm in the back of an ambulance on my way to the hospital." We didn't talk long since the phone battery was nearly dead. I was just glad it still worked.

I won't bore you with the hospital stuff. I got there, x-rays, nothing broken, surprised nothing is broken, Doc gives me a pat on the head and vicodin, and says take care lucky. Bye-bye.

A cop came to see me at the hospital. He told me the bike slid 85 feet. I didn't make it that far. He didn't mention how far I went, but it looked like the bike was 10-12 meters or so past me.

Gear works. Nothing broken, 'cept my pride. Sore everywhere.

Bike's a total loss. The shop quit writing the estimate when it exceeded the original MSRP. (Why do parts cost more than the whole?)

Video of the crash area. Sorry it's sideways. Not sure how to change that. (7 Mb)

PowerPoint of the crash scene and resulting damage. Photos are not the best as we used a borrowed digital camera and aren't fully up to speed on the finer points of operation. (21 Mb)

UPDATE 27 Jan 06: I picked up the police report yesterday. Yes, she got a ticket, and she says that one of the drivers from the left turn lane waved her across. I guess that always makes it ok to proceed with your back turned to the other 3 oncoming traffic lanes.

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