I didn’t see you. We’ve all said it at one time or another. Often, we are actually saying, I didn’t notice you. Perhaps, more truthfully, I wasn’t looking for you. Or, simply, I wasn’t looking.
Earlier this week, Liz Braun published a piece that made its way into the Toronto Sun and other newspapers, titled Put your motorcycle in the garage & never take it out again. Although received by many as a slam at the motorcycle riding community, it paints a stronger picture of those who are riding in four-wheeled cages.
It’s often not about you. A lot of car drivers can’t see you.
A lot of other car drivers are idiots.
In the off-chance you hadn’t noticed, people don’t stop at red lights any more, rarely signal lane changes, never leave the passing lane, fail to check their blind spot, tailgate, speed, drive under the influence and use their phones while operating their vehicle.
Let’s face it, I didn’t see you – or as we Canadians would more likely state, Sorry, I didn’t see you – is more of an abrogation than an acceptance of responsibility.
I didn’t see you suggests you might have done more to be visible. Already larger than a bicycle, with a full headlight system, and wearing high visibility clothing, more is required of you if you’re riding a motorcycle. Somehow, it is the motorcyclist’s responsibility. As Braun observed,
The main cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other drivers to see you.
Dare I suggest the main cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other drivers to look. The more accurate statement is likely, I wasn’t looking for you (I was looking for two headlights four feet apart when I glanced, nothing else) or, perhaps more truthfully, I wasn’t looking.
On school days, I drive my grandson to and from school. Following are observations from that less than twenty minutes on the road each day, total for morning and afternoon.
At least once a month someone blows through a stop sign at an all-way stop. Often, the driver has her or his head down. Sometimes, the carload of teenagers that in moments pulls into the high school we pass to get to my grandson’s school is laughing, talking, or otherwise distracted when they bypass that red octagon.
About once every five or six weeks, someone blows through the east/west red light after the north/south light has turned green. A couple of times each year, emergency vehicles are called to clean up the ensuing wreckage.
Almost daily, someone makes a right turn southbound on a red light without slowing or looking to their left to check for oncoming southbound traffic in the intersection. And don’t get me started on the apparent inability of people to turn from their lane into their lane, signal turns, signal lane changes or patiently wait for pedestrians to clear a crosswalk.
Almost daily, I’m tailgated for doing the speed limit. At least once a week I get the horn from a car behind for coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. A few times, I’ve been passed while stopped at the stop sign. And yes, I’m the guy who memorizes your plate, vehicle make and model. and notifies Ottawa police.
Almost daily, I see someone clearly using a phone – talking, texting, messaging, whatever. I observe plenty of Sorry, I didn’t see you waves and words being mouthed, or windows rolled down to make sure the message is heard. And, yes, the occasional burst of expletives directed by the inattentive driver at the person they didn’t see.
We were taught as children, and then as new drivers, to look both ways before we cross the street. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Look left. Look right. Look left, again, as you start to cross, and keep looking in both directions as well as ahead because the odds are high someone is driving a multi-ton weapon and not looking, let alone looking for you. In fact, make eye contact and wait until any approaching vehicles have stopped. Don’t trust other drivers.
This last point is perhaps the most significant. Don’t trust other drivers.
The main cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other drivers to look.
Yes, make yourself as visible as possible. Yes, drive as defensibly as you know. And, be aware some drivers will not look. Some will. They’ll see you and identify you with the small percentage of motorcyclists who should take their act to the track if they think they’re really all that. Don’t join the riders that inspire road rage. And, don’t let your guard down.
As Braun writes, there is nothing between you and the hard road. And, as she notes in Alex Crews’ equal time, gear up and keep your guard up. Be careful out there.
Rubber to the road and shiny side up!