Search, Evaluate, Execute
By John Spearman
I have been riding motorcycles on and off for thirty years and seldom have blatant close encounters with cars. But I still don't assume that many automobile drives are thinking about my safety.
I have a twenty-five mile commute to work. In all but the worst weather conditions my wife and I enjoy riding our Gold Wing. Along the way we have to pass two high schools. We consider this area the most critical part of our trip since you are dealing with young inexperienced auto operators with higher than average levels of aggression. The first high school has a twenty m.p.h. school zone so at least the speed is reduced. This makes it somewhat comfortable for me to look ahead at the line of cars waiting to make a left-hand turn into the school parking lot. I make it a habit to scanning the front tires of these cars to detect any movement as well as covering the clutch. After we pass the first school, I then drop my wife off at her car that we keep stored at our friend's house and she drives it to her job.
I then have the opportunity to run what I call the gauntlet. This is a four-lane forty-five m.p.h. speed zone and a major crossroads to the second high school. There is usually at least one crash or more per week at this intersection. At the end of this four-lane road it narrows into a two-lane road with a right-hand turn only sign governing the right hand lane. To make matters worse, after the stoplight for this intersection, there is a fifty-foot apron that tapers the road down to one-lane. Thanks to this layout, the early morning commuter traffic is usually backed up at this point anywhere from a few cars to twenty or more. On one particular day, after patiently waiting my turn, the light signaled green. I proceeded through the light scanning the intersection for traffic and especially for the impatient individuals who cannot stand to wait their turn at the light. Behind me was a pickup following too closely for my comfort. I was just at the point where the road tapers to one-lane, still scanning my mirrors when I noticed a small car speeding past the truck on the truck's right-hand side. As I predicted, the driver did not notice my presence and deliberately started taking the space I was occupying. Since the pickup behind me was following too closely, even if I had slowed to allow Mr. Speedy the space he demanded, the following pickup truck would have rammed directly into my backside. Therefore, I was forced to execute a swerve into the centerline. Since there were oncoming cars about one-hundred yards away I made another quick decision to make a sharp left-hand turn onto a cross street about fifty-feet ahead of me.
Since I had previously attended both the basic and advanced MSF RiderCourses, I had the skills to execute these evasive maneuvers. I appreciated the basic course too, since it helped me gain my motorcycle license. To anyone I would and do say, that these courses are time and money well spent. As the above story shows, the skills I gained through rider training have been invaluable.
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