Two Hundred Miles Per Hour
by bj max
Sugar Booger and I were in my pickup last Saturday running a few errands. While waiting at a stoplight, a kid on a Peregrine Falcon (Hayabusa) pulled up next to us. He zapped the throttle and the Falcon snarled and growled like the predator that it is. As I sat admiring this rather portly motorcycle, I noted that the lines pleased me. More so than most sport bikes. I had heard all kinds of rumors about this thing’s ridiculous top speed and I wondered if they were true. I rolled down my window and yelled to make myself heard over the roar, “Hey buddy, will that thing really do a hundred and ninety eight miles an hour?” He smiled and replied, “No. This is the new and improved model. It’ll do two hundred and three.” As I slowly looked it over and shook my head the light changed, the kid slipped the clutch, and the Falcon snarled away. Two hundred and three miles an hour. Wow! That’s roughly thirteen MPH faster than the NASCAR boys down at Talladega and that kid wasn’t a day over eighteen. Are we nuts or what?
My brother sent me a disturbing e-mail the other day. Perhaps someone sent it to you, as well, for I’m sure that this one is making the rounds. The e-mail contained several pictures of a motorcycle accident in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and the unfortunate demise of a young rider. This young man ran into the back of a tractor trailer truck and authorities estimated that impact speed was approximately a hundred and twenty mph. From the pictures, it looked as though the rider may have been swerving in and out of traffic and failed to clear the truck. His bike hit the far left side of the ICC bar, that’s the steel drop down bar that prevents cars and motorcycles from running up under the trailer. This bar is made of heavy tinseled steel and it takes a lot of force to bend it, but this kid did bend it with his sport bike. The impact was such that the young man’s head went through the trailer door and left him dangling by his neck. The sudden stop was violent enough to fling him completely out of both shoes and of course he was killed instantly. According to authorities, there was no alcohol involved.
This young man appeared to be a teenager. He was wearing a backpack and I imagined him to be a college student on his way to or from some function that was furthering his education. But somewhere along the line, society has failed this young man. How? By not requiring specialized training in the operation and control of motorcycles. Yeah, I know. That statement is going to ruffle some feathers, but its true whether you like it or not. Young people, especially teenagers, think they are indestructible and it’s getting them killed at an alarming rate. I’m not saying that this young man, or anyone else for that matter, should not be allowed to own and ride a motorcycle. All I’m saying is that any and all beginning riders should have to complete a rigorous program of tests and evaluation before they are turned loose on a missile that will achieve the unbelievable velocities of today’s motorcycles.
Think about it. In this country, a sixteen year old kid with the ink barely dry on his licenses can walk into a dealership and ride off on a motorcycle that will do two hundred miles an hour; his only qualification being a sack full of cash. No matter how you cut it, that’s insane.
I drive a tractor trailer truck for a living. The whole rig, fully loaded, weighs forty tons. Do you think the company I work for would have hired me to drive that thing without some sort of special training and qualifications? No way. To get my commercial licenses I had to spend a few hours studying, and then a couple more hours sweating over a complicated and involved test that put my means of earning a living on the line. At the time, I had been driving professionally for fifteen years. But, even so, had I not studied and learned I would have most certainly failed that test. There was, despite years of experience, a technical side of trucking that I simply wasn’t aware of. Same thing for motorcycles. After forty years of riding, it wasn’t until recently that I learned the proper technique for making tight U-turns and swerving. Back in the day, if motorcycle endorsements had only been issued after proving oneself capable, then I would have mastered those techniques years ago and would have been a lot safer rider.
If I told you that I know of an airport where you could get your pilot’s license after taking a twenty question test, you would probably make a mental note not to be riding anywhere near that airport, wouldn’t you? Yet, we think nothing of a teenager, or an adult for that matter, hopping on a motorcycle and taking off without one second’s instruction.
Flying is about a million times safer than riding a motorcycle. But even so, if you want to fly an airplane you have to have a minimum of forty hours of instruction and you have to cough up some serious cash to get that instruction as well. In other words, you probably really want to fly.
Part of the training is physically flying the airplane, and part of it is classroom work. And you’re not allowed to solo without at least eight to ten hours of flight time with an instructor. You must prove yourself to be competent at the controls of the airplane before you can go flying off into the wild blue yonder. But, even after all the training and all that hard earned money you’ve spent, you’re still not guaranteed a license. You must first pass a rigorous FAA written exam. Then, if you pass your written, you have to climb into an airplane with a certified FAA examiner and prove that you really know what you’re doing.
And, once you have your hard earned licenses in hand you best behave yourself. The FAA is watching and they don’t play. In other words, you have to be a responsible person to fly airplanes. You have to obey the rules and regulations. And if one day you begin to feel like Chuck Yeager and go buzzing the neighborhood, or flying under bridges, then believe me, you can kiss your hard earned license goodbye.
Question; why shouldn’t similar requirements be a prerequisite for riding a motorcycle? As I said earlier, motorcycles are a lot more dangerous than airplanes, so why should we get a free rid?. I submit that if we had to work our tails off to get a motorcycle endorsement, we would be more apt to appreciate and protect that privilege and there would be a lot less incidents like the one in Broken Arrow.