Tag: crash

“I want to ride my bicycle…”

“I want to ride my bicycle…”

Freddie Mercury, Queen

Health. Thankful that I have it, but all too aware of our fragility.

So what’s with my philosophical musing today? Well, in mid-January I went on a trail ride with a friend. My first trail ride since moving back to Louisiana, believe it or not. We were having a nice ride on a flat, but very winding course. Having a good time on a warm January day. The trail was (mostly) dry, and well-maintained. We were just about done the circuit. About 100 yards from the end, we came across a slightly wet portion of the trail. Roots everywhere. All of a sudden, the bike went one way, and I endo’ed. Yep, splat. Perfect face plant, splayed out completely. My left wrist hurt a bit as I untangled myself from the bike and the roots and stood up. Got back on the bike and rode out to the levee for the trip back to the car.

My left wrist complained. I wasn’t sure if it was broken…I did immediately think back to when my wife had a bike mishap that led to surgery and multiple screws in her wrist…I drove home and took some ibuprofen. My wife and I agreed that if it still hurt the next morning, I’d go to Urgent Care.

Well, yep. First thing next morning. X-rays showed what’s called a “buckle fracture,” a tiny little thing. A few days later the orthopedist put my thumb/wrist into a cast. It’s still on…they tell me they’ll (probably) take it off next week.

I want to ride my bicycle. Not exactly feasible right now. I want to go see the “House Floats” that have sprung up all over the city in this pandemic-cancelled Carnival season. I want to get out with my wife and ride around town to explore the amazing creativity that fuels this city in spite of everything. I don’t want to have to get in the car to do that. But the reality is that, for now, I have no choice. I realize this is really a tiny setback, and that things are much worse for many other people. Unlike some others, I will be able get back to this thing that I love to do, very soon.

Next week, though…

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What’d You Say?

What’d You Say?

OK, I’m not starting with a quote. “But wait, you always start with a quote!” I’m not starting with a quote because what’s most important here is one word: “accident.” I was inspired to write this post having read an article about language, and how it shapes our understanding…Here’s the reference.

TL:DR – The way we talk about crashes is changing. There are few accidents but many crashes.

“What’s the difference?” you may ask. The word “accident” has a certain connotation. When we hear that word, we believe that it “just happened,” that nothing could have been done to prevent it. The reality is that there are VERY FEW “accidents.” There are literally MILLIONS of crashes every year in the United States alone. In virtually all of them, one (or more) of the operators involved could have done something to avoid the crash. And there’s been research to show that the way we talk/hear/write about a crash has a dramatic impact on our perception of the event.

We read about the bicyclist who was run over by a truck making a right turn in front of a bicyclist…and the article says that the bicyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet. Yes, let’s pretend that a helmet would have prevented the death of a person who was run over by a vehicle weighing up to 80,000 pounds. Let’s forget that the truck driver unsafely turned right in front of a bicyclist legally traveling in a bike lane. The bicyclist WASN’T WEARING A HELMET. As if that would have made a difference!

But that statement changes our perception of the crash…blame is shifted to the bicyclist instead of the truck driver who failed to yield to the bicyclist; who did not merge into the bike lane prior to turning; who did not adequately check for traffic around the vehicle perimeter. No, the bicyclist shouldn’t have been there.

Or how about the motorist/pedestrian crash where the pedestrian is crossing the street in a crosswalk. And the reporter says that traffic is snarled in the whole area while the investigation continues. Subtly, we process that as though the pedestrian was the cause of all the tie-ups. The reality is that the pedestrian had the right-of-way, and the motorist ignored the law (and the person in front!) or “didn’t see the pedestrian” (were you looking…really looking?). But it sounds like all the motorists are being inconvenienced because the darn pedestrian went and got himself run over…

And then there is the official spokesperson for the law enforcement agency, who almost always makes sure to include that bicyclists should always wear helmets and conspicuous clothing…but never mentions either the rights of the pedestrians and bicyclists or the responsibilities of the motorist to be aware of his/her surroundings.

I have one request…and then I will end my semi-rant. Please pay attention to language when you read (or hear or write) reports of crashes. Be sure that the report accurately represents what happened. Try your best to approach it with an unbiased eye/ear. And be sure that the language does not force you to accept a view of the event that may be inaccurate.

This is changing, but very slowly. Crash investigators I have talked to seem to be more aware of the issue; they typically don’t call incidents “accidents.” They call them crashes. But there’s a lot of noise out there. We see road signs (even on some automated signs from state highway departments!) talking about accidents. News reporters talk about traffic accidents. Insurance companies and trial lawyers do the same. We need to do better.

I’ve talked about crashes in other posts. If you’d like to read on, try these: “Losing my balance…and finding my calling,” “GET OFF THE ROAD!,” “No. NO!,” “It was a crash…it was no accident,” “I just crashed! (hypothetically)

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