Thursday, 18 March 2010

Motorbike accidents in the media - Part the flat four

The last piece I commented on, from the Courier Mail, came with a list of "related stories", pulled not just from their own website, but from News Ltd sites around Australia.
So, I'm going to do a quick analysis of motorbike accident reports from those sites.
First up:
The Herald Sun (Melbourne) gives us Motorcyclist killed in head-on collision with car on the Maroondah Hwy in Mansfield. What is with these clunky headlines?
Anyway, this is a five-paragraph story, saying that a motorcyclist in his 60s had a head-on north-east of Melbourne, on a major highway, 8am (plus four minutes). Forensics are investing, police will prepare a report for the coroner.
Also, interestingly: The female driver was airlifted to hospital with major injuries, which just goes to show: Sitting inside your metal cage, you are behind several sheets of potentially dangerous glass, through which large, heavy, high-speed objects may come.
Question: How do you have a head-on collision on "a major highway"? Isn't there a dividing line?
A clue may lie in the "in Mansfield" bit in the headline, but don't assume that headlines are word-perfect-exact.
Overall, the article is extremely puzzling in its unanswered questions, but is otherwise well and cleanly written.
Next up:
Perth Now (urgh) gives us Motorcyclist injured in collision with van. Ah, a nice, short, pithy headline.
This article is a more chatty, casual style, but still useful. The interesting part is this:
South East Metropolitan Police Sergeant Mark Ryan said it “appeared one of the vehicles hadn’t given way”.
Well, there aren't many other ways for an accident to happen, are there?
Let's examine this:
The driver of a white van, also in his twenties, was turning right from Church St onto Albany Hwy citybound, and collided with the motorcyclist heading southbound along the highway just before midnight.
So the van was turning right, and the motorcyclist was going straight. Ergo, the van failed to give way. Unless the motorcyclist ran a Stop or Give Way sign, and we know that didn't happen because the bike was on the highway and the van wasn't.
A quick trip to Google Maps confirms that Church St is north of Albany, south of Perth. The writing suggests that "citybound" means Perth, opposite to South. In other words, the van was turning across the path of the motorbike. This supposition is strengthened by the fact that the photo accompanying the story, along the fact that the driver was taken to hospital and the passenger wasn't, suggests a pretty serious collision on the driver's side door which would, in this case, have been facing north, directly at the bike.
So: The van comes out of a street, across a highway, and gets hit by a bike who may have had moderate/little/no warning, and hits it.
No conclusion can be drawn about the speed or actions of the bike.
Now: at or about midnight means the bike had headlights on and the "high visibility vests" so beloved of clueless non-riders would have been useless.
Ergo: Although I do not in any way wish to jump ahead of the Major Crash Investigation unit, or the coroner: The van driver didn't give way, and needs to be charged with whatever can be thrown at him.
One final point: As an editor, I would not have let that story hit the Internet in that state. But, that's just me, my colleagues and my employer's professionalism.
Third one is: Rider dies after bike, car crash from Adelaide Now (does a comma really save so much space over "and" that it's worth while? Come on, now).
Basically, an 18yo rider collided with a car driven by a 22yo driver, and the rider died, the driver sustained minor injuries. Please try not to judge based upon age!
A lot of the story, considering its length, is taken up with mentioning that South Australia has a worse road toll than the same time last year. Ignore that, it's irrelevant.
The crash happened on a certain road, after dark, last year, on what works out to be a Tuesday night.
The only interesting, or particularly informative, part of this story is the fact that the four commenters clearly knew the rider.
Come on: There is not enough information here to be satisfying. No circumstances? No "who was going where"?
This is probably the most frustrating story I have covered so far. So little information, for a death. So sad.
The final story linked off the original Courier Mail article is a little different, and will be the subject of a separate post.

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