Thursday, 1 July 2010

Motorcycle accidents in the media, part the V-10

Wait, what? A V-10 motorcycle?
Yes, I'm afraid so.
At least, sort of.
The Dodge Tomahawk Concept Motorcycle is, natch, a concept. It is also not technically speaking a motorcycle - it has four wheels, just a very, very narrow wheelbase so it sort of behaves like a motorcycle.
It's a lot better executed and more interesting than most massive-car-engine motorcycle concepts but, as with the others, I'm really not sure they should have done it at all.
Moving onto the important stuff.
I'm only going to do one story, because it's a decent length and I end up talking about it quite a lot. (Note for the chronologically confused - yes, I wrote this bit last).
It is another take on a story I addressed last time - the ABC's Man jailed for killing motorcyclist. This one is 70yo jailed for rider's death (Queensland Times - June 10).
This story has a bit more detail. Journalist Felicity Caldwell is a court reporter who goes and sits in the gallery each day, so that's no surprise. She also got quotes from relatives of the deceased, which is macabre but a bit traditional.
AN ELDERLY Ipswich man, who was found guilty of killing a motorbike rider after crossing the road’s centreline in his van, will face the next four months behind bars.
I would have edited that opening paragraph a little for tightness, but it gets the pertinent facts in. Four months, by the way, is the non-suspended part of two years. Truth in sentencing is a whole other issue entirely.
The rider, Joseph Vella, was 39 and died in hospital 7 days after the collision, which sounds unpleasant.
Prospect St where it happened is one of the major streets in a minor town. Google maps only has the major portion on Street View, but it looks as though there's only one crest, and not much of it. Also, hardly an abundance of streetlights.
For added self-referential macabreness, the driver was doings his rounds delivering the QT at the time. That may bring a clue - if he was distracted from the road by checking an address, or stocks, or fumbling for a pen, drifting sideways is only too possible.
But there's this little bit of weirdness:
Sergeant Darryl Morrison told the court he discovered an 11-metre skid mark on the road which was probably caused by Mr Vella braking before the collision.
But one of the first officers on the scene, Senior Constable Gregory Henricksen said he had not seen the skid marks on the night of the crash.
Skid marks on a road aren't that easy to see in low light conditions, but surely your first instinct would be to at least look?
Skid marks, however, reveal one very sad truth: Mr Vella may have been able to avoid or minimise the accident. A speed limit of 60km/h means a closing speed of 120km/h and up and that means precious little reaction time. But if Williams was driving his van only partly on the incorrect side of the road at the time, then there was some leeway for an emergency swerve to the left. And hitting the curb and going for a tumble has more opportunities for survival than hitting a solid wall of approaching metal.
Skid marks are not a good thing. Locking the wheels reduces braking power and removes all ability to steer. That's why ABS is a good idea.
To step out of media-analysis mode for a moment: If you ride a bike or a scooter, then please, please, practice emergency braking and emergency manoeuvres, and get some advanced training. Thank you.
I must, however, ask: Why no skid marks from Williams' van? Was he still distracted when a bike ran straight into him? No matter what options may have been available to Mr Vella, Williams put him in that position and was therefore found guilty.
Mr Vella's older sister thought the sentence was fair:
“While Mr Williams’ actions were negligent, it was one of those things where people don’t think about what the consequences will be,” she said.
“The public prosecutor thought that he would’ve been given a larger sentence if it wasn’t for his health – he’s actually not very well.”
And that just reinforces my opinion that he will be lucky indeed to get his licence back after four years. And if he does, well, that's another discussion.
To sum up, it was a quite well written article with, finally, most of the details I would like to hear with only one omission - what Williams' side of the story was, after pleading not guilty.
One more thing: QT really, really needs to fix their RSS feeds. All you normally get is the headline and that, compared to any other media outlet, is just not good enough.

1 comment:

Felicity Caldwell said...

It's nice to know someone is reading my stories..

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