Being a motorcyclist means that you get to hear what everyone thinks about the risks you choose to take, despite the fact that riding a motorcycle isn’t the only way that people die. Every day, people everywhere leave the house assuming that they’re going to make it home safely. However, accidents happen.
Let’s take motorcycles out of the equation and use skiing as an example. When I was growing up, nobody wore helmets when skiing. I don’t recall hearing a lot about skier deaths because of it. But now, anytime there is a death on the slopes, we get to hear if the victim was wearing a helmet or not, even if the injury that caused the death was a torn aorta. But still, the news source always feels the need to state whether or not the deceased was wearing a helmet. The parents of the kid that died are not only grieving the loss of their child, but now they are being blamed for the death if he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Maybe they all should have stayed home and watched television on vacation.
Statistics don’t help. Take the Larimer County motorcycle fatality statistics reported for 2009. Not good, but as reported, not entirely accurate either. Among other numbers, we get to hear how many of the riders who died were not wearing helmets. If a person didn’t get training, chooses to drink, rides without a helmet, drives too fast, and then crashes, then those are all individual causes that came together to cause a fatality. What typically gets printed in the paper is that there was a motorcycle fatality, and then the helmet status of the rider. People think they know what happened, and make the judgment that the person died because he made a bad choice. There is a human knee-jerk reaction that causes people to blame the victim in a way that makes the accuser comfortable because they know better, and it will never happen to them.
I just read about a friend’s cousin who was killed in an accident. It’s tragic. A woman and her children lost their husband and father. Friends and family lost a loved one. While reading the account, several factors entered my mind about what could have happened that night, but I wasn’t there. The last thing I considered was that the person should not have been riding a motorcycle at all, but that’s how a couple of people responded to the victim’s cousin.
This is not the time to judge and tell friends and family of the victim what he should or shouldn’t have done. Believe me, the victim’s friends and family are not going to benefit from the criticism or sage advice at this point. This is the time to offer condolences, prayers and assistance. That’s it. Believe me, there isn’t anything you can tell the grieving that they haven’t already considered a thousand times over in the pain-filled hours they’ve lived through since the accident. Compassion is what is needed at times like these, not judgment.