Arrive alive’ has to be mantra if we are genuine about driving for change
I am by profession a lawyer who has had the misfortune in my long career to see the terrible results of fatal accidents from every perspective: inside courts and witnessing punishment, acknowledging the bereavements and grieving families, and all the spilt blood and gore.
The sad truth is that many or most were avoidable, so-called accidents; a genuine so-called accident is something, using my own commonsense definition, that could not reasonably have been foreseen and occurred mainly because of a confluence of unfortunate events leading to the particular catastrophe. Most, if not all, of the accidents on the Bermuda roads that I am aware could have been both foreseen and avoided.
I am also a [veteran] athlete who has competed on racing bikes at a high level and have trained and competed since a teenager, competed successfully on racing tracks in sports cars, as well as having international rugby caps for England, so I know about sport and high performance.
I also know about staying safe and alive on a bike, motorised or not.
In Britain, to acquire a full motorcycle licence, there is extensive training culminating in a rigorous on-road test with an examiner following and giving instructions by radio.
Here, it is a matter of riding around TCD and demonstrating minimum bike-handling skills, but no roadcraft or road awareness; I know, as I have my motorcycle licence and I ride my Honda CBR 150R into town and back from Somerset most days.
Here is what I also know: that, first, the road signage is from my lay person’s perspective theoretically pretty much perfect, and the speed limit, although problematic, which even judges here have acknowledged, was agreed upon for very good reason — to save lives and prevent accidents. Why is it then that Bermuda has the worst record for fatalities imaginable?
The premise of the low speed limit is that it accommodates the specific road layouts here and specific problems. In other words, restricted manoeuvrability with narrow roads, blind bends and people pulling into major roads from minor roads unsighted.
Low speeds allow shorter braking distances, which prevent accidents. However, here, young or old, senior citizen or junior, riders overtake on blind bends, drive at excessive speeds and put their lives in the hands of a force that is invisible. The bottom line is that there is no leeway, and an avoidable accident occurs.
The two leading causes of accidents here are speed [too much] and awareness [not enough]. It is the “what if” factor that no one here is aware of, or if aware, pays little or no attention to. I speak from experience because I see the lunacy every day.
Voluntary intoxication is for some a right, not just of passage [getting a piece of the rock embedded somewhere], but a right, apparently, to go right out and kill other sober road users as well as themselves. Fact: it is impossible to be drunk and to ride with appropriate levels of skill and consideration for all other road users.
Is it possible to change this death wish masquerading as bravado and being cool because you managed to get home in one piece while riding blind drunk?
I ride with timidity, as a cautious cat might but I will “Arrive Alive”. This cat only has one life and I intend to keep living.
I enjoy my motorbike riding, but not for the thrill of testing out the limits of the performance either of my own abilities or the bike’s; that’s for the racetrack.
For most motorcycle riders that I witness day in day out, the roads are used like a racing track, and the differential in abilities between older drivers and inattentive drivers is gargantuan. None of this is reckoned for by many riders who take risks left, right and centre. Very few factor in the “what if” equation, and they should.
However, all this said, no one can be blamed.
Give a carpenter plumbing tools and he will not be able to build a cabinet; you can’t fail in the first place to educate someone and then criticise them for a failure to abide by so-called standards that have never been taught.
A bad workman blames his tools. However, a workman without tools is how I would describe present licensed riders. No tools or received skills whatsoever, so how can they be blamed?
That, of course, applies to everyone who wishes to obtain licensing to drive a potential lethal weapon. Project Ride has its place and is valuable, but if someone could advise what the reduction in fatalities has been since its introduction, then all good. The reality is it has not appeared to have made any difference. If the percentage of responsible riders is X per cent, and the remaining Y per cent are those who kill themselves and others, then what real value is it? Y is the problem, not X. The stats speak for themselves.
Awareness can be taught, Outcomes can be predicted and taught how to be avoided. At the moment, it appears that if taught at all, the lessons are not being learnt.
Speed awareness and braking distances, road craft and consideration for all other road users can all easily be taught at minimum cost. This must surely be addressed immediately; no excuses, just teaching and education though a rigorous testing regime before certification.
“Arrive alive” or “what if” has to be the mantra.
One life saved, two, three, four or more lives saved would be such an achievement, and all brought about by simply putting into effect, always, the simple mantras either “arrive alive” or “what if”.
I offer my services as a teacher as well as commentator, wishing where I am able to contribute to The Royal Gazette’s valiant and brilliant campaign to reduce deaths on these roads.
My personal goal is to help to educate and, more importantly, to contribute to saving lives. “What if”, I ask myself, I achieved one life saved? I can tell you the answer: I would jump for joy and move to the next new goal of saving two lives, and then three, four and on and on.
• Joseph Giret is a senior counsel in the litigation department at Wakefield Quin Ltd, who has competed on the international stage, and who has raced and ridden his bicycle to a high level both as a schoolboy and latterly as a veteran; he still competes and campaigns. His genuine concern for the state of road safety is rooted in his desire to teach and mentor others, especially in matters of life or death as this topic demonstrates
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