I witnessed a harrowing motorcycle accident yesterday on I-57 North, just south of Chicago. Two guys weaved through traffic past me, going maybe 80mph. They passed me so close that I flinched as one nearly ripped out my driver-side mirror.
One of the riders went down maybe 30 seconds later, perhaps ½ mile ahead of me. He had whipped onto the shoulder trying to pass someone on the right. Maybe he hit some leaves or some junk that ended up on the side of the road. The motorcycle was totaled and had scored quite a path along the ground and along the roadside barrier.
The rider himself was maybe 100 feet ahead, supine near the shoulder grooves. He was raising his right hand a few inches and then lowering it again. He was wearing a helmet. He didn’t look cut up, but I don’t know whether he will survive. I called 9-1-1. Right at that moment, the police arrived. Some guys pulled up too. They looked like his buddies. Distraught, they raced over to him.
I don’t know what cosmic significance can be drawn from this scene. If he survives, his helmet will deserve credit. So would decent highway safety engineering, which protected him from hitting light poles and other deadly obstacles. Many public health studies indicate that such investments are often neglected; they are much more cost-effective than typical medical interventions. I’m not sure what could have protected this young man from the testosteronic urge to drive like a maniac one fine Sunday afternoon.
A crowd of people and the police officers tended to him, waiting for the ambulance. Knowing that I had nothing to contribute, I felt funny, but I drove on.
What should one learn from witnessing tragedy befall a reckless stranger? One immediate thought came to mind. I haven’t trained in emergency first aid since Boy Scouts. My trunk contains a tiny first aid kit suitable for minor cuts and bug bites, but that would be of little value for something worse. Before this summer is out, I’m going to correct these oversights. Maybe you should, too.