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Motorcycles Vs the Econobox

The subject of motorcycles and accidents thereon has come up over at Billy’s place. [1]

Here is something that I think is true: people who have never been in a bike crash have a very difficult — nearly impossible — time at conceiving the amazing violence unleashed in one. Look: how often do you ever seriously imagine, say, having your arm torn off by blunt force? Think about that. Try to imagine something like that happening with excruciating slow, frame-by-frame, precision, because — believe me — that’s how you’ll see if it ever happens.

Everything he says in there is true. And I do mean “everything”.

However, I would like you to consider something… Something that Billy had not intended, and he is likely to be somewhat upset by my use of his article as a launching board… as usual I’m going to take a topic and turn it on its ear.
What Billy accurately describes also happens in the miniscule cars we are being forced into the name of saving gasoline, and saving the planet, of course.  Certainly, riding a motorcycle is somewhat more dangerous than a small car. Then, too, riding in the proverbial Yugo is a lot less safe, than riding in a regular car, or in an SUV. .. and for the same reasons… there’s far less around you to protect you in the event of a crash. It is simply impossible to design a “safe” motorcycle, and by the same token it is equally impossible to design a “safe” small automobile, assuming said automobile lacks sufficient mass to protect its passengers in the event of a crash.
This is not a suggestion that we should outlaw motorcycles.  But I would like you to consider the idea that there is a difference between motorcycle riders and small car drivers… the motorcycle riders know the risks and choose to ride for themselves anyway.

Most small car drivers, on the other hand, don’t understand the risks they face. They’ve been told the newer versions of the smaller cars are safer, and to a degree that’s true.  But frankly, they’re not even as safe as the cars that we were making in the early seventies, yet.  Despite all the technology, despite all the air bags, they’re just not.  Even the small car drivers that that do know that, that DO understand the risks involved, generally speaking, are not left the choice in the matter.  For some people, driving such a vehicle has become a matter of image.  for others, it is a financial requirement, brought on by environmental zealotry in our government.  It’s also something of a status symbol, anymore, and that perhaps is the most tragic aspect of all of this.
It’s interesting; we’ve been told for so long that the issue be as nothing more than an status symbol. it’s the SUV shape and size that attracts people to buy it, we are told.  Of course, we’re told that none of that attraction is legitimate.

What then, is the Prius?  The thing, if nothing else looks futuristic.  It’s design and appearance are fairly unique.  Understand; there are other hybrid vehicles out there which turn and similar mileage numbers, have extraordinarily reliable designs and yet aren’t selling 1/10 of what the Prius is. Why? Image. Status. So, we’re left with the idea that it’s a status symbol. But demonstrably, it’s a status symbol that is less safe than body-on-frame vehicles, particularly ones without all the added danger of the battery systems.
This is what our “environmentalism” has brought us to.

I hear you asking, what about the government tests, that X car is safer Y car?  Consdier Billy’s words, here:

One thing that makes the above challenge just a bit absurd is the wild variety of dynamics in a crash, not to mention the possible medical implications. The number of ways that things can go badly on a motorcycle must approach infinity.

So it is, with crashes in any kind of vehicle, including small ones.  It is one thing to run a vehicle through a testing procedure which tests specific types of crashes and compares the results.  It is quite another to release it into the wild , as you will, and say that those tests in the controlled environment have anything to do at all with what the vehicle is going to run into, quite literally, out on the street.  I suppose that if someone were to hit one of those smaller vehicles, in exactly the fashion prescribed in the test, you’d be OK. but I also suppose that your chances of having an accident out on the street that even comes close to the kind of prescribed violence that occurs in government testing labs , also approach the chances of nearly infinity to one.  In short, you have a better chance of winning Powerball.  Or, perhaps, getting struck by lightning.
Let’s put a face on this; In my travels, yesterday, I saw a Ford Fiesta.  Older, but apparently very well cared for.  Twentysomething woman driving it.  Three kids and what laughingly passes for the back seat.  The lack of mass in an automobile was specifically designed that way to save fuel.  Problem is, it won’t withstand being hit by anything larger than a ten speed bicycle, particularly from the rear.  I couldn’t help thinking to myself that all it would take was a slip of the foot on somebody’s brake pedal and those kids are dead.

And I know, because I’ve seen it happen.  More than once.  In front of me. On one occasion the driver had a Fiesta.  On the other occasion a Prius. Both one car accidents.  Both fatalities.  Both would have lived if they’d had more mass around them. In both cases they valued a gallon of gas to be of higher value than their lives, and lost the gamble I’m willing to bet neither knew they were making… A gamble that motorcycle riders understand fully every time they twist the grip. Which, I think, is why death rates from motorcycle accidents aren’t higher than they already are.