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2023 Driver Education Round 1 – When Skin Meets Asphalt

Name: Jon Pickel
From: Odessa, Texas
Votes: 22

When Skin Meets Asphalt

For the past year, I have been a huge fan of motorcycles, and I have enjoyed riding them. Thanks to the teachings of my Dad, I have learned to ride relatively safely, unfortunately not everyone has chosen to take the rules of the road seriously. A couple of months ago I got into an accident on my motorcycle, I am fine as I was wearing appropriate safety gear, but the experience taught me a lesson that was carved deep into my psyche. People do not pay attention, and if you are on a small sports bike like I was you have to be far more attentive than everyone else around you. Waking up on the ground with cuts all over your hands and road burn on your knees, surrounded by strangers who happened to witness the accident is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and even so I understand that I was very lucky. With this essay, I am going to write about driving safely, but I am going to emphasize driving especially safe around motorcycles.

Driving safely isn’t always a choice if you do not know how to, I was lucky to have a father who is skilled in driving cars and motorcycles, but not everyone is so fortunate. The most generic answer to how you could learn would likely be to take Drivers Education courses, I don’t even mean the course that lets you take the drivers test at your local DMV, I mean courses such as Defensive Driving. This remains a good option for many people, however these courses can be relatively expensive, which is why I offer a solution that may be able to help you. There are many resources online that you can use to learn, and one of the best resources would probably be the Internet Archive ( This website contains more information than you could ever need in your life on a variety of topics, these can include videos, books, software, etc. Just with a quick search on their website with the query “Driving Safety”, 6,789 Results came up and you could likely find more by changing the terms a bit.

In 2020, there were 38,824 deaths due to car accidents in the US (NHTSA Releases 2020 Traffic Crash Data, 2022), Approximately 5,579 of those deaths were on motorcycles (Fatality Facts 2020: Motorcycles and ATVs, n.d.). Based on those statistics, that means that approximately 14.37% of all traffic fatalities are on motorcycles. As a driver of a car you are benefited greatly by being surrounded in metals and plastics that can cushion your crash, additionally you have access to safety features such as Airbags, bikers are not so lucky. To be safe on a bike, you have to have a good helmet, and cover yourself head to toe in kevlar that can resist the road trying to peel your skin back. These are only some of the traits that make riding motorcycles less safe, and that’s already enough to make every motorcyclist incredibly alert, but due to our small size we cannot always be the ones to stop a crash. We are easily hidden in blindspots of mirrors, our speed can make us slow to react, we cannot brake on a dime or we risk laying the bike down. Obviously there are bikers who frankly aren’t very good at driving, however as the bigger vehicle you pose a much greater threat and you hold a fair amount of responsibility for the motorcyclists around you.

So, what can be done in a car to try and care for your peers on the road that are riding motorcycles? For one, if a motorcycle is in front of you be sure to keep your distance, if there is a stop and you don’t notice in time there could be serious injuries or death. Any competent biker will do the same for you if you are in front of them, because we cannot stop as quickly as you can. Speaking of stopping, avoiding having to suddenly stop is something you should pursue regardless if the person behind you is in a car or on a bike. Additionally, when you are going to merge into another lane of traffic, physically turn your head to the direction you are merging in to check for any vehicles as opposed to just looking in your mirror. I’m sure you’ve also heard the old adage “Look both ways before you cross the street”, I’ve found that when it comes to motorcycles you should do the same, we are smaller and much harder to see than the average car.

Bringing this back to “People not paying attention”, I have found that people seem to be overstimulated on the day to day, and especially while driving. At the stoplight, something common to do is check your phone, and then before you know it someone behind you honks because you got so lost in thought that you didn’t notice the light turn green. Or in the case of people who are on call for work 24/7, I know from personal experience that those calls come in at the worst possible times and especially while driving. While there isn’t a whole lot you can do about the work calls, that first example is something you can definitely do, put your phone on silent! Yes, waiting at the stoplight is very boring, but the safety of everyone around you depends on it. The last sentence could have sounded rather dramatic, but I know that when I look at my phone at the stoplight I keep checking it periodically even as I’m driving, which is the major issue with looking at your phone.

Driving safely, or at least learning to do so is a choice you must actively make and mean. I have shared my story, a wealth of resources, and some personal tips but they will ultimately mean little unless you step up to the plate and make the decision to sacrifice some of your time and effort on keeping the people around you safe. With that being said, I do hope for a world where the hobby of motorcycles is something that doesn’t cause serious stress for peoples families, and I know I personally am working on being a better driver after my accident; I hope that my experience can inspire you to drive safer before something like what happened to me happens to you or because of you.


Car Accident Fatalities:

NHTSA Releases 2020 Traffic Crash Data. (2022, March 2). NHTSA.

Motorcycle Fatalities:

Fatality Facts 2020: Motorcycles and ATVs. (n.d.). IIHS-HLDI Crash Testing and Highway Safety.

Math for percentage of Motorcycle Deaths: (5,579 divided by 38,824) X 100% = 14.36997733% or 14.37% after rounding