A True Story: Protective Gear Saved My Life

Aug 29, 2011 View Comments by

It was Labor Day of 2007, a Sunday. I’m a teacher and school had begun for me the previous week so this was my last real gasp of summer and I was looking forward to the ride. I was with a group of about 6 riders. My friend Jonathan and I were riding solo, and the rest of the group was riding two-up.

I was on my 2001 BMW K 1200 RS, a very fast bike, and one that was clearly not for beginners. I had bought this bike to replace my 2004 Honda VFR, which was destroyed when I was hit head on in an intersection by an uninsured driver on Goodale Blvd near the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey arena in the summer of 2006. I really loved that bike, but was now beginning to love my new BMW too. 

We were traveling in Coshocton County near Mohawk Dam in Central Ohio, with Jonathan and I in the lead. We stopped on the Dam to relax a moment, and for one of our friends to head in another direction toward home. After the break, us two solo riders began to lead again, and in a few miles were ahead of the group by about a half mile.

At the time of the accident we were going about 40 to 45 mph since the road was very curvy, a safe speed since the road was smooth, clear and clean – or so I thought. Jonathan was ahead of me about 200 yards and had gone through the left-hander without incident. When I began to enter the same corner, I started to drift just a little to the right of the center line when, suddenly, I saw that the road was covered with gravel that had been washed down from another road which intersected at the apex of the curve.

I quickly began to slow down, but by the time I did the front wheel had started to slide. I tried to straighten the front end but before I could do so, I hit a signpost near the edge of the road on the left side of the bike,  ran into the grass-covered ditch and then into a fence.

Hitting the signpost may have actually helped since I was thrown off the bike before it went straight into the fence and was totally destroyed. I never lost consciousness but I was bruised, scraped and bleeding. I knew I was hurt but mostly, I was mad that I wrecked my new bike. I ended up on my back in the grassy part of the ditch. By the time Jonathan realized what had happened and returned, I had removed my helmet and my other friends were at the scene. At the time I was only aware that the little finger on my left hand was seriously broken and my left leg was scraped and hurting.

As luck would have it, a car drove up and the driver happened to be a paramedic from the area. He called the squad and the next thing I remember, I was in the ambulance and on my way to the hospital.

I believe I went into a form of shock since I do not recall much from the time after the accident. I was taken to Knox Community Hospital in Mt. Vernon. Ironically, while I was in the emergency room being treated for my injuries, an Ohio State Highway patrolman came to see me. I thought he was there to see how I was doing, but he actually came to give me a $100 ticket for failure to control my vehicle. I do remember that much. I was soon transported by ambulance to Riverside Hospital in Columbus in order to have my finger repaired/reattached. As I recall, I was taken home by my sister the next morning.

School began the following Tuesday and I knew I would have to miss at least the rest of the week since I couldn’t walk and was in great pain. As the week went on, I started to feel worse and was getting sicker and sicker. My friend Ron, a researcher/Veterinarian at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, came to see me and he immediately knew something was wrong. He told me to go to the emergency room, and later that Friday evening I did. I was quickly admitted and it was found that the road rash on my leg was infected with Cellulitis, and I spent the next 6 days at Riverside Hospital on IV antibiotics.

I missed a total of 10 days from school but I should have stayed out much longer. About two weeks after leaving the hospital, I could finally walk without a cane. Other than some lack of feeling in my finger, I am now fully recovered from that accident.

I truly believe I am alive today because I was wearing a helmet and an excellent riding jacket. Both items were destroyed in the accident but they did their job. If I had been wearing good riding pants, as I do now, the only physical issue I probably would have had would be from a broken finger.

For a time, I nearly stopped riding, and it took many weeks for me to decide to get back on a motorcycle. I am riding again now, but I am much more cautious on the road ­– always looking for road debris and keeping my speed lower in the corners of unfamiliar roads.

My advice to all the folks out there who think it’s just too hot to wear their jacket or it’s not “cool” to wear a helmet – think again. Trust me on this! You’ll be glad you put them on if you ever come upon some gravel as you enter a corner at speed.

Text and Photography submitted by: Stephen Newton

Tags: Categories: Destinations, Touring & Safety Tips