In the United States in 2008, according to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia of Traffic Accidents, 32,103 occupants of motor vehicles involved in traffic accidents died. It is sad to project that a significant portion of these deaths were children and some were young children under the age of five (although figures to confirm how many were young children should be available in 2011). It was startling to learn that 5,312 (or 16.2%) of those deaths were motorcycle accident fatalities.
Today it was announced on NBC29’s TV news channel that over the weekend, a nine-year-old boy riding on the back of his father’s motorcycle in Orange County, Virginia, was killed when a pick-up truck turned into the path of the motorcycle. The father was injured and taken to University of Virginia Hospital. Sadly, his nine-year-old son, Robert Darwin Pormer, died at the scene.
No one wanted this child to die–not his family, certainly not the driver of the truck, not the rescue squad members nor the law enforcement officials who attended the scene of the accident. But, in thinking about how this child’s young life was abruptly ended, as parents and caregivers, we seriously need to question the intelligence of putting any young child on the back of a motorcycle. As in most unfortunate cases of accidents involving children, hindsight can be a sobering 20/20.
And I hope motorcycle aficionados will forgive my candor, but motorcycles have always been dangerous rides–they are dangerous for adults who know and understand what can happen. They are dangerous with or without helmets and appropriate clothing and footwear. They are dangerous with or without motorcycle riding lessons. They are dangerous on back roads, narrow, winding country roads, on major highways and city streets. Motorcycles–no matter how much they cost, how fancy, shiny or expensive they may be–are simply dangerous, which I’m sure is a part of some of their owners’ thrill and fascination.
If an adult wants to take his or her life in their own hands and take a chance riding a motor- cycle that something bad won’t happen, I guess that’s his or her prerogative, but allowing kids on motorcycles means child protection barriers are down! The last location, as security people say, is the adult family member or friend who allows them to get on the cycle or encourages them to ride. In my limited view, when it involves young children, certainly kids under 12 years of age, this behavior is permissive and invites disaster.
How well I realize this–in my lifetime, I have lost friends in car and motorcycle accidents–not always because they rode or drove unsafely, many times it was the other vehicle’s driver who erred or didn’t see them. The week following my high school graduation, our class lost one of its favorite people, a quarterback on the football team, Chuck Gelrich. Chuck was riding his pride and joy–his motorcycle. Neither my friend Chuck nor young Robert Darwin Pormer can get their lives back, so it’s up to us still on this planet to keep kids safe–and off motorcycles until they are truly adults.