Rear_View_MirrorSemper Vigilare

by Carlton R. Marcyan

Just a few weeks ago, traveling southbound down US 41 from Waukegan and nearing the bridge under IL 176, traffic came to a crawl. No vehicles going north, a sign that a problem lay ahead. After a 15 minute crawl, that seemed to last an eternity, the problem was visible. Two semi cabs and trailers, both heading north, had careened off each other. One, now one its side, ended up on an embankment while the other, still upright, on the east shoulder had a crushed cab. A blue tarp covered a body on the road, and what remained of the driver in the upright cab was covered completely with a white sheet.

Except for this tragic and deadly accident, road and weather conditions were perfect, a cloudless and sunny day. Not sure what the cause of the accident was; however, the roadway curves to the northwest at that point and it is likely that the driver of the truck on the inside lane was preoccupied and did not curve with the road, staying on a northerly track while the truck in the outside lane followed the curve to the northwest.

We see this often while motorcycling. Cars and other vehicles in proximity fail to follow the roadway and end up inches away from other vehicles. For these two truckers there was no margin of safety.

The lanes are not exceptionally wide and carrying a heavy load makes for limited ability to take quick, evasive action. The benefit of riding a motorcycle is that visibility around us is relatively unobstructed and our narrow silhouette provides opportunity for rapid response and movement to avoid an immediately developing unsafe condition.

Nevertheless, bikers must maintain constant surveillance of what is going around them. Our senses must stay heightened. The Latin phrase, semper vigilare, should be our motto, rightfully emblazoned not only on our leather vests but in our minds.

Some things to consider and remember:

  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Scan from left to right and back again constantly
  • Check your mirrors at least every 10 seconds to watch for traffic approaching from the rear (we all have been surprised with a car “coming from nowhere” and passing us.)
  • Do not allow yourself to be distracted while riding by changing radio stations, satellite channels, changing the GPS settings
  • Keep your senses heightened by chewing gum, singing along with song on the radio or some other method that prevents you from being lulled into complacency.

Above all stay vigilant, always, Semper Vigilare!