How many near misses have you had in a lifetime of riding motorcycles? More than a few, I’m guessing. The truck driver that didn’t see you. The little old lady that cut across an intersection right in front of you. That idiot texter who drifted further and further into your lane without looking up even once from his iPhone. A little scary now that you think about it, right?
Now imagine it was deliberate.
That’s what happened to Eric Sanders and his passenger Debra Simpson. One moment they were cautiously passing an aging Mercury on a sunny fall day; the next they’re tumbling through a ditch wondering why that cranky old man in the tatty Cougar suddenly swerved left.
For those not familiar with the incident, there’s a semi-viral Youtube video that clearly shows William Crum deliberately punting Sanders’ Kawasaki. It’s disturbing to watch. So disturbing, in fact, that one doesn’t quite know where to direct your outrage. Is it how seemingly small was the slight — “He passed me on a double yellow line” — that sent Crum into outrage? Was it the sheer lack of remorse at having just injured — and could have easily killed — two innocent human beings (“I don’t care” were Crum’s first words when confronted with the fact that he had just knocked two people into the ditch)? Or is it that, like so many cases of modern justice, if a friend riding behind Sanders hadn’t been wearing a helmet-mounted GoPro to document the entire incident, Crum might well have gotten off scot-free.
In the end, this turned out to be one of those rare cases of justice well served. That aforementioned video — and, no doubt, Crum’s belligerence — resulted in his being found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail. I don’t know if that is sufficient punishment for what seems tantamount to attempted murder, but it’s so much more justice than is so often dispensed that there is some satisfaction.
What’s scarier, however, is that this is hardly the first time a car driver has deliberately struck a motorcyclist. Indeed, the list of premeditated vehicular assaults on motorcyclists would seem long and the consequences often direr than the famed Texas incident (Sanders was not seriously injured but Simpson broke her wrist). In another famous Youtube moment in Lutz, Florida, Harley-mounted Navy veteran Joe Calderazzo, and his passenger, Melanie Milinkovich, were deliberately run over at a red light by Robert Vance who, proving malice aforethought, had to reverse his Pontiac to get a good run at Calderazzo’s bike. In Chula Vista, California, 26-year-old Darla Jackson was charged with murder after knocking Zachary Buob off his Ducati on Interstate 5. And in a truly frightening incident — still unsolved — a pickup driver mowed down six bikers on California’s crowded 210 freeway, the riders miraculously surviving — though with serious injury — the rush of cars in the 6 p.m. traffic.
Nor is this heinous behavior limited to Live-Free-or-Die America. In one British case, an Audi-driving woman — never apprehended, by the way — in Southhampton not only flung open her door to try to hit a 22-year-old motorcyclist, but then went all the way to the other side of the road to knock him off his bike. Even in I-thought-they-were-more-civilized-than-this Germany, one famous Youtube incident shows a Volkswagen minivan giving chase and knocking over a scooter driver on a small village’s main thoroughfare. Similar incidents have been videoed in China, Singapore, South Africa and the Philippines, to name just a few.
What to make of all this? More importantly, is there any lesson to be passed along that might prevent these tragedies? Well, staying the hell away from cantankerous old hillbillies from Texas — as exclusionary as that may be — might be a good start, even if it seems a trifle impractical. Don’t cross double yellow lines when passing? If we take Mr. Crum at his word, that would seem to have prevented this incident. On the other hand, if every minor driving infraction were punishable by attempted murder, our roads would be all but deserted. But, since Mr. Crum gave absolutely no indication of his nefarious intent, the best I can come up with is to suggest ensuring that you GoPro your every ride; at least you’ll have evidence for the prosecution.
But, the one common factor in all the other aforementioned incidents is that verbal argument preceded the physical altercation. That German VW driver committed his possibly lethal action after the scooter rider gave him the finger. After an initial altercation in the HOV lane, Jackson chased Buob at speeds approaching 160 kilometres an hour before she was able to knock him off his Panigale. And, according to eyewitnesses, Calderazzo and Vance had argued for over a mile after Vance cut off three bikers.
So, here’s the best advice I can come up with: Apologize. Yes, apologize. Even if you’re absolutely certain you’re in the right. For one thing, mass will always overcome merit and, since cars weigh two tons and we have but our Arais as protection, right or wrong we’re always going to lose.
Besides — and this I can promise from personal experience — it will bring you immense personal satisfaction. Road rage is never, ever about right or wrong. It’s all about venting inner hostility that’s been percolating for an entire day/week/month. And nothing deflates a road rager, no matter how irate, quicker than an “I’m sorry.”
Make that apology heartfelt. Feign sincerity as if you were auditioning for a Meryl Streep tear-jerker. Repeat if necessary. Leave no doubt — even if it’s not true — that you were at fault. Left with no legitimacy to their angst, the miscreants will scurry ashamedly away, their frustration doubled—nay, trebled—while you bask in the glow of an argument well won. Not to mention not lying in a ditch bleeding.