ABATE works for biker safety even in week of high-profile crashes

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Victoria Rumble was riding as a passenger on her boyfriend's motorcycle in July 2010 when, in an instant, their lives were nearly taken from them.

"The gentleman ran a red light and made a left turn across two lanes of traffic," she recalls. It was at that moment the two vehicles collided. Rumble's boyfriend, Martin, tried to avoid a collision, "but there were only a few feet between us and the SUV..."

Rumble said they struck the vehicle broadside. Martin went down with the bike, but she was thrown from the wreckage.

The driver's excuse, according to her, was "I didn't see you." She wasn't satisfied with the answer and looked for a way to make the streets safer for two-wheeled motorists.

The answer for her: ABATE - American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.

Wednesday afternoon's incident involving a pickup truck and a motorcycle prompted her to contact WSFA 12 News about the program.

Like Rumble, the motorcyclist in the crash on Perry Hill Road survived the accident, but incidents involving motorcycle and automobile collisions continue to be at the top of her mind - and the minds of many other people.

"‎3rd motorcycle wreck in what 24 hrs? Geez," one person wrote on WSFA 12 News' Facebook page.

The Perry Hill Road crash is one of three high-profile wrecks reported on in just the past week.

A motorcyclist was killed in Dothan Tuesday evening in a hit-and-run. An arrest has since been made in that case.

A crash in Utah garnered national attention after nearly a dozen bystanders worked together to lift a burning car off a motorcyclist who ended up under a BMW. The event was caught on camera.

In the recent past there have been several reports of motorcycle vs. automobile crashes on Central Alabama roadways.

In May, a Montgomery Motorman suffered injuries after being struck by a car while in pursuit of another vehicle.  The Montgomery Police Department has suffered the scare of injured motorcycle officers before including when Cpl. David Brown's bike collided with a vehicle while escorting a funeral procession in 2010.

Even former Alabama Governor Bob Riley had a scare with a motorcycle crash. His crash occurred during a cross-country trip. Almost at the end of his route, Riley crashed his bike in Fairbanks, Alaska in June.

Riley's case is slightly different from the other examples in as much as his was a single-vehicle crash. His crash garnered much attention, regardless, because of his widely-known name, and made some wonder about motorcycle safety.

There are many other crashes that aren't listed, and though each case is different safety continues to be an issue that requires priority and focus.

Rumble's wreck opened her eyes to ABATE, and she became involved with the organization soon afterwards. "Riders come in all sizes, all ages, and are from all walks of life," she explained. "Every time a motorist leaves home they should be aware that
there are motorcycles and small cars on the roads and they need to devote their full attention in order to avoid accidents and fatalities."

The non-profit organization says its goal is, "preserving individual freedom and promoting safety." It also gets involved in the political process to protect motorcyclists' rights.

ABATE is currently working toward erecting signs and campaigns throughout the state to make motorists more aware of motorcycle riders. And while she says she doesn't have specific details about the reason for Wednesday's crash, Rumble says she'll be watching for updates. That crash remains under investigation.

ONLINE - www.dixieabate.org

ABATE says it stresses biker training, and took issue with one specific statement in WSFA 12 News' report on the Perry Hill Road crash in which investigators believe the biker's decision to lay the bike on the ground mitigated some serious injuries.

ABATE's Kris Cook, an avid motorcycle rider herself, said that's just not the case, calling the 'lay it down' method a "rampant misconception".

"Proper training would have taught the rider that she would have been much less likely to have collided with the truck had she kept the tires in contact with the road," Cook explained.

The reasoning behind the theory, according to Cook: "Motorcycles up on their tires have the ability to swerve and stop. Motorcycles on their side, sliding metal on asphalt, have neither."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps records on numerous sorts of crashes among the states, including those involving motorcycles.

Data from 2009, the last year available, showed 76 motorcycle related fatalities in Alabama. The death rate per year in Alabama from 2005-09 ranged from 62 deaths to more than 105.

While there are many reasons for a crash, Cook says ABATE's campaign encourages vigilance. "Stay off the phone and actively watch for motorcycles...." she said. "Your brain will not process what you don't expect to see, whether your eyes actually see it or not."  

The bike Rumble was riding on was totaled. Even the frame broke on impact. But, through it all, she said, "We consider ourselves extremely blessed..."

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