Just looking through my old videos the other day and I came across a documentary about James Dean called ‘James Dean’s last day’. It’s an interesting film and a sad one too as it counts down Dean’s last day, his leaving Hollywood and his departure for a racing event at Salinas. If you don’t know much about Dean then you won’t know he was an amateur racing driver and was killed in a car crash in his new Porsche.There are so many ifs and as I watch the film I keep thinking if only Dean had left the Porsche on the trailer instead of driving it to the race track. If only the speeding ticket he was given had made him slow down. If only a man called Donald Turnupseed had seen Dean and not turned across him. Such a shame, such a tragedy. Dean, I’m sure, would have gone on to make so many great films and one day he would have directed some too.
Racing driver Ayrton Senna is a man would have gone on to greater things too, more world championships and more race wins. I even read something by Ron Dennis the other day in which the McLaren boss said that Senna had political ambitions too. Could he have run for the Brazilian Presidency? We’ll never know because Senna was killed at San Marino in 1994 and we are left only with the on car video pictures of him as his car slipped from under him and hurtled towards the crash barrier. The on car pictures fail before the final moments of impact when a suspension arm was flung back and pierced his helmet, causing his death.
A video that did show someone’s final moments was one I saw the other day. I was lying outside in the sun and I could hear a video playing on Liz’s I-pad. It was a woman talking about her son’s motorbike crash and hoping the video would help other road users, particularly car drivers who need to look out for bikes. I was reading a book at the time and the video distracted me, then I heard the sound of the bike, the rushing of the wind and then the impact.
“What was that?” I asked, “Was the crash filmed?”
Indeed it was. The rider was wearing a helmet camera and his fatal crash had been recorded. Later I took a look for myself. The rider was a relatively young man, only thirty eight years old and the video starts off as he waves goodbye to his friends at an air base and immediately he leaves the car park he is gunning his bike very, very, fast. As his mother talks sadly about her lost son, holding back the tears we cut again to her son, riding extremely fast and passing cars quickly on a single carriageway road. He pulls out and slips quickly past a car. As he pulls back in front of the car he reaches a junction, another car pulls across to turn right in front of him and he has only time to shout ‘No’ and he hits the car and tumbles onto the verge. The impact is shocking, so shocking I awoke last night still thinking off it. The rider had been doing 97 mph and had no chance whatsoever of surviving or avoiding the crash. Why was he going so fast? If only he had tucked in behind the car at the junction he would have avoided the crash altogether.
These are questions without answers. Riding a bike very fast is exhilarating and exciting but a rider needs to be so very aware of what he is doing, what is happening ahead and he must react so much quicker than a car driver as he is so much more vulnerable. Listening to the video, as I first did when it played on Liz’s I-pad, it seemed to me that the clip was aimed at motorists who do not look properly, who do not check properly for other vehicles before turning. After actually watching the video it is clear that the speed of the rider, 97mph on a sixty mph road, was the main factor in the accident and it meant that the rider had no time almost to react other than to hit his brakes. Still, if the car driver had taken a second look up the road, a second glance, he might have seen the bike and stopped. If only.
I’ve had a few scary moments on my motorbikes but I don’t think I ever hit 97 mph, even on the motorway but then I’m not sure the 125 and 250cc bikes I had could go that fast. At work they used to call me the fair weather rider because if it was raining I would always get the bus to work. When I bought my first car I hung up my helmet for good apart from a brief fling with a Kawasaki 500 when I had split up with my girlfriend.
The car driver was prosecuted and had his licence suspended for 18 months and was also sentenced to 130 hours of community work. The Bike rider lost his entire life, his whole future that was ahead of him, gone, just like that of James Dean and Ayrton Senna. He wasn’t a famous man and wouldn’t have, I suppose, made any great movies or won any motor races but he would have married, perhaps had children and gone on to live a happy, contented life. All lost in a single moment.