COLUMN: Motorcycles, ATVs are too risky a ride for me

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By Shannon Brock

My cousin April is lucky to be alive, and she'd be the first person to say so.

A few months ago, she was on a motorcycle day trip with her boyfriend. He was driving the bike, and two of their friends were following close behind on another bike.

The same four people and the same two bikes had made the same exact trip the weekend before, but both bikes hit a rough patch of gravel this time around sending all four riders to the emergency room.

By the grace of God, none of them were seriously injured. After some bandages, stitches and antibiotic ointment, all four were left healthy with a few scars.

But not all of the scars were physical.

Even though her boyfriend went out and bought a new Harley within a few days of the wreck, April hasn't gotten back on a bike, and she doesn't plan to.

I can't blame her. I've never been on a motorcycle, and even though I'm from Southeastern Kentucky where ATVs reign supreme, I've only been on a four-wheeler twice: both within the past year and both with my father driving at an extremely slow pace.

I've always been too afraid because, to me, they just don't seem safe. I fear for my father's life every time he goes four-wheeling, and I know that might be a bit extreme, but I can't help it.

Because these ATVs do reign supreme back home, I've seen too many lives damaged and ended because of them.

Two cases in point:

My ninth grade English teacher was killed on an ATV a couple years after I graduated high school. He was one of my favorite teachers, so my best friend and I went back for his funeral, which took place at our high school because it was the only place large enough to hold all the guests. In his short life (he couldn't have been 40 years old; my dad coached him in little league baseball), he touched so many lives. But his positive influence in our community was cut short because of an ATV.

Also, a promising basketball player from my high school who was three years younger than me was killed riding an ATV. You couldn't find a nicer guy. In fact, to this day, a couple years after his death, friends still leave him "I miss you" and "I can't believe you're gone" messages on his Facebook profile. It's for that reason that I hope Facebook exists in heaven. I hope he can smile knowing how much he meant to his friends.

As if I needed more evidence of the dangers of motorcycles and ATVs, Anderson County has seen two of its own die at the hands of these vehicles over the past few months.

Douglas Martin died in June when the motorcycle he was driving crashed on the Tyrone Bridge, and most recently, Donald Miller died Sunday when the motorcycle he was driving crashed into a car on the 127 Bypass.

In both those accidents, I wouldn't dare place blame on the drivers, but I do place blame on their mode of transportation.

I personally don't see how a vehicle, which does nothing but provide its passengers a place to sit, can be considered safe enough to be on the road with other vehicles several times its size. Obviously people die in car accidents every day as well, but I hope you can see my point.

I know there is no way motorcycles or ATVs will cease to exist or to be used, and I'm not even sure that'd be the answer.

And because my experience with both modes of transportation is even less than limited, I'm not aware of the current safety laws or ways to improve them.

I don't know what the answer is, I just know that I've seen enough lives torn apart by both of these vehicles that something needs to be done to make them safer.

I've seen my cousin get hurt and personal friends and community members die because of a random motorcycle or ATV accident. I just don't want to see that happen any more.