Two Big Factors Ignored in Motorcycle Crash Death

A biker dies because an elderly motorist tries to take a left turn into her driveway without considering his presence coming up the road, and turns directly in front of him in his lane.  Who does the police and media solely blame for causing the accident?   The dead guy, who somehow isn't protesting the presumptions they are making about his speed.  

FOX 17 reports in an article headlined: 

Police: speeding may've factored into fatal motorcycle crash

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Speed was likely a factor in a fatal motorcycle crash Thursday afternoon, according to the Muskegon Township Police Department.
The crash occurred just before 2 p.m. in the 3300 block of Evanston Avenue, just east of Shorrock Street. A motorcycle and a four-door sedan were involved in the crash.
The vehicle was heading eastbound on Evanston Avenue when the female driver took a left turn into a private drive and collided with a westbound motorcyclist.
Police are withholding the name of the motorcyclist until family is notified.
This crash is still under investigation [END].

Later news reports identified the biker as Preston Knapp, 28 of Eggleston Township, the driver was named as Jean Oosting, 77, who lived at the house on the end of the driveway she attempted to turn into.  The speed he was traveling was still the only factor involved that the police would make public, though they tell us this 'speed demon' was wearing a helmet.  

The picture of the accident in the article shows a gray mailbox with the number 3344 on it (Oosting's address), a street view shot from Google maps with that gray mailbox shows us the view that Oosting had of the road before she turned towards her driveway just beyond that group of three mailboxes.  The motorcycle would have been coming up the road at Oosting.   

The speed limit for that stretch of road is 45 mph (66 feet per second), had rider Knapp been going that rate, with the line of sight the motorist has, we should all believe that the turn violated his right of way, and the motorist should be fully at fault for not properly assessing it was not safe to turn. 

But had Knapp been traveling 55 mph (81 fps) or even 65 mph (95 fps) does it absolve the motorist from the responsibility of this accident?  Why should it, she should still have been able to see the rider advancing and gauge whether there was time enough to make the turn safely.  

A common and real factor in many of these types of accidents is the optical illusion that a motorcycle is much farther away than it actually is because it appears a lot smaller and takes up a lot less of the lane than other vehicles to the casual left-hand turner.  This also makes the turner and observers believe the biker may be speeding, because little time seems to elapse between the time the motorcycle is noticed (if it actually is) and the collision happens.  Speed equals distance over time, so if distance is wrongly perceived, so will the speed.

The decision to simply let an oncoming motorcycle pass before making the turn could avoid an accident altogether, but many drivers feel like they have an enormous amount of space because the motorcycle takes up less space in its lane than a car normally does, giving the appearance that it is farther away.

 

It is highly unlikely that we will know whether Knapp was speeding, as motorcycles have no computer systems analogous to those on cars that can tell you pre-impact stats.  So it would be presumptuous if the police based the factor of speeding on driver Oosting's impressions or on the observations of witnesses who weren't actually following behind the motorcyclist.  

On-scene evidence is also unlikely to display the biker's speed as a factor without further forensic review.  So why do the police make an assumption and the media slavishly report that assumption as THE factor in the cause of this accident when the two big factors are right there in front of their face?  

1)  The factor that the driver violated the motorcyclists right of way by not making sure the lane she was crossing was not clear of oncoming traffic.

2)  The diminished by age processing and reaction times of the 77 year old driver was a factor in her inability to avoid causing this accident.  

Instead the friends and relatives of Preston Knapp get to read the biases and presumptions of the police and the press heaped onto the deceased victim of this incident.  The guy who they say had so little care for his life that he sped down the road on his bike, and yet for some unexplained reason, wore a helmet and had no previous speed citations for his bike.

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Replies to This Discussion

Wow, over 4200 views in 5 hours? Also of note, most all motorcycles on the road these days have an automatic headlight on when started, and continue to run until the motor is shut off. On bright days, many turn their headlight to high beam to be more easily seen. This stretch of road also is very long with no hills, it appears flat for over 1/2 mile where the accident happened. Given the age of the car driver, my bet is she's fully to blame, it's not rocket science. Sad that a young 28 year old lost his life.

He passed my friend and I shortly before this accident happened. He had to have been going 90+ on a 45mph road. He passed us and was easily 3 or 4 football fields away from us in a matter of 5 seconds. He was traveling way to fast. She wouldn't have even seen him. How far he ended up from the accident even is proof he was going way to fast. But seriously he passed us at 90+.

3 or 4 football fields away in a matter of 5 seconds... That is speed in excess of 165mph' That sounds exaggerated. The bike is clearly 5 feet from the car.

If the woman was making the turn into her driveway, that would mean she was going at a very low rate of speed. Looking at the dent in the car, it would appear that much of the force of that collision was absorbed by the car which made the bike sink into the car which means the bike did not glance off the vehicle. A sudden stop such as this would assure that the motorcycle would not be located a long distance away from the car. The fact that she was turning proves that the motorcycle was the one traveling at a high rate of speed.

Marc, my calculations show that if your minimum figures are used and you were at the speed limit, then the biker was travelling about 180 mph, and I just don't see him traveling that fast through the neighborhood, nor do I see damage to the car or motorcycle consistent with a bike traveling that fast.

I did notice that you had posted Mlive's version of this accident when it happened on your Facebook page, but I also noticed you neither commented on the article or in your share of your proximity and insider knowledge of this incident.  When I get the police incident report, I likely won't find your anecdote there either, I trust.  The absence of any significant brake marks has me believe that the woman turned in front of him when he was so close he hadn't the chance to do anything other than say "Oh sh...", if that much.  

It really saddens me that, for whatever reason, there are people who would make up such things about an accident victim.  

Thanks for the info Marc. The fact that she did not even see him because he was going to fast would have been my assumption as well. not only do I see these speeding fools on crotch rockets all the time but they can be heard all  the time winding out the gears to a high pitch. I feel sorry for his family but I feel even worse for that poor woman he ran into because she now has to live with the consequences of an unnecessary tragedy caused by another reckless driver.

X, I understand how you have to deal with motorists when riding you bike but these modern motorcycle riders don't seem to be any where near as concerned with their safety as you are. Driving at high speeds on a motorcycle is a very risky and dangerous activity.

I have not seen the investigation of this incident yet, but the images from the scene say a lot.  My instinct along with these pictures indicate to me that it is most likely that the woman pulled her car in front of her mailbox to check her mail, I see this happen all of the time on my bicycle.  Usually, I see them far in advance and just give them a leer when I pass, sometimes they would have plowed into me if I wasn't paying attention to them.  

This would explain the damage done to her vehicle's center-front, rather than her passenger side, this would explain the absence of skid marks as no biker going at any speed expects a vehicle to pull into your lane directly in front of you and stop.  I can't tell you how frightening it is when you are riding a bicycle, look down for a second to make sure you have the right gear, then look up and see that pickup that was approaching from the other side of the road is now in your lane going towards the mailbox placed opposite of his driveway, and you have to go into the ditch to save your life.  

If Preston Knapp was speeding, his attention would (even more than usual) have been squarely directed towards his front, he would have seen the woman entering his lane and would have reacted with braking maneuvers.  Since he didn't, I firmly believe she entered the lane when he was very, very close, should have seen him, but didn't. 

I think some of the problems with any motorcycle case is that we are all tossed into the same category and mindset, and that's totally false. In my opinion there are about five categories out here: 1) the young and fearless crotch rocket types that usually speed, take chances often, and ride recklessly for jollies. 2) the road hard core or beginner bikers that usually obey the rules, speed limit, and want the freedom, fresh air and smells, views, biking gives you in the open air on two wheels. 3) the group bikers that are usually doing rallies, vacations, funerals, special events, poker runs, etc.. They also can be professional people like Drs., Lawyers, Executives, Engineers, & business owners from all areas, and types from all incomes. 4) the criminal group types like Hell's Angels and many other named groups on serious drugs/dealing too, heavy drinkers, and all have similar issues with criminal acts of violence, theft, and all other felonious acts. 5) sports bikers both professional racers or amateur. I tend to believe at age 28, and if that bike was a crotch rocket, Knapp would be in category 1. I consider myself category 2. Is there a model and make on that bike yet? If so, someone please post that, thanks.

I also would add, it would be nice to see several angles of the actual scene, close-ups, from all directions to see all the facts and evidence that is visually there. How far did Knapp get thrown too? The higher the speed, the further away too, very important. It appears very strange to me where the car picture is, and that the bike is so close to it. High rates of speed accidents throw bikes and riders 100'-200', and that's not even close here, so speed is seriously questionable here imho. Sad condolences to the family for this tragic loss. (almost 11,000 views?)

I'm grateful for our friend Willy sharing his views on these accidents, but I do think he is too quick to generalize that all people that ride motorbikes fall in the same category, but such generalizations are not uncommon.  I would attribute it to the same type of thinking that allows some motorists to generalize that all bicyclists are reckless, when over 90% of the time they encounter them, they are acting responsible.  I wish I could say the same for the motorists who get in front of me in my vehicle during the summer months, those people are totally reckless.

All kidding aside, there is almost always two casualties in these types of accidents, the biker and the unvarnished truth.  It's unfortunate that Preston will be interred with the onus imposed on him by the incautious epithets of the investigating team and the press, so that even if they overcome their prejudices and discover that he was not speeding and that the driver's action was the cause of his death, he will be remembered as a reckless speedster because of these reckless initial accounts.

The only generalization I commented on was the "modern motorcycle riders", the ones riding the "crotch rockets". They are for the most part young, inexperienced and ride with little fear or caution. I see them all the time, some are even my family members. Going fast and carelessly is not new but the newly designed machines seem to encourage a sense of daring. X, you do generalize that most of the time the car driver is at fault in almost all of the accidents you post about.

Of course, X doesn't, a he's gentlemen that is sincere and honest in all respects, and doesn't lie about factual things that happen here.

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