x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Air Bag: Blame lies with drivers for bad-weather crashes

There are times when road conditions may come into play in the event of a crash, but crashes tend to happen when people drive (or ride) beyond their own limits.

As you'll read on mo8, the launch of the Ducati 1199 Panigale at Yas Marina Circuit came under, shall we say, a bit extreme and difficult climatic circumstances.

At least it didn't rain. But the wind and the blowing sand were enough to make riding a superbike at high speed somewhat more exciting than you might appreciate. Speeding past 250kph and suddenly being whipped back and forth by sharp gusts of wind can make for some very pucker-inducing moments.

And that was just me; I don't have a lot of bike track time under my belt, hence the raft of European and Asian bike magazine journalists zooming by me in the corners who were consistently, lap by lap, taking the Ducati to its limits of adhesion on such a dusty, sandy track. They'd come back to the pits, shaking their heads and ruefully telling stories of sliding into corners and fighting to hold on to the bike in the wind.

But fortunately for all, there were no incidents that day, no one came off the bikes and there were no injuries at all (save for my pride, I suppose). Our leather suits remained intact; more importantly, so did our bodies.

And why? I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I was riding within my limits, especially in the inclement weather and conditions. Sure, I could really open it up and then tip it over into the corners, but there were some bends from which I just didn't feel comfortable hammering the throttle. That kind of skill comes with plenty of practice within the safe confines of a track.

And why do I bring this up? No, I don't want your sympathy for my relatively poor track skills and, no, I certainly don't need your taunting emails. Keep them to yourself.

In fact, I was just thinking about the event this week after reading of the number of accidents attributed to the sandstorm here. Six in total were blamed on the weather, with poor visibility sadly claiming two lives with more than a dozen others injured.

There are times when road conditions may come into play legitimately in the event of a crash, be it rain, fog or giant walls of sand. Crashes tend to happen when people drive (or ride) beyond what the conditions warrant, beyond what their own limits are.

At the track, on the back of a Dh90,000 motorbike that I desperately did not want to stuff into a wall, if I in fact did come off of it, there was nothing else to blame but myself. It wouldn't be the sand in the corners, it wouldn't be the buffeting wind, it would have been me and my utter lack of judgement.

I wish people would realise that, as they approach thick fog and decreased visibility, or find themselves on slippery tarmac in a sudden downpour. Weather happens; it's up to you to adjust your driving to it. There are no accidents, just crashes and bad decisions.

  • Sharjah Police is testing a new system that won't allow a car to start unless the seat belts are fastened. Hey, any idea that will push the use of seat belts here in the UAE is good news. The level of use here is atrocious, especially among young people, despite the obvious safety advantages.

I wonder what my taxi driver from a few days ago would think about this new system. As I got in and buckled up, the seat belt warning bell started to chime; he had left his off. I asked him to do something about it, so at the next traffic light he buckled it up with a smile - but he was sitting on the belt itself. Sigh.