Of the eight foreign teachers with scooters at my school, seven of them have crashed their bikes – all in single vehicle collisions. Injuries have ranged from bruised egos to a broken collar bone, requiring surgery.
A few weeks ago I picked up my colleague from his daily check-up at the hospital. He crashed his bike and split open his hand, which got stitched up and then infected. Everyday he had his wound cleaned and bandaged up. He said it felt like they were scrubbing away his flesh.
His accident has made me a little road-shy, so I have been extra cautious on my bike. As I was preparing for my weekend ride, I recalled my dad getting ready for his motorcycle trips when I was kid. He always spent time preparing his gear and equipment. To get ready for my day trip, I put on my heaviest pants and a long sleeve shirt. I washed the visor on my helmet, adjusted my mirrors, and filed up my tank.
When I first got the scooter I could barely get it up to 50 km/hr. My fearless colleagues would leave me in their dust, and would have to wait for me at the next turn. I wasn’t comfortable going any faster, and as long as I stayed on the left side of the road, then the faster vehicles could easily pass me.
Now I have over three months of experience under my belt. As my mileage increases, so does my speed. I’m very comfortable on the bike, and memories of dad’s driving lessons have me constantly scanning the horizon and my mirrors. I even rest my thumb over the horn button, in case I need to honk quickly – which I have.
I was feeling pretty impressed with myself at the end of my 4 hour Sunday ride. I haven’t crashed my bike (excluding tipping it over in the mud in Cambodia), and I have found a love for riding. There’s nothing better than jumping on my little two wheels and zipping off somewhere.
Just as I pull onto my usually vacant street, I notice a dump truck in the oncoming lane. I’m taking the turn a tad too fast and a tad too wide – I’m headed straight towards the truck. I slam on my breaks, turn hard – and I lay down the bike. “I’m ok! I’m ok!”, I yell as the truck driver leaps over to help me. He rights my bike and I take physical inventory. The knee on my pants is scuffed and I’m embarrassed, but otherwise ok.
I can no longer brag that I haven’t crashed my scooter.
Scooter accidents are all too common. On Christmas day, a 15-year old student from my school died riding his scooter up the mountain. The teachers say it happens every year. Last week another student rear-ended a teacher right in front of the school. I have also driven past a mangled scooter under a truck, the remnants of a double-fatality.
In Thailand, a 15-year old can obtain a license to drive a scooter. Scooter drivers (not passengers) are required to wear helmets, and are not allowed to wear flip-flops or heels. Only two people are allow are supposed to ride on a scooter. All of these regulations are ignored.