Christopher Thomas O’ Leary was sitting on his motorcycle at the intersection of Spur 364 and Loop 323 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The light changed, giving O’Leary a protected green arrow to turn. He never made it out of the intersection.
Chris was hit by a vehicle running a red light and was taken immediately to East Texas Medical Center where he was treated for massive head trauma. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, 20-year-old Christopher Thomas “Sweet Jones” O’Leary passed away the next day due to his injuries.
O’Leary was wearing his helmet, was not speeding, was not shrugging off any traffic laws, and was not showing off the skills he had mastered while putting thousands of miles on his motorcycle. He didn’t make any mistakes on his bike that Saturday afternoon, yet he was killed.
In 2001, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration did a full report on fatal single vehicle motorcycle crashes to present their statistics to the public and to provide some insight into the possible causes of these wrecks.
What they found was that between 1975 and 1999, 38,000 motorcyclists’ died in single vehicle accidents. The 20 to 29-year-old age group proved to have the most fatalities of any age group. Anywhere from 30 percent to 46 percent of the fatalities that occurred between 1990 and 1999 were from that age group. Also, night-time riders proved to be more at risk than those that chose to ride during the day, as many as 70 percent of the 1,021 motorcyclists died at night in 1990.
Accidents that occurred off main roads that involved non-moving objects accounted for 6,798 deaths in the 90s. The report went on to list a multitude of other reasons for motorcycle fatalities that included speeding, alcohol, etc.
However, there are lots of reasons why students covet these machines. They are inexpensive compared to the cost of a full-size car, truck or SUVs. They cost students much less at the gas pump, are easy to maintain, and the problem of finding a parking space virtually disappears. They satisfy the desires of the materialistic and sooths the need for speed of adrenaline junkies with a twist of a wrist. But is that worth risking your life?
Most people who ride motorcycles are aware of the dangers involved, but some have the, “that won’t happen to me, mentality.”
“I know a couple guys that think they are invincible on a bike, but I’ve crashed before and know what it’s like,” student and motorcyclist Alen Moffitt said.
Turns out, danger may be beyond the motorcyclist’s control.
“In traffic, you cannot control what others are going to do,” Brandon Green, another TJC student and cyclist, said. “Every time I get on a bike, I know there is always the danger of something bad that could happen.”
Both Green and Moffitt said that while riding their motorcycles, they are much more in tune with what is happening around them, but as O’Leary’s case proves, sometimes that is not enough.
As reported in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Angela K. Daniels, 38, of Tyler was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol when she got behind the wheel that fateful afternoon. She made the decision to drive, which effectively ended the promising life of a talented young man. O’Leary had no control over Daniels actions, but was the one who paid the price for her mistakes.
It’s a game of chance where the looser could not only get seriously injured, but could also end up dead. “You’re pretty much just flipping a coin,” Green said.