www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

The zero option -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Why branding ISIS matters -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

School efficiency -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Favors and loot for sale -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

The 'college experience' -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Ellis schools -9/11/2014, 10:10 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Waiting, and wondering

Published on -5/6/2014, 10:22 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

Maddie's Room is actually very nice -- comfortable chairs, lots of outlets. If you don't look closely, you might think you're at an airport lounge, except I'm the only one who appears to be working.

Everybody else is just waiting.

This is the surgical waiting room at UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital. I am sitting with my sister, and with my nephew's girlfriend, while my nephew undergoes surgery on his crushed leg.

No, don't feel sorry for us. My nephew might just be the luckiest guy in this building. He was riding his motorcycle to work one morning last week, on the freeway, when he was hit by a car that suddenly switched lanes.

When I found him here in the ER, after a series of panicked calls, he was in great pain. His broken leg was elevated. And every nurse and doctor who walked into his cubicle said the same thing I did when I saw him: "You are so lucky."

This is what you learn in a world-class trauma center, where they see motorcyclists down on the freeway. Most of the time, it's not your leg, but your head. The helmets, one nurse explained, break -- even the expensive ones -- with the force of the impact. "The lucky ones die," she said.

The lucky ones die? Right. We ended up on the "neuro" floor, even though my nephew was a leg, not a head. Lucky to find a bed. His neighbors are not so lucky. Some of them are recovering from brain surgery or strokes. But this is also where the motorcyclists who hit their heads and don't die end up. Most of them never are the same. Some of them don't even recover enough to know that.

I know many people love motorcycles. My nephew was one of them. I expect I will hear from many of them, who will tell me they ride safely, that it's motorists who need to share the road and not motorcyclists who need to abandon it. Sorry. After a day in Maddie's Room and a week here at this fine hospital, you're not going to convince me -- or any of the doctors I've talked to.

My nephew's surgeon, the chief of orthopedic trauma, was blunt. "You're not riding a motorcycle again." Another doctor I know told me if he had his way, he'd stack them all in a giant heap. Years ago, when I had a radio show, I had a guest from the LAPD talking about driving safety during the holidays. What about motorcycles, I asked. How many injuries do Los Angeles motorcycle officers -- who presumably are not only well-trained, but also more likely to be "noticed" by drivers than young people like my nephew -- suffer? My guest was silent. Off-air, he told me he simply could not answer.

The statistics I could find might explain why. According to 2006 statistics from the government, roughly 13 cars per 100,000 end up in fatal crashes; the equivalent statistics for motorcycles were 72 per 100,000. On a per-mile-traveled basis, the risk of a fatal crash is 35 times greater for motorcycles than cars. While the number of fatalities dipped slightly in 2005, it was headed back up in 2011 and up again in 2012. The motorists are more often to blame than the cyclists, but so what? The cyclists die. As for accidents and injuries, it's harder to find good numbers, but common sense, and the experience of the professionals here, suggests people riding around in the open air who get hit by thousands of tons of metal and steel don't fare as well as those who are inside those vehicles and cushioned by air bags in every direction.

Years ago, when my children were small, an older mother taught me a lesson I never forgot: If you make a lot of rules, she said, it's too easy for your kids to break one, and once they break one, the rules aren't really rules. So keep the list short and absolute.

I asked her what her list was, and she replied almost automatically: No heroin. No motorcycles. I added drunk drivers.

Susan Estrich is a columnist,

commentator and law and

political science professor at USC.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.