Big trucks, bad roads and other dangers
Louisiana is in the South, is highly populated and has several major interstates, I-49 and I-55 which runs north to south and I-20 which runs east to west, making it a heavily traveled state. Because of the traffic running through the state, the dangers are exponentially increased. The constant and repeated use of the highways and alternative roadways make the roads deteriorate quicker than one might think and causing hazards that are often left for motorists to avoid before they are scheduled for repair. The roads are often wrought with gaping potholes, wide crevices, large bumps and uneven patterns, all obstacles to be avoided by motorcyclists who share them. Furthermore, the large semi trucks often throw rocks that break car and truck windshields. If they throw a rock at a motorcyclist the windshield or face shield on a helmet might offer some protection but the impact can also be severe. The prudent thing to do is “stay away from large trucks, semis, and trucks obviously carrying cargo that could be blown from the truck into your path.” But, if you find yourself in their path, you might ask “are the drivers of these vehicles responsible for damage?” In most cases the answer is yes, and you could either sue in court or file an accident report and let the insurance companies pay. But, it’s not the same if a rock is thrown at a car or truck window of a vehicle you’re driving than if it is thrown at you when you’re perched on a motorcycle seat. The danger factor is increased considerably and you will have more than vehicle damage to worry about. You could have a personal injury case. Thus, the best advice is to get around that vehicle quickly and avoid following too closely.
Another Louisiana hazard is the bad roads. Filled with gaping potholes, textured repairs, bumps and often trash littered on them, there are constant obstacles to avoid. Add to that the large number of wildlife in the area that include deer, opossum, armadillo, and other creatures, the dangers abound. The bad roads could be attributed to the economy in the southern states that often funnels highway money to other areas while the condition of the roads are ignored. Repairs are often left until the road is in dire need of resurface or some other intervention. The general public, truck drivers and users of the highway system in Louisiana are aware of the dangers. One truck driver, Kevin Johnson of Rushville, Illinois said of Interstate 55, “The second you cross the Mississippi state line into Louisiana heading south, it’s like driving on a washboard. You can close your eyes and know. I had a cup full of soda one day and and the road literally rattled it right out of the drink holder and all over the floor of my truck. God help you if you think you’re going to play a CD down there.” (rd.com, 2013) The director of “Driving Louisiana Forward”, a campaign committed to improving Louisiana’s highway infrastructure said of I-12 east of Baton Rouge “It’s one of our deadliest stretches of highways because it goes from six lanes down to four lanes. They’re widening it now but just another two exits because they don’t have the money to finish, so that will just carry the problem farther down the road.” (rd.com, 2013) Riders need to maintain constant vigilance and search and see what surrounds them and what is upcoming that may be a hazard in the road. Constant awareness and searching for obstacles can give the rider the best chance of avoiding these dangers. Watching signs that warn of upcoming construction should prompt the rider to slow down and heed the warning. Learning to correctly swerve or make a sudden, quick stop will assist riders. Practicing these techniques in an empty parking lot can lend confidence and increase rider skills so they will be prepared for the unknown. The unknown may not just be the obstacles inherently present on poor roads, but could be the wildlife that makes a sudden dart in front of the motorcycle rider.
Louisiana is full of wildlife that include opossum, armadillo, skunk, racoons, squirrel, wild hogs, deer and even the errant cat or dog. These creatures can be found any time of the day, but early morning and late afternoon are when one is likely to encounter the most wildlife. Often said, a good offense is the best defense and scanning the road side combined with constant vigilance are the rider’s defense. Once scouted, the rider will have only seconds to decide on a reaction, and practiced skills will benefit them greatly when the actual danger is present. Riders will have to decide whether to increase their speed to avoid the obstacle, decrease their speed, come to a sudden stop, or swerve for avoidance. Practice is the main thing that will have an impact on the rider safety.