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Death on the road / Opinion

Death on the road / Opinion
Death on the road / Opinion

The images are terrifying. A group of bikers are driving at high speed, presumably above the speed limit; A person on another motorcycle loses balance and falls to the ground with his passenger. Two bikers, apparently from the same motorcycle, knock the people to the ground and flee.

The video is viral, with thousands of replicas. The names of the victims are public: Karen Martínez and Laura Daniela Gómez. It happened on the Sibaté-Soacha road of the wrongly named Autopista Sur on Friday, June 28 at 12:30 am.

I express my solidarity with the families of the victims; I am very sorry for what happened. It cannot continue to happen to us, not every day, not 23 times a day, that This is the average number of deaths in our country, 13 of which are motorcyclists and 16 are related to motorcycles.

I understand that bikers only go on these rides to have fun; it is part of their lifestyle and their social identity as a group. And I understand that they also do prevention work: promoting safe behavior, using helmets and protective equipment, and improving skills. But fun rides include in some cases games like “candeleo” (passing each other), and according to videos that some publish, reckless behavior: speeding, overtaking on double yellow lines, changing lanes and weaving between other vehicles. Even “wheelies” or “piques” (putting the bike on one wheel). Nothing safe; neither for them, nor for the people around.

Karen Martínez and Laura Daniela Gómez join the very sad list of those who died on motorcycles: 1,984 people between January and May 2024, 51,943 in the historical record since 2009. Too many people, too many families. A great tragedy that we are not giving the attention it deserves.

The motorcycle is here to stay. It helps many families find access and work, but it also poses fatal risks. The risks are intrinsic to a vehicle that offers no protection to its users; to an infrastructure that in some cases invites going fast and, in others, is in poor condition, generating risks; to a culture of speed as an objective, as fun. The risks are multiplied for young users, who are not afraid of risk and who do not have enough practice.

We need many things to mitigate the risks: from better licensing (practical tests and provisional rookie licenses with restrictions while people acquire skills), better infrastructure (signaling and good condition, with speed bumps where necessary such as urban areas and with good pedestrian crossings with traffic lights), better motorcycles (with ABS brakes, permanent lights and even speed limiters), and controls on those who insist on putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.

Not all motorcyclists are reckless; according to ANSV, 42% of them exceed the speed limit nationwide and 21% do not wear helmets; but they are the ones who should be in charge of control. It is not about persecution, it is about following the rules, not only for motorcyclists, but for all road users.

Recently, Congress approved a law that eliminates the immobilization of motorcycles in cases of risky behavior; it has not yet come into force, but I perceive that it could reduce deterrence. The League Against Road Violence has promoted that extremely risky behavior be criminalized, as in France. The debate is open; for now we need to strengthen the control of the regulations we have.

For Karen Martínez and Laura Daniela Gómez and all the other victims of preventable road accidents; so that families do not continue to mourn over preventable events.

DARIO HIDALGO

PROFESSOR OF LOGISTICS AND TRANSPORT AT THE JAVERIANA UNIVERSITY

 
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