From Moto Guzzi Owners News October 2003

After almost getting creamed by a SUV running a red light on Saturday, I felt this to be a bit pertinent. Just promise me ya’ll will make sure the idiot that creams me won’t get a slap on the wrist.

An Open Letter from a Dead Motorcyclist

My name is Sandra Lee and I was killed on August 23, 2003 by a right of way violator. It is hard for me to be patient with people who say ‘it was just an accident.’ There was my death to consider and it matters. Whatever happened has consequences and they are irrevocable and irreversible. Since I am the one that died, I think the truth is owed. I know you didn’t mean to kill me, but you did. The truth is you didn’t take the five seconds to look twice before you turned. You could have saved my life! The truth is you weren’t paying attention. You just didn’t see me. One very real truth is that over two thirds of motorcyclist’s deaths are caused by drivers, not motorcyclists. When one person dies it is a tragedy but when over 2,000 people die nationwide, it becomes a statistic. The unfortunate truth is that a lane change, casual red light run, untimely cell phone call or a driver’s inattentive left turn can, and in my case did, result in death.

The truth is that the motorcycling community makes efforts to educate the driving public about the presence of motorcycles on the road. We are putting up billboards and trying to gain attention in the media. We are lobbying state governments for increases in right of way violation penalties. The saddest truth of all is that our message continues to go unheeded by the general public. There is an attitude of indifference against motorcyclists. My life was reduced to a ticket for a right of way violation. Just maybe, the person who killed me will get charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle. Probably though, the insurance company and the lawyers will get the charge reduced to a right of way violation ticket. To them, the value of my life will be reduced to a $25 fine. The truth is that ‘misdemeanor’ and ‘death’ should never be used in the same sentence. The truth about that violation is that my life was forfeited. I can no longer be a wife, a mother or a grandmother. Because you see - sometimes when you kill a motorcyclist, you also kill a family. My husband understands that you didn’t mean to kill me, but you did. The truth is that cars are smoother and more comfortable to drive. It is easy to forget that you are moving two tons of steel and plastic down the road. Inside that car of yours, you had air bags, seat belts and anti-lock brakes to keep you safe. I guess a collision with a six hundred pound motorcycle just wasn’t very threatening to you. Now you understand or at least I hope you understand that one more look, just five more seconds, could have saved my life,

The truth is there is an attitude of indifference by our legislators and our judicial system regarding matters of right of way violation. Perhaps they don’t understand just how vulnerable I was. Perhaps no one believes that motorcycles have as much right to be on the road as other modes of transportation. It is time for legislators, prosecutors and judges to understand when dealing with motorists who cause motorcycle crashes that most of these ‘accidents’ are preventable. I am dead or I would tell you these things myself. The truth is that it is ironic that I would be killed by a right of way violator. I spent the last year of my life lobbying for increased penalties for right of way violators in Raleigh. The truth is that the legislators were more concerned with the legal and insurance ramifications of increased penalties.

The truth is that throughout the ages, every minority on earth has had to fight for equality and it seems that now is the time for the 100,000 plus motorcyclists in North Carolina to stand up and demand that they have the same rights as everyone else on the road.

I hope the final truth is that, from this day forward, you will tell everyone you know that if only you would have looked twice, if only you would have taken five more seconds, you could have saved my life.

Spread the word. Motorcycles are everywhere.

NOTE: To continue Sandy’s work in Raleigh and ensure that, in the future, penalties exist and will be enforced for right of way violators, get involved and be part of the solution. Raleigh CBA/ABATE of North Carolina meets on the first and third Tuesday each month at 7:00 P.M. at Carolina BBQ which is located in Garner at 733 U.S. 70 West. Our thanks are extended to Mrs. Lee’s family for allowing us to use their very painful loss to make a difference.

Sandy had been riding for a long time. She had her own bike, and rode beside Ray, her husband. They live in Horry County, South Carolina, just over the NC/SC state line from CBA/ABATE of NC’s Brunswick County chapter. They are solid citizens who believe in standing up for what’s right. That’s what brought them across the state line and into our organization.

The day she was killed, she was on her way to meet their grown kids for breakfast. Ray’s bike was at a friend’s so he took four wheels and followed Sandy. One of the bittersweet facts of this breakfast meeting was that their son was meeting them there...he’d just gotten home from Iraq less than two days before.

I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say the person that killed Sandy had to cross three lanes to do it. Sandy was traveling about 40 mph and struck the car in the right front tire well.

Ray wasted no time getting to her side, but she was gone.

The letter was written by a friend and fellow chapter member of Sandy’s. After talking with Ray, he wanted something to go out, something that he hoped would spur other riders to work harder on this Right-of-Way bill.

Those who knew her best say it was what she would have wanted.