‘Share the Road’ during Motorcycle Safety Month - Pay attention to the road like your life depends on it

  • Published
  • By Jimmy Richardson
  • ATA Test Operations Branch
When I was working as an electronics maintenance technician at a Shelbyville plant working three to four day shifts each week, I had plenty of time to enjoy my family - three wonderful kids and a woman whom I had been married to since 1989.

I also had time to enjoy my other hobby building custom motorcycles for myself, family and friends. It was my passion and I enjoyed it very much for years.

I had been riding motorcycles since the age of five and had gotten very educated on how to properly and safely ride a motorcycle. I had become very efficient in repairing motorcycles and building them. It was something that I liked doing in my free time and it had become profitable for me as a hobby. Friends and family were bringing bikes to me to repair and I had purchased the necessary equipment to work properly and safely on bikes.

Thursday night, July 26, 2012, was like any July night; nice and warm that time of year. I had gotten off work at 5 p.m. and went straight home to have a fine meal that my wife had prepared for the kids and myself. After supper and dish washing, I came up with the idea of a treat for the whole family. I suggested we all go to Sonic for half-priced milkshakes after 8 p.m. It was agreed upon by everyone so we decided to make the trip to Lewisburg, Tenn. Sonic for evening shakes as a family.

Rather than everyone squeeze into my wife's vehicle for the ride, I decided to take one of my bikes and ride to Lewisburg myself that evening. All went well on the ride to Sonic except for the last half mile on Highway 64W in Farmington, Tenn.

A vehicle turning onto Highway 64 from Hunter Lane was heading to Shelbyville. The driver of the vehicle evidently didn't see me coming in the westbound lane. The driver pulled into the westbound lane instead of getting into the eastbound lane. The result of this error was a head on impact with my motorcycle at 55 to 60 mph. My motorcycle was broken in half.

The injuries I sustained included a crushed right eye socket, right teeth broken off and flesh from my knees up was torn open completely. My left leg tibia and fibula were snapped and ejected out the back of my leg. My left chest muscle and skin was torn from my chest. I was also bleeding severely in my brain.

I lay on the hood of the vehicle for several minutes. The driver assumed I had hit them in their lane by mistake and tried to drive off under the impression I was just hanging onto the vehicle. Once the driver realized that my motorcycle was stuck in the SUV's front end, the brakes were applied and I was thrown backwards onto the highway.

About this time, traffic started to back up and the driver hadn't called the police or medical services. A bystander stuck in traffic came to see what happened. He watched as the driver of another vehicle knelt beside me and began to pray for me. This individual joined in the roadside prayer of an unknown man whom they were sure was about to meet Jesus Christ.

The bystander called emergency services and gave them an assessment of my injuries and my condition. When the emergency services responded, I was flown to Huntsville Hospital for reassembly. My legs were sewn up to stop excessive bleeding and my family and friends were instructed that I would not live through the night.

After I survived that night and into Friday, everyone was told I would not make it through the weekend. I would most likely pass away by Sunday evening so they should make funeral arrangements. I made it through the weekend and the prognosis was changed to may not die but would most definitely remain in a vegetated state the remainder of my life. They said I would never walk or speak again and that my family and friends should remember the good times they had with me up until that moment.

Doctors performed surgery on my traumatic brain injury to stop the bleeding. Two doctors worked 12 hours to stop the bleeding in several locations within my skull. They also repaired my crushed right eye socket and removed about a third of the right side of my skull to allow pressure to be displaced without applying significant pressure to my brain. I had a stroke during the operation on my brain to stop the bleeding.

I was in a coma until the decision was made to transfer me to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for therapy. I woke from my coma on Sept. 8, 2012, with no idea what was going on or what had happened.

I soon realized the extent of my injuries and rapid weight loss. Before the accident, I was healthy and fit for a 46-year-old male. My hobbies also included Mixed Martial Arts fighting in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. I went from a healthy 190-pound male to a 132-pound male. I had worked hard to keep my physique in shape for my age.

My memory loss was the worst part of the traumatic brain injury. I had complete memory loss due to the frontal lobe injury. I lost my sense of taste and smell as well and I was told that this would never repair itself and I would have to adjust my life to living without these two senses.

Well I thank God that he made the choice to let me continue to live on this earth when doctors gave up on me recovering at all. My wife and I were divorced after I was released from the hospital. This type of accident was said to put an emotional strain on any relationship. And divorce was usually the outcome.

I've never met or talked with the lady who was driving the other vehicle. I know only that the mistake she made that night has cost me dearly and changed my life forever. I wish her no ill will and do not hold any type of grudge against her. I do wish she had paid attention to the traffic that night and made the correct decision on which lane to enter as she was pulling onto the highway.

If there's anything I could say to anyone about this accident, its simple; never give up on living life. Never stop trying to overcome any adversity you have in life. I had an entire town praying for me just to survive the accident. I truly feel God heard this plea from everyone and stepped in to save my life. It wasn't my military career that gave me the strength to keep trying. It was my relationship with Christ, knowing that my story was already written. I was just living it like it was meant to be.

If anyone you know has this type of injury, the only words I can give are stay confident in a complete recovery.

Before my accident I was a 190-pound bike building, cage fighting, family man. At the low point of my life I was a 132-pound man, getting a divorce and changing my way of life. I still kept my faith that God knew what I needed and let it happen as he saw fit. I'm proud to say that as of now I'm a 185-pound man who has given up on cage fighting for sure but I still love the feeling of building things. So I've started building old cars. I have three so far that I drive daily.

I miss the feeling of riding motorcycles and the freedom it offers. I plan to continue my physical fitness routine till I feel comfortable with my progress. I hope to see everyone at the fitness center so that we can all make time to remain healthy.

Also pay attention while driving. Use your mirrors constantly, not your phone. Pay attention to the road like your life depends on it. Use and teach the occupants in the vehicle to be on the lookout for things that may be happening around you.

The more eyes there are in the vehicle, the more attention that should be paid to surroundings. There's only one driver but several people in the car makes the driver more alert.

It only takes 30 seconds to pull over and answer your phone. Try not to be a 3,000-pound missile on the road.

(Jimmy Richardson is an instrument technician in the ATA Test Operations Branch and a resident of Tullahoma. He worked at AEDC from 2008-2010 and after a layoff, returned to work for ATA in 2014.)