Grass clippings and motorcycles – It’s a debate, and it’s deadly!
Last updated Wednesday, August 30th, 2023
Motorcycle Grass Clippings | It can seem so innocent to do this common summer task, and yet grass clippings and motorcycles have been the subject of fatalities annually. There is also debate amongst riders about whether these accidents are rider experience issues or fatal issues by careless minders of the byproduct from seasonal grass cutting.
The kicker that brought this deadly issue to the forefront most recently was the devastating fatality in 2019 of Cheryl Zeglen in Illinois, where the law suggests a maximum $50 fine against putting grass clippings onto roadways. This tragedy echoed the less publicized yet devastating fatality of Aaron Lee in Kentucky earlier in the year.
Aaron Lee’s story went virtually untold outside of local reporting, raising the question about what made Cheryl Zeglen’s accident become recognized nationwide in the press. It’s hard to say what makes news stay local or go national. It’s as varied a response as the cause of these accidents appears to be.
THE REALITY OF HOW OFTEN THIS IS HAPPENING:
There are numerous citations in online forums like indianrider.net where experienced riders from Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Montana can be found sharing their opinions on the subject matter.
Not many believe that the clippings are the issue, stating that nature drops leaves, rain, and other items onto roadways throughout the year, so grass clippings should be viewed as simply another barrier to safety that riders need to maintain awareness around.
Sure, if your clippings go onto the roadway, the responsible thing to do is blow them off; however, most riders feel it is the rider’s responsibility to drive with adequate caution and be prepared for such incidents.
Reddit has multiple threads related to this issue, further showing its commonality and popularity as a topic discussed amongst riders; on Reddit, however, more riders are stating it’s a rider issue that needs to be expected and managed by the rider rather than passing responsibility to the person who produced the clippings.
Quora – a popular online forum also has multiple threads where riders are bringing this up as a treacherous issue – below is a sample post response in one of these forums from early August 2020:
“Jodi Howell, Been riding all my life, boyfriend has been riding 20 yrs.
Answered August 2, 2020
Absolutely. My boyfriend has been riding for 20 years and went down because of grass clippings yesterday. He was riding with a group of people, and two bikes with him and another guy hit the grass and went down. It’s absolutely deadly to bikers, and I personally know people who have wrecked and weren’t as lucky as my boyfriend was. He’s got terrible road rash & he can’t walk but he’s alive.”
So, as you can see, that rider’s opinions on grass clippings and motorcycles are split; despite the fatalities and national attention to the issue brought by Cheryl Zeglen’s accident and her father’s pursuit of changed regulations by Congress, this is still amended by no more than a $50 fine here in Illinois.
Safety Advice from Riders:
Equally, in these forums, you will see riders saying that this is commonplace and making statements that this is an avoidable type of accident that they feel riders should be able to manage.
Matt, a motorcycle safety trainer from Pennsylvania and the host from MotoWoRX on YouTube, created a training video on the subject, and the video’s description speaks to the divide in rider opinion, “Did the grass clippings cause you to go down on your bike? Or do you need some more safety trading to help you deal with road debris?”
As he explains, grass clippings should not be on roadways. However, if they are, a rider should know how to maneuver around that situation. Riders appear to be, for the most part owning the responsibility for safety around this hazard as they do around wet leaves in the fall.
James Woodworth agrees with Matt that if you have proper training and evaluation skills, grass clippings and motorcycles should not be considered a danger to you as a rider. Here is what he shared in response to the hazard question of grass clippings on Quora
“If anything, slippery on the road is immediately dangerous to you when riding, you need:
A) skills training
B) more skills training
C) maybe to evaluate whether or not you should be riding
D) better equipment.
just the other day, I got passed aggressively by a guy on a Harley. As he passed, I could see his rear tire was mostly bald, and probably 50% under-inflated. A couple miles up the road he pulled into the gas station that I usually stop at.
I followed him in and in the store, I told him about the tire. He shrugged it off and I watched him ride past the air compressor and onto the road, in drizzle.
HE is dangerous to motorcyclists. So is his bike. 100% of the time.
transient threats like grass clippings are pretty minor.”
You can see several corresponding comments from experienced riders throughout the forums online, James’s comments were found here on Quora, yet they have been echoed across the internet.
We can see dozens of articles written by both news broadcasters and lawyers stating that even in the states where it is not illegal to have your grass clippings reach public roadways that when accidents and fatalities occur as a result of that action law cases are being brought forward and claims made against those who are responsible for the placement of the grass clippings.
Here are a few examples: (motorcycle grass clippings)
The devastation from a fatality can never, and should never, be taken lightly nor dismissed. With that in mind, there is quite a debate still churning on regarding whether or not the grass clippings and motorcycle issue can hold those grass clippings to the light as the cause of such tragedies.
Nothing can bring loved ones back when tragedy strikes. All the best training and best practices in the world won’t guarantee that these accidents don’t occur. What we can do is be aware that an issue exists – riders are being lost.
What are your ideas, opinions, or insights regarding how motorcycle grass clippings can be best addressed within our riding community, so we minimize the trauma to riders and their families? Let us know HERE