Twelve years ago, I was a passenger in a life-changing motorcycle accident. Photos of my injuries circulated the internet throughout the motorcycle community more times than anyone can count. There were aspects to my story that could not be photographed, like healing, personal change and emotional struggle. So, I wrote about my experience exactly a year after the crash. Little did I know that the article would go viral and forever dub me as “The Roadrash Queen.” That story continues to be used as a cautionary tale even today. However, what I wrote in 2006 is barely a fraction of my current reality.
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After years of painful recovery, I am left with physical scars you can see, and emotional damage a camera simply cannot capture. When I first wrote about my injuries a year after the crash, I was barely able to recount my experiences without feeling sick. I had no idea the extent of the battle that still lay ahead of me.
Regardless of the changes my body had already gone through, the true struggle was yet to come. It wasnt until years later that I discovered I was no longer the person I once knew. I was different, unpredictable even to myself, and my body was more and more unfamiliar. I had to learn that, because of the crash, both life and limb would never be the same.
To this day, when interviewed, I am repeatedly asked about the crash and my accomplishments. “What happened? What have I done since the accident?” The question I am never asked, however, is, “How am I doing?” Rarely has anyone had the courage to dive deeply into the long-term effects on my psyche and spirit. Perhaps its because opening Pandoras box to discover the true meaning of “lifelong consequences” is terrifying. Trust me, I get it. Instead, lets embrace it. I believe the true power of my story exists in that place we are all afraid to explore.
For 10 years I have honed my skills as a safety instructor and public speaker to try to reach my fellow riders. Those who have attended my presentations get an in-depth account of my life since being skinned alive. I wish it was easy to explain what it’s like to establish a way of living that deals with daily pain; a state of being I’ve simply named my “new normal.”
I’m 32 and I have arthritis in more places than most people twice my age. There are things I can no longer do that I used to love and would still love if I hadn’t ripped my body apart. I struggle every day to accept my physical limitations and embrace the fact that I might never again be the extremely athletic girl I once was. In my mind I am still that person, but my body simply refuses to cooperate. For those who have never experienced long-term disability, there is no way to describe the feeling that you are trapped inside your own body. Beyond the physical pain, there is no instruction manual for how to handle those feelings. I’m still trying to figure it out.
There is a constant internal battle that rages inside me. I have lost so much of my memory surrounding the accident, and yet the horrible vision of the crash itself stays fresh in my mind. Sometimes when I least expect it, an irrational fear that never existed before, and that I cannot control, takes over. I have flashbacks that paralyze me, some for a few moments and others for several minutes. I used to find myself wondering if it would eventually go away. I am still reluctant to say “PTSD” out loud because I’m terrified of the implications and what it might mean for my future. One day I will have to confront it head on.
Before the accident, I was selfish and impulsive, focusing solely on the quickest and greatest rewards for myself. Now, I look back on the fear and despair I forced my parents through, and it hurts more than any physical pain I’ve endured. My choices that day took away my ability to have children. Much of my battle has been trying to accept that I did this to myself, although unintentionally. These thoughts cause strong feelings of shame and sorrow that I cannot shake. I like to think that I have no regrets, but that is a huge lie I tell myself to get by. Guilt is such a careful con artist and I’m still attempting to understand how much it has forever changed me.
The good news is that I now have more than just a survival story. Motorcycling is the greatest joy I have ever brought into my life. I share this part of my journey not so others will be afraid, but so my fellow riders might truly understand that the risk is real and safety should be taken seriously. I wake up everyday knowing that I can help motorcyclists not have to experience such things, and that truly keeps me going. I expose this part of my life as a way of connecting others to the reality of their choices both on and off the motorcycle. I urge my fellow riders to think about what matters most to them and make decisions based on those values. It is one of the reasons I am thrilled and grateful to be a guest editor and contributor with the WRN team.
Some days are harder than others, but I am always trying to learn more about my post-crash self. I have, hopefully, many years ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to more healing and a deeper understanding of this new normal. In the end, this is not the end for me. It is barely the beginning.
To read my original article that went viral, you can click here.
About the Author
On September 25, 2005, Brittany was involved in a near-fatal accident as a passenger on a GSXR 750. Due to the overwhelming response to her story, Brittany has dedicated her life to the promotion of motorcycle safety, the use of safety apparel and the education of riders regarding these important aspects of the sport. Brittany is currently a professional motorcycle safety instructor, public speaker, writer, fundraiser and the Director of the Women’s Sportbike Rally.
19 thoughts on The Motorcycle Accident That Changed My Life Forever
What a wonderful account of life after disaster. Not only is she a survivor, but she is giving back to the biking community by sharing her knowledge and experience. As for me, I have broken a few bones from accidents when I was first learning but have now limited many of the situations in which I allow myself to ride: not in the dark, not with groups, I no longer follow other riders … I always ride solo, and I always have a defensive frame of mind, always anticipating what a driver might do. I ride conservatively and don’t take chances. My riding skills are good and they need to be, considering I ride in heavy city traffic plus on freeways. And yet, I know how quickly an accident can happen. Every time I read about an accident, I get as much info as I can about it and what I can learn from it. That’s all I can do. I’m always learning, even after eleven years … and I know that will never end.
I like your thinking, Christine! You’d make a great RiderCoach—someone who understands there is always something to learn and improve upon. You know your own limitations and ride your own ride. These are wonderful qualities in a rider and coach or mentor.Keep riding safe!
All the gear, all the time has been my mantra since I read about you about six years ago. I had to go from my two-wheeler to a three-wheeler and it is still my mantra! Thank you for sharing—it definitely made an impression on me and my fellow riders.
My husband was hit at 1pm October 20, 2018, when a mature lady made an illegal u-turn and hit him in the left leg, totaling his Harley-Davidson Road King and nearly him also. Similar story: Eight months in hospital, five weeks in rehab, disabled for life, and several rods and screws here and there. Eleven months later he’s much better, still not ready to run any road races but looking forward to renewing his old 1988 FLTC to ride again.Brittany I admire you so much! I admire all who struggle to regain a new normal and end up ultimately reinventing their life. Bless you, continue to inspire and teach! ATGATT, yepper!
First of all, thank you to Brittany for sharing your story. Thank you for your courage and your willingness to turn a horrific circumstance into an opportunity. Recently my husband rode his motorcycle off the road and into a ditch, totaling the bike but thankfully only minimal damage to himself. He missed a telephone pole by inches. One of our favorite pastimes together was to ride. I own my dream bike, a Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T. Since he wrecked his, he no longer wants to ride and I’m now afraid to but I can’t bring myself to sell my “girl.” Would love your opinion and advice.
I am relieved to hear that your husband only sustained minimal injuries. Although riding requires as certain amount of risk, it is never easy to accept the idea that something you love so much can cause pain to you and your loved ones. My advice to you is simple. Only you know what is in your heart. You must decide whether the joy of riding outweighs the potential consequences of a crash. Understanding and respecting the risk can make you a better, more cautious and focused rider. Fear can be debilitating and actually put you in harm’s way. You must choose which of these you feel towards riding, and make an educated decision on the right course of action once you’ve identified whether you are truly afraid, or just more aware of the consequences now that you’ve experienced them secondhand. Whatever you choose, know that you are always part of our family of riders and nothing can take that away from you. I wish you and your family the best in life moving forward.
Brittany is a very inspiring young woman. This story touched my heart not only for my friend Brittany, but also for my daughter who was recently in a motorcycle accident.I have always been an advocate for ATGATT… now more than ever. I love that Brittany has dedicated her life to motorcycle safety. She is one hell of a speaker and communicator. She expresses herself so eloquently and possesses wisdom beyond her years. She truly is an inspiration.
Thank you for sharing your story, Brittany. You are an amazing woman! Glad you are using your life experience to help others ride as safely as possible. Many blessings and prayers to you and your family.
For those that still don’t get it—All The Gear, All The Time. I also survived a major accident. It does change your outlook on a lot of things. My biggest issue was a brain injury—that diagnosis alone is hard for family and friends to hear. It took me a long time to remember who I was and how to walk and talk again. I survived because of my helmet; protective gear minimized other injuries. It took a lot of time and work to get to where I am now. When you are sitting on the porch wishing you could still ride, tell yourself again why you wouldn’t wear all that uncomfortable stuff. Give me a wave as I go by. I am riding again!
I wear a 3x ladies size. Most, if not all, bike clothing I wear are in men’s sizes. I end up with 5x and 6x clothes that are two big in the wrong places and not big enough elsewhere. I am told that the women’s rider market is not big enough to address sizing for women.I take my chances with what I can find. Riding in ill-fitting clothes is not fun.
Britt is a committed and dedicated young lady. We met years ago while we were at the International Motorcycle Show for Raci-Babi helmet liners. I was so impressed by her forthrightness and educational presentation. I forever am ATGATT [All The Gear, All The Time] now.
Your courage inspires me, Brittany. The fact that you are using what happened to you to raise awareness and make a difference is a worthy endeavor. And you got back on a motorcycle—good for you. Keep it going! Prayers to you for your continued healing. God bless you.
Brittany,You have been through a lot, and done much with it. You are right, that was then, this is now and it matters how you are doing now. Being a hero makes it hard to be human. Let it go.
You have such courage, you make me feel more courageous! I too have had a major crash. I am to this day afraid to enter the city of Anaheim where the accident took place at the “the happiest place on earth.” Reading your story today makes me look back and think about how rarely anyone asked how I was inside. But today as I was hemming and hawing about going out just to get a prescription filled I read your article and I am excited to know I can just get on my bike and ride! Thank you.
Sending gentle hugs to you. I ride my Harley wearing a tank top, boots and jeans 99 percent of the time and always know either injury or skin cancer is going to be an issue at some point, but I get physically ill if overheated. Being in Florida it is too hot to ride and I can’t imagine putting gear on and making it even warmer. After reading your story I can’t imagine how painful your experience, recovery, and daily pain was/is but I admire your strength and your return to riding! Hugs…
I hope you can tune in to Brittany and my live webcast on November 11th. There are options for protective clothing that can actually keep you cooler than if you weren’t wearing anything at all!
Wow! Thank you for sharing how deep this can go. People forget about accidents/death quickly, but those personally involved never stop going through it. The father of my children was in a motorcycle accident 12 years ago. He was in ICU for more than six weeks in a coma. On several occasions they told us to prepare for his death. Amazingly, he pulled through. However, just eight months ago, he was killed by a driver that didn’t stop at a stop sign. He was doing everything right this time around. Had no chance of avoiding the accident. It has been devastating to say the least to watch my children and family around us suffer.I have been working with Vision Zero since this happened. All about safety on the streets for everyone. Again, thank you so much for sharing.
At 65 I went through a horrific crash myself. PTSD is real. I have been riding again for a few weeks now. The ghosts and goblins that ride with me in my head are crazy. I really appreciate what you are doing. Keep riding, be safe.
Thank you for this article. So very important for all riders to read and hear what you’re saying. You are so brave. God bless you.