British Columbia

Surge in motorcycle accidents ignites debate about posting crash photos online

A barrage of motorcycle crashes across the province this past week ignited debate among riders about posting photos of accident scenes on social media.

At least four motorcyclists died in accidents this week, many more injured

A fatal motorcycle accident in Abbotsford, B.C last year. Some motorcyclists argue posting photos of crashes to social media is disrespectful to those involved and upsetting to friends and family. (Shane MacKichan)

A barrage of motorcycle crashes across the province this past week ignited debate among riders about posting photos of accident scenes on social media.

Reports of at least nine motorcycle accidents — including four deaths between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and a serious crash requiring an air ambulance on the Sunshine Coast  — circulated among the riding community.

In many cases, pictures and details of the crash scene were posted to social media by passersby within minutes of the incident.

"When you see a picture of a mangled bike, you're suddenly thinking 'Oh my god, who do I know who rides a red cruiser, who do I know who rides a blue ninja,'" said Helen Whitehead, a motorcyclist in Vancouver.

"You're going through all your friends and trying to reach them to make sure they're okay."

Photos of an accident are often posted to social media immediately after a crash expressing concern for the rider and with details of what happened. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Summer spike of crashes

The number of motorcycle crashes spike during the summer and, according to ICBC data, an average of six motorcyclists are injured each day in B.C. in July and August.

Whitehead runs one of several Facebook groups for motorcyclists in the Lower Mainland.

She banned photos of crashes after the spike in posts over the weekend. She says it's a policy many in the group supported because of how small the motorcycle community is.

"There's a really high chance of either somebody knowing somebody or the person actually being a member of the site themselves," Whitehead said.

"I just think that's super disrespectful to the people involved."

Social media a chance for connection

Some motorcyclists argue there is value to seeing the aftermath of a crash.

Tricia Dong was riding home on Saturday when she came across a motorcyclist lying in the road on Marine Drive, his bike 30 or 40 feet away from him.

She works as a first aid attendant and stopped to help him until an ambulance arrived.

After, she posted a photograph of his bike lying on its side in the middle of the road with details of what happened.  

"There's generally a consensus of 'Don't want to see it, it's too gross' and then 'You need to see it, it's reality,' Dong said.

"For me, it's about awareness — you are mortal, motorcycling is dangerous."

Dong later reconnected with the injured motorcyclist, Kelly Shorter, who found her because of her post and reached out to thank her for stopping.  

The number of motorcycle crashes spike during the summer when more riders are on the road. According to ICBC, 350 motorcycle riders are injured and 13 are killed on average in July and August every year in B.C. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Divided opinions

Shorter said his opinion on posting photos of crashes is split.

"Maybe consequences of these accidents need to be more put out there for the general public to understand truly what happens when we have an accident," he said.

"But that information may get back to family members before they truly find out what's going on which could create a whole lot of angst and panic when they recognize a bike or maybe a helmet."

He suffered multiple injuries from his accident including internal bruising, road rash, a concussion, whiplash and impact injuries to his shoulder and hip.

"If it had been worse, I may have a different opinion and may not have wanted it to be spread [on social media]," he said.

Read more from CBC British Columbia.