A plan to celebrate the arrival of the New Year by conquering the so-called “24 ride” resulted in the death of an 18-year-old college student, who crashed into a column after reportedly riding despite being drowsy.
The “24 ride” refers to a 24-hour endurance challenge popular among the nation’s young people and motorcyclists, during which participants attempt to complete a cross-country ride within 24 hours. Police officers said that National Cheng Kung University student Huang Chun-lin (黃春霖) and four of his acquaintances departed from Greater Tainan on Tuesday afternoon for Taipei and attended the Taipei 101 New Year’s Eve countdown party. Huang hit a concrete column in a tunnel on the Suhua Highway section of Provincial Highway No. 9 when they were on their way to Hualien County from Taipei on Wednesday morning. They were on their way to see four F-16 jets fly above Chisingtan Beach (七星潭) at 6:37am to welcome the New Year’s first sunrise. Despite wearing a full-face helmet, Huang later died from a severe intracranial hemorrhage.
Sources close to Huang said the five originally planned to ride back to Tainan via the South Link Highway immediately after the flyover. Police estimated that Huang’s vehicle was traveling at 60kph when the accident happened, adding that there were no skid marks at the crash scene, which was about 30km away from the Chisingtan Beach.
“The crash occurred at 6:30am. There was no way they could have made it to the beach in seven minutes,” police said, adding that sleep deprivation could have been the cause of the accident given that they had ridden 500km in 16 hours.
One of the challenge participants, surnamed Chen (陳), said the five riders shared three motorcycles and departed for Taipei after their classes finished at 3:30pm on Tuesday.
“To avoid becoming drowsy, we took turns riding so that those who were fatigued could rest on the passenger seats. After the countdown party in Taipei, we had some noodles before leaving for Hualien at about 2am on Wednesday,” Chen said.
Chen added that they took a short break at a convenience store on the way to the beach and that Huang might have slept during a spell as a passenger.
“Huang rode on his own after we reached the Suhua Highway section... It was not long before his vehicle started to swerve back and forth slightly and crashed into the column,” Chen said, adding that there was blood coming from Huang’s mouth and right ear after he was thrown to the ground. Huang’s body was released to his father on Wednesday afternoon following an autopsy.
The Hualien County Police Bureau’s Sincheng Precinct said that driving for 24 hours without sleep was as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
“People are most vulnerable to drowsiness between 6am and 4pm. Drivers are advised not to operate vehicles for more than eight hours a day and should pull over and take a 15-minute nap whenever they feel sleepy,” the precinct said.
Tseng Po-chung (曾柏仲), a section chief at the New Taipei City (新北市) Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Corps and a motorcycle enthusiast, offered five tips to people planning for a long motorcycle trip.
“First, always double-check the condition of your vehicle before the trip. Second, write down the locations of all the gas and rest stations along your planned route. Third, check the Directorate General of Highways Web site regularly for the latest traffic information. Fourth, make sure to take an hour-long break every four to six hours. Fifth, avoid riding at higher speeds at night,” Tseng said.