Saturday, September 26, 2009

Two Fatal Motorcycle Crashes

Highway 199, near Grants Pass, Oregon - 09/25/09

A 51 year old man died Friday afternoon after his motorcycle crashed on Highway 199 approximately 16 miles north of Grants Pass.

On September 25, 2009 at approximately 2:20 p.m., a 2005 Honda motorcycle operated by HARREL EUGENE NEAL, age 51 from Eagle Point, Oregon was traveling southbound on Highway 199 when it left the roadway. The motorcycle drove onto the shoulder of the highway striking a guardrail. NEAL was thrown from the motorcycle, which came to a rest in the highway.

An ambulance crew, which happened to be in the area, arrived on scene within minutes of the crash. NEAL, who had been wearing a helmet, died at the scene of the crash.

Highway 20 near Bend, Oregon - 09/25/09

On September 25, 2009 at approximately 12:30AM, a 2008 Ducati motorcycle operated by MICHAEL WILLIAM CLEARY, age 61, was driving eastbound on Highway 20 near milepost 28. According to Sergeant Eric Brown of the Bend Area Command, as the motorcycle was eastbound it failed to negotiate a left hand curve and drove off onto the south shoulder of the roadway. The motorcycle struck a fog marker and CLEARY, who was wearing a helmet, was thrown from the vehicle. He died at the scene of the crash.

The crash is still under investigation, but it appears speed may have been a contributing factor.

Lessons Learned

Two crashes, with similar situations, same day. What similarities can we observe? One might be the time of day. The crash on Highway 199 happened in mid-afternoon...the one on Highway 20 just after midnight. Sleepiness could have been a factor in both. As a new rider I did not expect to ever feel sleepy on a motorcycle...fresh air rushing past, the thrill of balance and speed, the tremendous views around me and the need for would think it would be easy to stay awake.

I was wrong. It's incredibly easy to relax and enjoy the ride. A full stomach after lunch, or late at night, can be a set up for sleepiness on the road.

Both crashes had nothing to do with other traffic. A very common attitude among motorcyclists borders almost on scorn, even hate, for "cagers", operators of automobiles. Many riders assume the dangers of motorcycles is wholly from other traffic, especially the four-wheeled variety. But much of the blame, or responsibility lies with our own skills and alertness. I alone am responsible for choosing my path, and speed, through a curve. I alone am responsible for scanning for hazards and watching the road.

Both riders wore helmets. I am fervent about wearing a helmet. I will NEVER ride without one. But it's not magic, and I would be very hard put to say anti-helmet riders are wrong when they say that in some instances, a helmet can CAUSE more injury than if it were not worn. A crash is chaotic and wrenching...the physical forces of inertia and mass, inside and outside the body can be more than enough to overwhelm any protective gear I might be wearing.

The ONLY self-protection that can be relied upon consistently is my own alertness and skill. My choices for protection start even before I turn the key. Two of the absolute essentials that I check every day:

  • Tires: air pressure

  • Wheels: tap spokes lightly with wrench, looking for any that sound "dead" or broken

  • A more thorough inspection is often necessary. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation endorses a "T-CLOCK" inspection: