Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Motorcycle Deaths Climb

September 30, 2009

Motor vehicle deaths dropped nearly 10 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, pushing down all transportation deaths, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday.

Highway fatalities, which dominate the toll, dropped to 37,261, from 41,259. But motorcycle deaths rose for the 11th year, to 5,290, and now account for one in seven motor vehicle deaths.

The report covers a year of record-high gasoline prices, and then recession, conditions that cut the number of miles traveled. But the rate of deaths per million miles also dropped sharply, by 7 percent, suggesting that driving got safer over all.

High gas prices may also have increased motorcycle miles. The number of miles traveled by motorcycles is uncertain, although the number of registrations is up. Many states have repealed helmet laws, which experts say has led to a higher death toll.

The highway death toll in 2008 was the lowest since 1961.


Lessons Learned

Motorcycle deaths: one in every seven fatal highway accidents.

Even accounting for high gas prices, the rate of automobile deaths per miles driven has dropped...driving cars has gotten safer while motorcycle deaths have climbed.

Motorcyclists have a right to operate their vehicle in the way they deem best, right? They have a right to ride without a helmet, without a jacket, without chaps, right? We have the right to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph, right? I don't think so.

Public opinion, formed by newspaper headlines and third-person experiences, may well erode our rights to the point where motorcycling will be regulated out of existence.

I can easily foresee taxes levied on motorcycle-related purchases "to pay for excessive accident rates". I can foresee sky-high insurance rates "for statistically risky behavior". I can foresee signs along our favorite twisty highways: "No Motorcycles Allowed".

We motorcyclists must begin to "police" ourselves before we are regulated out of existence by public opinion. This requires each of us to model exemplary motorcycling skills:

  • well-maintained equipment

  • adherance to traffic laws

  • defensive riding habits

  • community support and outreach.

  • Every motorcycle death and every motorcycle-related accident becomes evidence that motorcycles are only appropriate for extreme sports and daring risk-takers.

    If we can lower our death and accident rate, we not only will return home after each ride to our families and friends, but we will be showing our community that motorcycling is a great recreational activity.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Man Suffers Injuries From Motorcycle Accident

    A 38-year-old man was injured Monday night around 9:45 p.m. when an 18-year-old driver pulled his vehicle into the path of the motorcycle.

    According to Rome City Police, the driver of the vehicle apparently stopped at the traffic light on Sherwood Road before making a right-hand turn onto Shorter Avenue without noticing the approaching motorcycle.

    The motorcycle flipped and slid along the roadway for a long distance, causing the cycle’s engine to rupture.

    A significant amount of oil spilled onto Shorter Avenue, warranting a call for the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department to clean the roadway of the oil.

    The driver of the motorcycle was transported to Floyd Medical Center, where his condition remains unknown at this time.

    Lesson Learned

    We can rant against oblivious cagers who cut us off or turn in front of us, but at the end of the day what good does ranting do? More effective than ranting is defensive riding.

    I'm not at all blaming the rider in this tragedy for the accident...I'm just using the news as a reminder of what I want to do as a rider.

    A car waiting at an intersection ahead of you should raise a red flag...What's he going to do? Watch his tires's easier to see movement in the tires before you can detect his vehicle starting forward.

    I once spotted a driver start to edge his car into the intersection before I had startled me and I stopped before entering the intersection. He waved at me, signalling me to go on ahead, but I shook my head and just waited. After hesitation he proceeded, turning into my lane of traffic and left, shaking his head. I interpreted that as exasperation at me for being overly careful, but I'm glad I was.

    Drivers tend to edge into the intersection early, anticipating the delay it will take them to get up to speed to enter the traffic flow. This makes sense, but it's also very hard to detect whether they are timing their entry or ignoring me! I like to ride on the defensive side, assuming that drivers are either out to get me or at the least, ignoring me.

    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:

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Four killed in three separate motorcycle crashes

    Story Created: Sep 15, 2009 at 9:09 AM MDT
    By KBCI Web Staff (

    BOISE - Monday was a deadly day on Idaho roads and highways throughout the state for motorcyclists.

    Four people were killed, including two from Boise, in three separate crashes.

    The first crash, Idaho State Police says, occurred on Highway 55 near Banks. Police say Richard Schroeder, 63, of Halfway, Ore., was traveling southbound when he failed to negotiate a left curve and was ejected from his motorcycle. The man, who was wearing a helmet, ended up down a 30-foot embankment and into the Payette River.

    He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Authorities also responded to motorcycle crash near the Idaho, Oregon border. They say Eric Shink, 40, of Kennewick, Wash., was headed eastbound on Interstate 84 when he struck a guard rail and was ejected from his motorcycle.

    Shink, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene. Alcohol and speed are believed to have been factors in the crash.

    The third crash, Idaho State Police says, occurred about 18 miles from Stanley on Highway 75. Officials say an Idaho Transportation Department employee was doing routine maintenance on the highway when he saw two people and a motorcycle on the bank of the Salmon River.

    Authorities say Ronald and Sharon Weber, of Boise were riding a motorcycle when for unknown reasons, they drifted off the right shoulder and down a 90-foot embankment. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash.

    Lessons Learned

    Motorcycles are inherently dangerous.

    I know that's a controversial over-simplification, especially coming from an enthusiastic motorcyclist, but it's a fact we have to face. A motorcyclist simply cannot make a mistake.

    Automobiles allow a generous leeway for mistakes. The operator is surrounded by steel and buffered with restraints and air pillows.

    A motorcyclist is surrounded by environment and free of any restraints.

    The motorcyclists who were ejected from his motorcycle would not have gained any protection if they had managed to stay astride their rides...being ejected from a motorcycle means little during a crash. Wearing a helmet does little good when the wearer ends up at the bottom of a 30-foot embankment and into a river.

    What mistakes were made?

    Failure to negotiate a curve means excessive speed and inattention.

    Striking a guard rail means excessive speed and inattention...probably due to alcohol in this instance.

    It's more difficult to identify a cause for the couple who drifted off the road and down an embankment. Riding two up requires extra of balance changes make steering more difficult. Falling asleep is a real danger on big bikes...they are so much more comfortable and smooth running. The operator may have experienced a medical emergency...heart attack? It could have been as innocent as spying a deer on the side of the road, causing a distraction, allowing the bike to drift onto the shoulder of the road, and riding two up could make it difficult to correct.

    Riding a motorcycle requires a commitment to skill and attention, far more than that required to operate an automobile.

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Ten Injured, Two Critically, in Multi-Motorcycle Crash

    Ten Injured, Two Critically, in Multi-Motorcycle Crash - Interstate 5 south of Wilsonville - 09/19/09

    Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers are continuing the investigation into Friday afternoon's multi-vehicle traffic crash south of Wilsonville on Interstate 5. Ten motorcyclists traveling together as part of the Brothers Speed Motorcycle Club were injured, two critically. Names of three other injured motorcycle operators are available with this release.

    On September 18, 2009 at approximately 2:45 p.m. approximately 26 motorcycles were traveling northbound in the left inside lane near milepost 282 in a formation of two columns when traffic ahead began to come to a stop. The first two motorcycles maneuvered to avoid a collision with a 2005 Toyota 4Runner but the rest of the motorcycles could not react in time and crashed into the sport utility vehicle and into each other. A second vehicle, a 2004 Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle in the center lane was also struck by one of the motorcycles attempting to avoid the collisions.

    Medical responders arrived and subsequently transported eight motorcyclists by ground ambulance. Two others identified as HERBERT SINCLAIR, age 48, from Heyburn, Idaho and DAVID BOWYER, age 44, from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho were transported by LifeFlight to Oregon Health Sciences University and Legacy Emanuel Hospital, respectively.

    Both men are reported in critical condition.

    Photograph Source: Oregon State Police

    Lesson Learned

    Group Riding: Allow at least two seconds of distance between you and the rider directly in front of you.

    A common group riding formation is in a staggered two-column.

    One problem with riding in a group is a tendency to relax your guard, paying close attention only to the rider directly in front of you. Being in a group can give you a false sense of security, taking away much of the stress of staying alert and reading traffic for potential hazards.

    It's possible that the riders in this large group were relying upon the two lead riders to watch for traffic. The article doesn't cite any speeds---I-5 is a very busy freeway, so perhaps 40 miles per hour would be a good guess---2:45 PM is not rush hour---at 40 miles per hour, reaction time plus braking time is about 4.4 seconds, taking about 216 feet. (Motorcycle RiderCourse, Riding and Street Skills, Student Workbook)

    The lead riders successfully braked or swerved to avoid a collision with the sudden traffic stop, but the following riders would have had even less time to recognize the hazard.

    What to do? One vague, general rule of group riding is "Ride your own ride." To me, it means to stay alert, scan for hazards, even while riding in a group. The lead rider is usually an experienced motorcyclist, responsible for looking out for the entire group, but each individual rider must remain alert and defensive.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Motorcycle Operator Dies from Injuries Sustained

    Update: Motorcycle Operator Dies from Injuries Sustained in Monday Crash - Belt Line Road north of Eugene (Photos) - 09/16/09

    A Springfield-area motorcyclist seriously injured Monday afternoon when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed on Belt Line Road north of Eugene died early Wednesday morning at an area hospital.

    TIMOTHY RUSSELL TULL, age 21, from Springfield was operating a 1997 Yamaha motorcycle September 14, 2009 at approximately 4:10 p.m. eastbound on Belt Line Road near milepost 6. As TULL approached a disabled car on the inside shoulder partially blocking the left lane, he reportedly lost control of his motorcycle and laid it down on the pavement.

    During the crash, TULL's protective helmet came off his head and he suffered serious head injuries. He was transported by ambulance to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend where he died September 16th about 2:30 a.m.

    OSP troopers from the Springfield Area Command office are continuing the investigation. Speed may have been a contributing factor in this crash. Eugene Fire Department and ODOT assisted at the scene.

    Photograph Source: Oregon State Police

    Lesson Learned

    Target Fixation: keep eyes on the road go where your eyes are looking.

    Protective Gear: Unsecured helmet? Several times I've traveled more than a block down the road and suddenly realized I'd forgotten to connect my chin straps. Perhaps the rider was wearing an old, or borrowed helmet, or one of the wrong size.

    Speed: may have been a factor. Speeding reduces the time you have to make corrections or identify hazards.

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    State Police Video Catches Motorcycle Crash

    An Oregon State Police (OSP) in-car video of an incident that happened June 18, 2009, is being released after a motorcycle operator pled guilty to Careless Driving when he lost control and separated from his motorcycle. The in-car video caught the sliding motorcycle and rolling operator as both passed the trooper's stopped patrol car along Interstate 84 in The Dalles.

    (Note: audio is unavailable for first 30 seconds of video. At about six seconds into the video, the motorcycle slides into view from the far left of the frame.)

    On June 18, 2009 at 7:18 a.m. OSP Senior Trooper Michael Holloran was sitting in his stopped OSP patrol car on the right eastbound shoulder of Interstate 84 near milepost 85 writing information in his notebook. With the patrol car's radar unit on, Holloran heard an approaching fast vehicle and began to look in the side mirror when he saw a motorcycle lose control. The motorcycle dropped onto its side and the operator went down onto the pavement as the radar unit obtained a speed of 85 mph.

    The sliding motorcycle and rolling operator both went past the stationary patrol car and surprised trooper. Shortly after the motorcycle's operator, KENNETH CARL THEIMAN JR., age 31, from Dallesport, Washington, stopped rolling, Holloran got out of the patrol car and ran up to help THEIMAN as he was picking himself up off the pavement.

    THEIMAN told Holloran that he was surprised how quickly things happened when he lost control of the motorcycle. THEIMAN thought his speed was about 85 mph when he lost control.

    THEIMAN was transported by ambulance to Mid-Columbia Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, mostly abrasions. He was wearing a protective helmet.

    Holloran cited THEIMAN for Careless Driving and he pled guilty in Wasco County Circuit Court.


    Lesson Learned

    The motorcyclist says that he looked up just before the crash, implying that he wasn't scanning the road ahead. He probably jerked his arms in surprise and panic, throwing him off-balance.

    What can help?
    Scan: search aggressively for potential hazards (parked policeman?)

    Target fixation: the machine will go where your eyes are focused. Scan and identify a hazard, but put your focus on your intended path.
    Protective gear: the rider rolled at least three times in the video...probably at least that many times before he entered the view of the camera. He ended up conscious, alert and basically unhurt, with helmet still secure, after a crash at about 85 miles per hour.

    How much skin are you willing to lose? Boots, gloves and jacket saved this fellow's skin and presumeably good looks, and the helmet protected his presumeably intelligent brain.

    Speed: posted speed limit in this incident was 65 miles per hour. If you're going to violate the speed limit, at least be extra observant and alert. If you'd rather relax and enjoy the ride, stick to the speed limit.