If a motorcyclist is involved in an accident the riders have a greater chance of being injured or killed than an auto motorist would if involved in an accident, says local motorcyclist and road instructor Chris Taylor.
Taylor is a member of ABATE (A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education) and S.H.A.R.E. (Safe Highways equal Awareness, Respect and Education). Taylor spoke to Storm Lake driver's ed students Wednesday during a presentation. Motorcycles riders are exposed to the elements and aren't protected by steel shell around them; road conditions that may only cause minor annoyances for motorists can be quite dangerous to motorcyclists and bikes. In those conditions, two-wheel riders can be hard to see, students learned.
Ever year Taylor speaks to over 1,000 driver's ed students in a six county region about the importance of watching out for motorcycles when driving. His presentations are all on a volunteer basis and Taylor says he uses his vacation days to speak to groups.
It's more than a speech to Taylor - he's lost friends to motorcycle accidents. "More than I want to think about," he says. "My hope is that by teaching the "Share the Road," program I won't lose any more friends," he says.
In 2001 there were over 217,000 licensed motorcyclists in the State of Iowa, each year that number has grown. In 2007, there were over 230,000 licensed motorcyclists. In 2007 there were 61 fatalities in Iowa and an estimated 867 riders were seriously injured. Taylor told students according to the Harry Hurt Report and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73 percent of accidents involved an automobile violating the right of way and 27 percent were caused by motorcyclist or equipment error. He said of the 73 percent, only six percent of motorcycles were hit in the rear and 38 percent involved a "lethal left turn." A lethal left turn could be when a car turns left in front of an oncoming motorcycle. In 50 percent of accidents alcohol was used by either the motorcyclist, the automobile operator or both.
Taylor says when presenting he likes to involve the students and not just read a presentation to them, so they'll retain the information. He shared a number of personal stories about motorcycle accidents, sharing some of the gruesome yet true facts. He shared a story about the late Lyle Donkersloot, formerly of Okoboji, and showed them a R.I.P. patch he wears on his vest. Donkersloot was killed by a drunk driver in 2005 while riding his motorcycle at the Lake of the Ozarks. The drunk driver had a 0.28 blood alcohol limit which was three times the legal limit. When the driver woke up in the hospital he had had no idea he had even been in accident. "He didn't realize that until he was told," said Taylor.
Taylor told another story of four teenagers who were out enjoying a ride but were under the influence of drugs. The driver dropped a cigarette on the mat and bent over to pick it up. Taylor says the driver was going 105 mph and crossed over the center line hitting a motorcycle that was going 55 mph which meant the impact of the crash was about 160 mph. Little was left of the rider.
Motorcyclists must take the responsibility to help keep themselves safe as well - taking rider education courses, wearing the proper apparel and always driving sober.
Taylor left the students with one final story and asked them to imagine they were out riding motorcycles with five other friends to appreciate the full impact. All of a sudden in the blink of an eye he says three of them are dead. Wayne Wierson, with ABATE, was one of two survivors of an accident that involved six motorcycles and a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel several years ago. The van crossed the center line hitting three motorcyclists head on and killing them instantly. A fourth rider was able to miss a head on collision but his foot got caught on the back bumper of the van and he lost his foot. He survived the accident but died a year later due to complications. Another rider missed the van completely but his tires hit debris and he ended up sliding. "He took one year to learn how to walk again," says Taylor. "So the amount of time it takes me to snap my fingers, the driver of the van killed three people and sent two of them by Lifeflight to Iowa City Hospital and then a year later the fourth one died," he says. Taylor says his friend walked away from the accident with a desire to teach motorists about motorcyclists but also was left with haunting nightmares. "Last time I talked to him was about three weeks ago and I asked him and he said two to three times a week he still has nightmares," he says.
With warmer weather more motorcycles will be out on the road, here are some facts all motorists should keep in mind when driving.
* Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway.
*Allow motorcycles a full lane width to maneuver safely so don't try to share a lane or crowd a motorcycle in its lane.
*Motorcycles may be difficult to see. Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than vehicles so it can be difficult to judge speed and distance of an upcoming motorcycle.
*Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
* Remember that a motorcyclist is often hidden by a vehicle's blind spot. Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes and at intersections.
*Give motorcyclists plenty of space. Road conditions differ for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists may need to change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly.