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UHP warns motorcycle riders to 'ride as if you're invisible'


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Danny Allen says motorcycles riders must ride with the mentality that no one can see them.

"You have to ride as if you're invisible to the public," said Allen, who is the department's emergency vehicle operations instructor.

His advice for everyone on the road to be more aware of each other comes on the heels of three fatal motorcycle crashes over the weekend. Some were due to rider error, and the others due to the actions of the other driver.

  • Ryan Smith, 38, of South Jordan, was killed about 7:40 p.m. Sunday when he collided with a pickup truck that made a left turn in front of him at 3840 W. 11800 South in Riverton.
  • Kevin Swoffer, 38, of Cedaredge, Colorado, took a turn too quickly, according to investigators, and was killed when his motorcycle veered off state Route 128, traveled across the gravel shoulder, and crashed just before noon Sunday.
  • Darryl Nelson, 55, was killed just before 4 p.m. Saturday when he collided with a truck that turned in front of him at the intersection of 300 S. Main in Smithfield.

With warm weather starting to become a regular occurrence on weekends, Allen said it's the start of the riding season in Utah. And motorcycle riders, he said, need to tune up their skills just like their bikes need tuneups.

"Those skills are perishable. Not only the bike, but get mentally locked in. Because it's a different environment out there on a motorcycle. We're not as protected," he said. "I highly suggest anybody that rides a motorcycle to take a rider education course."

Allen also encourages all riders to wear helmets. Not only does it make a rider more safe, but Allen says simply wearing a helmet makes a rider mentally sharper.

A common mistake riders make is panicking when they come upon a situation, prompting them to "jam on their rear brake," which Allen said is the "worst thing" motorcycles can do.

"I would say a good portion of the riders out there don't fully understand what the bike is designed to do, especially in an emergency situation, how to react," he said.

By mentally thinking they're invisible, a rider can be more prepared and react more calmly should a car make an unexpected turn in front of them, Allen said.

"Aggressive actions on the bike, whether its braking or accelerating, they throw off your balance and the bike doesn't like it," he said.

As for other motorists, Allen said drivers need to do more than just "notice" motorcycles. They need to actively look for them, he said.

Allen said he was recently almost run off the road himself because a driver was relying on his car to tell him if someone was in the next lane.

"He was relying 100 percent on the technology in the vehicle to clear that lane when it really wasn't clear," he said.

Allen said drivers need to physically look over their shoulder to look for motorcycles.

According to the Department of Public Safety, 39 people died in motorcycle crashes in Utah in 2017, which was down from 42 the year before.

Contributing: Annie Knox

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