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Kristin Murphy, KSL

Utah's rise in motorcycle deaths could reverse with awareness

By Emily Ashcraft, KSL | Posted - Apr. 24, 2019 at 7:19 a.m.

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Lindsay Ross said every time she rides her motorcycle she is worried about being hit, and tries to be cautious with the cars around her. She is constantly thinking "what if" while jamming to music on her motorcycle.

Two years ago, Ross was hit by a truck while riding her motorcycle on her way to Guardsman Pass in Park City. She said she could tell the truck wasn't going to stop and was going to hit her, so she geared down, hit her back brake and turned so her bike was facing the truck.

"I just had to get hit the best way I could," Ross said.

The crash broke some of her ribs and her chin and left her with bruises, but didn't stop Ross from continuing to ride.

In 2018, Utah had a 24 percent increase in motorcycle deaths with 47 motorcyclists killed on the roads. This year is on track to match that, with six motorcycle deaths already. John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, called that number high for the beginning of spring.

Gleason warned in a news conference Tuesday of "inattentive blindness," which he described as drivers simply not seeing a motorcyclist driving near them.

"Your brain doesn’t necessarily recognize (a motorcyclist) is an object that you need to watch out for. Unfortunately, that is what causes so many of these crashes. Motorcyclists are just not as visible as passenger cars," Gleason said.

He said Utahns should consider how they can cut distractions and keep everyone on the roads safe.

"We all need to change our behavior. We need to pay more attention to the roads. We need to take that extra look to make sure that we’re scanning for motorcyclists,” Gleason said.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street, a motorcyclist himself, agreed saying "we can do better" at reducing motorcycle deaths in Utah.

Signs are posted during a press event about motorcycle safety and driver awareness at Bill’s Boneyard in West Valley City on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Motorcycle fatalities jumped from 38 in 2017 to 47 in 2018. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, KSL)

"Sometimes we do miss things. That’s why it’s so critical this time of year that we take that extra scan or slow down your scan. Where you could easily see passenger cars or large semitrucks or things like that, you’re not very easily going to see motorcyclists," Street said.

He said drivers can take some extra time pulling out of parking lots to look for motorcycles. However, Street said motorcyclists can lower the risk as well by wearing helmets and other proper gear, not riding intoxicated, and attending a basic rider's course.

"It’s never too late to brush up on some skills and get some extra techniques," Street said.

Ross participated in safe rider courses. She said they taught about avoiding obstacles and used large crash rails on motorcycles to teach leaning and maneuvering.

"In reality, it’s putting in the time and being on the road and practicing the skills everyday … that honestly made the biggest difference in avoiding those close calls," Ross said.

We all need to change our behavior. We need to pay more attention to the roads. We need to take that extra look to make sure that we’re scanning for motorcyclists.

–John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation

Aaron Zimmer is another motorcyclist who has retired from 27 years in law enforcement. He said motorcyclists can't control what goes on around them and need to be aware, stay out of blind spots and realize drivers could be distracted.

"Play like the other vehicles can’t see you, because a lot of times they don’t,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer said he typically looks in his rearview mirrors as he stops, but one time while driving on University Parkway he stopped at a green light to let an officer with sirens go through the intersection. He was watching where the officer went and didn't check his mirrors.

A car came up from behind and knocked his bike into the intersection, flipping him backward off the bike. He said he was fortunate he only got banged up — someone his age had died from a similar incident a week earlier.

"Life is dangerous, and things are going to happen, so we just try and be as safe as possible and look out for one another," Zimmer said.


Emily Ashcraft

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