SANDY – More motorcyclists are hitting Utah roads as temperatures start to rise, and officials with the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Department of Public Safety are reminding all drivers to be cautious.
"If I wasn't wearing a helmet or if I was wearing a half helmet or if I had this up at the time, I would have no face," said Joe Perez, motorcycle crash survivor.
He credits his bike gear for doing what it is meant to do.
"When I hit, I had a full-face mask on," he said. "I hit straight on with my pads out and my gloves on and my boots on. I hit straight on."
Perez struck a Buick after it made an illegal U-turn in front of him. His front wheel lodged into the car's engine and he flew 25-30 feet over it, skidding across the asphalt face first. He lived to tell his story alongside UDOT and the DPS for their "Ride to Live" campaign.
"We get the question all the time, 'Whose fault is this?' and the responsibility belongs to each of us both as drivers and motorcycle riders. We need to do everything we can to make sure everyone is getting home safely," said UDOT spokesperson John Gleason.
Gleason said there were 44 deadly motorcycle crashes in 2020. Perez told KSL he still rides and wears his protective gear, and he hopes his story will encourage others to do the same.
"If I had my daughter or my wife in the back and she didn't have a helmet or I put a half helmet, I'd have to live with the fact she'd be scarred the rest of her life," said Perez.
State officials said motorcycle crashes are 11 times more likely to end in death than other crashes.
Utah requires anyone under age 18 to wear a helmet, but as an adult, Perez said his helmet made all the difference.
"Motorcycles are among the smallest and most vulnerable vehicles on the road. They don't have the same protections as cars or trucks, and this puts riders at greater risk of serious injury or death in a crash," Gleason said. "Every year we see fatalities that could have been prevented had a driver or rider paid better attention or been more prepared. Making small improvements in our driving behaviors can put a stop to these terrible crashes and save lives."