Sunshine and tragedy: The trend of motorcycle deaths in Washington

Washington State Patrol

Olympia – It might not be THIS weekend, but the Washington State Patrol is gearing up for the first sunny spring weekend of 2013, and the unfortunate motorcycle crashes that always seem to follow.

In a typical year, one or two riders die that first nice weekend, and several more are injured. The reasons are predictable: speeding or driving under the influence. 

Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste hates it when his smart phone buzzes with word of yet another fatal collision.

“It’s painful to hear that another family has lost a loved one in a completely preventable motorcycle crash,” Batiste said. “For them, a sunny spring day will always be a reminder of their loss.”

Batiste urged riders to get out and enjoy the (eventual) good weather, but to ride sober and keep the speeds down. The most common scenario is a rider who enters a curve going way too fast, and loses control.

“If a trooper stops you for speeding, there’s a chance you might get a warning. The laws of physics are much more unforgiving.”

The good news is that Washington drivers are moving in the right direction when it comes to motorcycle safety  More motorcycle riders are endorsed than ever before. 

In 2012, there were 83 motorcycle fatalities and the majority of those were caused by the rider and not another vehicle. This is a similar trend law enforcement has seen over the past several years where the majority of motorcycle collisions were caused by rider error.

Even though most motorcycle fatalities are caused by the rider, drivers still need to be alert and aware of motorcycles around them.  By taking the extra time to check your blind spots prior to making a lane change, allowing for extra following distance, and being aware of approaching motorcycles, drivers will be able to avoid potential collisions. 

“Folks driving SUVs, passenger cars and trucks need to be extra attentive and make sure they ‘share the road’ with motorcyclists,” said Batiste.

The biggest causes of motorcycle fatalities in Washington are excessive speed, inattention, and inexperience, i.e. drivers exceeding their skill level.  Speed reduces reaction time and increases the seriousness of injuries. 

The two groups that have the most trouble are young riders on high powered bikes, and older riders who lack the appropriate training.  The young kids are riding at speeds way above their skill level, and the older riders are taking up the hobby without investing in safety classes.