March 2, 2024

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Automotive to Us

Motorcycle safety awareness comes to forefront as weather improves | Public Safety

A March 19 motorcycle crash in St. Joseph ended in a fatality highlighting how things can go wrong for riders, who are showing up more on roads with the warming temperatures.

The rider in that case died after colliding with an SUV. He was wearing a helmet but no other protective gear, St. Joseph Police Sgt. Casey Guyer said. The man’s speed was a factor in the crash, but the case remains under investigation, Guyer said.

Any measures a motorcyclist can take to increase safety are important, St. Joseph Health and Safety Council Traffic Safety Coordinator John Christensen said.

“It’s a small-profile vehicle, a little harder to see, and if they go down it’s a totally different circumstance,” he said. “If you run over a golf-ball sized rock with your SUV, it’s one circumstance. If you hit a golf-ball sized rock on the road riding a motorcycle, totally different set of circumstances.”

It’s not just motorcyclists who have to be careful out on the road. One of the biggest concerns for Jackson Motorcycles owner Gaylen Jackson is other motorists.

“I’ve had cars pull out in front of me because they just flat didn’t see me,” he said. “The reason that I blame why they didn’t see me was because they were too busy with their phones.”

Of the 77 motorcycle crashes in Missouri this year, 70% involved at least one other vehicle, Christensen said.

Other important factors are making sure riders know the limits of their bikes and themselves, Jackson said.

“One of the problems you have with motorcycles is that the motorcycles do not run the speed limit,” he said. “And if you’re not running the speed limit then your reaction time is not as good as it should be.”

State legislation passed last year allows motorcyclists 26 or older to ride without helmets if they have health and motorcycle insurance.

The number of riders who have continued wearing helmets over the past year despite the new rule has been surprising, Christensen said.

“I look at people that are wearing them and I look at the ages of them, and I still see a lot, what I believe to be a lot, of people that are over 26 years of age that are choosing to wear that … approved helmet,” he said.

Policing the helmet law could be difficult, said Christensen, a former state trooper for the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“Imagine being in the law enforcement officer’s position when the motorcycle rolls by, trying to gauge the age of that rider,” he said. “Sometimes that might be difficult to do, especially at night in terms of whether there’s a violation or not.”

Jackson said he wears a helmet when he rides, but said he likes that the decision is left up to the individual.

“That’s a personal choice, that’s a personal thought,” he said. “A lot of people wear helmets because they like them. Me, I wear a helmet because I don’t like to get the top of my head sunburned.”