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NHTSA Highway Crash Data For 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released highway crash fatality data for 2018.  While the overall trends of Motorcyclist fatalities declined 4.7 percent is encouraging, the report shows that 4,985 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2018 (244 fewer from the 5,229 fatalities in 2017) is still too many.

Sadly in Oregon, the number of motorcyclist fatalities increased significantly in 2018!

Below is a snippet of some report details:

Nationwide:
■  2018 vs. 2017 Motorcyclists Fatalities — 244 fewer fatalities, 4.7% decrease.
■  Motorcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes — 2017 (5229); 2018 (4985)
■  From 2009 to 2018 the proportion of motorcyclist fatalities increased from 13% of the fatalities to 14%
■  Alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes — Motorcycle riders had the second largest percent decrease (-10.1%) from 2017 to 2018
■  Motorcyclist fatalities in urban areas increased by 33% since 2009 versus rural areas decreased by 15%

Map of Oregon Motorcyclist Fatalities (2018)

Oregon:
■  2018 vs. 2017 Motorcyclists Fatalities — 20 additional fatalities, 38% increase
■  Motorcyclists Killed in Traffic Crashes — 2017 (54); 2018 (74)
■  Motorcyclists Killed Involving Speeding — 2017 (27); 2018 (23)

Important to note with this release, NHTSA introduced its new Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST), a modernized crash query tool that lets users not only query fatal crash data but also generate estimates of crashes and people injured in crashes. The upgraded functionalities in the new tool include generating multi-year trends, estimates of alcohol involvement, and charting/tabulation/mapping of query results. The tool, along with instructions on its usage, can be accessed HERE.

Photos courtesy of NHTSA

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As you know, I’m a motorcyclist licensed in the State of Oregon.  I’ve written many blog posts that represent motorcyclists and advocate for the passage of laws that improve motorcycle safety and result in motorcycle awareness and driver accountability.

My perspective comes from years of riding motorcycles and having first hand knowledge of friends who have been injured when drivers don’t see motorcycles and the dramatic consequences.

Speaking of motorcycle accidents, the following are examples of common motorcycle accident causes:

• A car makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle, usually because the driver is not looking for, or does not otherwise see, the oncoming motorcycle.

• A vehicle pulls out of, or into, a side street or driveway, also usually because the driver does not look for, or otherwise see, the motorcycle.

• A car rear ends a motorcycle because the driver is inattentive or distracted, usually by a mobile electronic device.

• And the all-to-common motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcyclist!  There have been a number of motorcycles that inexplicably missed a curve on a clear, dry road and left the roadway.  Many suffered injuries or death after striking a tree, roadside sign, utility pole or boulder.  Be it age related (yes, I said that!), pushing the limit of the riders skills or the capability of the motorcycle, driving impaired — both by drugs and alcohol — or by fatigue and exposure — riders need to constantly tweak riding habits to stay sharp.

In tracking the U.S. states information, searching and following-up on the Oregon data of various motorcycle accidents in the news, it seems that negligent drivers are often not being cited for any violation when they cause a motorcycle accident. Moreover, careless drivers are typically only being cited for routine traffic violations, and reckless drivers are being cited only for careless driving.  I’ve also read about simple cell-phone tickets being cited when drivers cause severe accidents.  If you try and track motorcycle accident cases, they are usually not referred to the District Attorney’s office unless there is a fatality or a drunk driver involved. Careless and even are facing very little to no criminal repercussions for their conduct and instead being given a traffic violation or no traffic violation at all.

That’s all about to change!

Back in 2017, Oregon began to address this issue by passing HB 2598, which expanded Oregon’s Vehicular Assault Statute, ORS 811.060, to protect motorcyclists and their passengers from reckless drivers, making it a Class A Misdemeanor for a reckless driver to injure a motorcyclist or passenger. That same year, Oregon passed SB 493, which made it a Class A Misdemeanor for a criminally negligent driver to seriously injure a vulnerable user.

However, under the current statute, motorcyclists, moped operators, and their passengers are not, even though they are equally susceptible to being directly struck and seriously injured by a careless, or criminally negligent, driver as the other road users.

But, effective January 1, 2020 is Senate Bill 810.  Signed into law back in June, the Bill modifies the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way” to include persons operating or riding on moped or motorcycle.  The law (801.608, “Vulnerable user of a public way”) enhances penalties for motorists who kill or injure motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, highway workers or bicyclists.

Oregon has taken an important step to protect riders and their passengers. Oregon now joins the State of Washington along with several other states by treating motorcycles and mopeds the same as other vulnerable road users by significantly enhancing the penalties against careless and criminally negligent drivers.

Thank you Governor Brown!

UPDATED:  November 1, 2019 — Removed the 1st – 4th priority scheme under motorcycle accident causes paragraph (see comment below) as it was misleading.  Added a reference HERE to the NHTSA Highway Crash Data for 2018.

Photos courtesy of ODOT and GHSA

Oregon Crash Statistics & Reports    |    Invest in yourself and Stay Sharp HERE!

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The Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club House

The Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club House

There is plenty of hollywood sizzle to the story, but don’t hold your breath.  It’s not a new Kurt Sutter television drama on motorcycle outlaws and biker “authenticity.”

It’s been a week where the Oregon Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club (GJMC) can’t avoid the news.  The GJMC, who have sometimes had a violent history in the Northwest, have managed to limit their appearances in the crime scene so reports linking the club or members of the club to serious crimes is unusual.

The reports read like a melodramatic whodunit detective novel… There was a fractured skull, a broken rib, a broken leg and a removed nipple. Sounds like an overtly violent scene from Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy (SAMCRO) TV series, but according to law enforcement reports, Robert “Bagger Bobby” Huggins, 56, was an ousted Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club member who also had nails driven through his boots, slash wounds to his back and face and many blows to his face.  His lifeless body was found shirtless and bloody in a Clark County field on July 1, 2015 by timber loggers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 12.36.01 PMThese news reports are just noise without context.  And, this week Detective Jim Lawrence provided that context during a 3-day bail hearing to Multnomah County Circuit Judge Gregory Silver stating that witnesses informed him that Huggins had been banished from the motorcycle club in 2014, after fellow members determined he was stealing money from the club to support his heroin habit.  The following year, Huggins burglarized the Woodburn home of the Gypsy Jokers club president** and tied the president’s girlfriend to a chair at gunpoint — enraging the president and other members enough to torture and kill him.  There are cellphone records linking some defendants to the crime scenes, there is neighborhood surveillance camera footage, Huggins blood was found in a Suburban used to transport the body and various people told police about certain elements of the story leading up to the killing or surrounding the killing.

(L to R): Fisher, Dencklau, Thompson, Pribbernow

(L to R): Fisher, Dencklau, Thompson, Pribbernow

At the end of the day a grand jury indicted:

  • Mark Leroy Dencklau**, 56, Earl Devearl Fisher Jr., 46, and Tiler Evan Pribbernow, 34, each on two counts of murder, criminal conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit murder, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit kidnapping and solicitation to commit kidnapping. The three men remain in custody and were arraigned in a Multnomah County Circuit Court.
  • Melachi Watkins, 32, on a murder count, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Watkins was already in a Washington state prison on unrelated charges.
  • Ronald Charles Thompson, 51, on two counts of hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. He was released on bail, police said.
  • Kendra Castle, 43, on a hindering prosecution count. She was released on bail.

It has been reported that Watkins, Thompson and Castle will be arraigned at a later date.

Details on the investigation had been limited because of the ongoing investigation, but Detective Jim Lawrence made the above details of the case public this week during a 3-day hearing which was to determine whether three of four men charged with Huggins’ murder should be allowed to be released from jail pending trial, set for 2017. Defendants Mark Leroy Dencklau; Earl Devearl Fisher; and Tiler Evan Pribbernow, have all been held in jail with no possibility of posting bail since they were charged in April.  In Oregon, when a defendant is charged with murder, aggravated murder or treason, release is denied when “the proof is evident or the presumption strong that the person is guilty.”

At the conclusion of the 3-day hearing, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Gregory Silver refused to grant bail to the three men.  Courtesy of the Oregonian the video is HERE.

Additional background and information courtesy of the Mercury Tribune:

  • Mr. Dencklau** is, or was, the president of the Portland GJMC, according to this 2007 press release from a biker-friendly lawyer who successfully sued the City of Portland on behalf of the GJMC after a failed 2004 police raid at the club’s NE MLK headquarters. According to court records, Mr. Dencklau has one felony conviction, for possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute.
  • Mr. Fisher has an extensive rap sheet, with five felony and four misdemeanor convictions, and seven parole violations. His most recent non-driving bust was in 2009 when he was convicted on two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.
  • Mr. Pribbernow is an Iraq War veteran and a methamphetamine addict. He was already in jail when the initial sweep happened, after a March arrest on meth possession and gun charges. He has at least eight prior felony and four misdemeanor convictions. Mr. Pribbernow’s been in the news before—most recently for a 2015 car chase that started in Oregon and ended in Vancouver, WA. Police discovered stolen license plates in his car, and booked him for driving under the influence of drugs, reckless endangerment, and eluding police.  He was also featured in a 2007 Willamette Week story for having shot a man, Kent Kotsovos, in Northeast Portland. He was arrested for attempted murder in 2005, but a grand jury said it was self-defense.
I’m not affiliated with any club.  I do not speak for the GJMC and I would never presume to speak for that club or any club.

As a motorcycle enthusiast I am less than thrilled to be highlighting this type of activity.  The mutilation and termination of an individual with extreme prejudice — a gangland style killing — will cause many to cast a colder eye on all bikers including the law-abiding, charitable brotherhood of family men who just like to ride.

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Curves Ahead

Curves Ahead

We’ve all done this a number of times.  Riding into a curve, adjusting your speed and noticing that you’re going 5 to 10 miles per hour above the posted speed on those yellow curve advisory speed signs.

Rarely do they seem accurate.

This is all about to change, but I feel compelled to go over this once again since it happens so often. The most common cause of single-vehicle, motorcycle crashes is where riders are seriously injured and/or die each year when they “drift” and/or fail to negotiate turns or curves, and they either end up in the opposing lane of traffic, or they lose control and crash.

One could debate that the worst riders are sometimes the people with the most experience because they think they are the great riders so they sometimes do not exercise the caution that they should.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.26.09 AMThe circumstances of drifting and the failure to negotiate a curve have resulted in multiple motorcycle deaths in Oregon just over the last 2 months!  Excessive speed is most often the main reason these “accidents” occur yet it’s one of the most preventable motorcycle crashes.  What typically happens is the rider gets into a turn and suddenly believes they are going too fast to make it around the curve. Maybe the rider hears the pegs start to scrape. Since they are not familiar with that sound, they panic, straighten up the bike, then look at the yellow line in the road, the guard rail, or even the oncoming vehicle and a crash occurs.  In many situations the motorcycle was very capable of making the turn at the speed the rider was going, but the rider was not.

They teach you in motorcycle safety courses that before you enter a curve you should direct your motorcycle to the farthest part of the lane away from the turn so that you can theoretically see around the turn more.  For example, when rounding a curve to the left, position your bike to the right side of the lane and focus on the end of the turn and no where else. Never look at the yellow line, the guard rail, or the oncoming car. If the road curves to the right, position your bike to the left side of the lane as you enter the curve.  However, you might find that sometimes it is not safe to go to the farthest part of the lane away from a curve because of oncoming cars or debris on the shoulder.  In the end the safest thing to remember when going around curves is to keep a safe speed period.

Changes...

Updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs…

Now about those changes…

Updated federal procedures require consistency of curve advisory speeds on all public roads and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs around the state. This means that some 50-75 percent of all curve speed advisory signs will change over the next three to four years, most will see an increase in the advisory speed of 5 to 10 mph.  Yes, you read that correct.  An INCREASE in speed!

Historically advisory speeds were very conservative or inconsistent and now with new technology to determine advisory speeds for curves they will be closer to what riders should be traveling at through a curve. If you are accustom to going faster than the posted advisory speed it may not end well!

Read more on the comprehensive assessment of the ODOT Curve Advisory Speeds Program (PDF file), performed by Oregon State University researchers.

Photos courtesy of ODOT.
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Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.34.02 PMThe State of Oregon has more than 74,000 miles of total roads and highways to wander as you set out on your northwest adventure.  The state is known for a diverse landscape including the Pacific coastline, the Cascade Mountain Range, and the flat central/eastern desert. It’s the ninth largest state and with a population of 4 million, the 26th most populous.

Yet, over the last couple of weeks the state is being defined by an alarming spike in motorcycle accidents and rider deaths!  OSP flash alerts are HERE.

  • On Highway 36 on June 24th a 2004 Harley crossed the center line and struck a Ford Ranger head-on. The motorcyclist, 56-year-old Michael R. Lucier of Swisshome, died at the scene.
  • On June 25th there was motorcycle crash on Highway 46 at milepost 7 (Caves Highway near Cave Junction).  The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2001 Triumph motorcycle was eastbound on Highway 46 at milepost 7 when it left the roadway on a corner. The motorcycle struck a tree and the rider, Patrick Michael Daley, age 57, of Cave Junction, was thrown down the embankment and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • On June 26th there was a report of a truck versus motorcycle collision on Interstate 5 at the 235 interchange (just north of Albany). The 1995 Kenworth truck tractor was towing a chip trailer and had been traveling southbound on Old Salem Road. The truck began to make a left turn onto the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp, but turned in front of a northbound 1995 Kawasaki motorcycle. The motorcyclist crashed as a result of the truck turning into its path. The rider, Kevin R. Argo, age 39, of Lebanon was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.
  • On June 30th near Deadwood, OR, Richard F. Araujo, 68, died when he missed a corner on his 1992 Harley Davidson and sideswiped a Dodge pickup. It was the 2nd fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 36 in less than a week.
  • On July 2nd OSP responded to a report of a motorcycle versus vehicle crash on London Road near the Cottage Grove Reservoir.  Information revealed a 1999 Honda 900 motorcycle was traveling southbound on London Road at a high rate of speed just as a 2008 Chrysler Sebring was pulling out of a private drive northbound. The motorcycle impacted the driver’s side of the Sebring. The rider, identified as Cory Nathan Tocher, age 33, of Cottage Grove, was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • Also on July 2nd there was a report of a traffic crash involving a motorcycle rider and an SUV on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Schiller Street.  Efforts to save the motorcyclist, 45-year-old Aaron Christopher Rufener were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.  The driver of the SUV, a 44-year-old man, remained at the scene and was cooperative. Officers learned that he was driving northbound on 82nd Avenue and was turning left into the Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant parking lot when the southbound motorcycle rider crashed into the passenger side rear of the SUV, a 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer. The motorcycle is a 2013 Harley Davidson.

In addition, on July 5th there was a vehicle crash reported on I-5, just south of Ashland.  The crash, involved a BMW motorcycle and a semi-truck going southbound at mile post 10.5.  The motorcycle was from Mexico and was traveling at about 70 mph when it ran into the back of a semi-truck.  The motorcycle driver was transported to Oregon Health and Science University to be treated for his life-threatening injuries.

On July 6th, again on I-5 in northern Josephine County near Wolf Creek, OSP responded to the single-vehicle accident at milepost 80.  David Carl Freiboth, 61-year-old of Mercer Island was riding his Triumph motorcycle in the fast lane of I-5 when a semi-truck in the slow lane quickly signaled and changed lanes in front of him.  Freiboth told OSP he hit his brakes and quickly veered away from the semi, which caused him to hit the median and lay his bike down. He complained of shoulder pain and was transported by AMR Ambulance to Three Rivers Medical Center for treatment.  A motorcyclist behind Freiboth confirmed the incident, but was unsure about the description of the semi – which did not stop after causing the mishap.

Oregon has no shortage of steep grades, tight curves and awesome views that can be fascinating on a motorcycle.  But, please, PLEASE pay attention because we want you to live through your trip here!

If you are new or considering a motorcycle visit to the state I urged riders – to review motorcycle safety information.

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Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods

On a cool summer morning it all started on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway with the wind at our backs looking east.

I’m talking about Interstate 84 and the 378 miles which stretches from Portland, Oregon to the Idaho border.  Senate Bill 461 took effect in January 2014 which required the use of private funds to be used in the purchase, installation and maintenance of the large brown signs which designates the route to honor all veterans who served and those who became casualties** during the Vietnam war.

There are approximately 20 signs installed to-date and our riding group passed a couple as we headed toward the base of the Blue Mountains to the Wild West city of Pendleton for the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW).  We took the Cascade Locks exit and rode across the cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River called the “Bridge of The Gods.”

Maryville Winery

Maryville Winery

There we picked up another rider in our group and headed east on highway 14.  We stopped in Stevenson, WA at the Venus Café for a bit of breakfast then made our way winding along through the Columbia Gorge through the forest and up steep bluffs.  We did a quick stop at the Maryhill winery, traveled past the largely dismantled aluminum smelter plant and then after a short stop in Umatilla we arrived in Pendleton.

This was the inaugural year of the PBW and based on my observations it looks to have sowed the seeds for the start of a recurring big event.  Bikers flooded the convention center, took in vendor booths, relaxed with musical entertainment, cruised around town and spent money which was an economic boost for the city!

Helmley's

Hamley’s “Old West” Saloon

Some key highlights were:

  • There is power in the wheat field and power in the rain because the Rogue Brewery Ale House officially launched the Pendleton Pilsner.  They grow their own hops, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, honey and other ingredients for refreshments.  The new Pendleton Pilsner is brewed at the Rogues HQ in Newport, Oregon and I’m reminded of that movie… where Frank the Tank states: “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!
  • Pendleton’s legendary hospitality continues in fine style.  The local food was 1st class, the staff at restaurants were most personable and everywhere folks seemed genuinely friendly and appreciative of the motorcycle enthusiasts being in town.
  • PMR Registration

    PMR Registration

    The 100-year old mahogany bar at Hamley’s.  We spent a fair amount of time enjoying Pendleton’s iconic “old-west” saloon and taking in the towns ambiance.

  • Wildhorse Resort & Casino was most entertaining.  Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the 10-story hotel and resort pulls in the people and the gaming revenue seemed brisk during my short time there. Yes, I contributed to their next expansion project!
  • Attendance of Rattlesnake Mountain H-D from Kennewick, WA at the rally celebration added icing to the cake.  The dealer brought over a bunch of motorcycles and there was a rather large assortment of accessories, parts and t-shirts for attendees to load up on.
Rally Crowds

Rally Crowds

Eric Folkestad, event partners and business leaders are likely making plans for 2016.   I chatted briefly with Eric and he deserves a big shout out from the riding community in taking on the risk and pulling together this quality event.  Motorcycle rallies are a huge gamble and you have to bring your “big girl panties” to the party because it’s not easy.  Note: That is a biker saying and apologies if I offended anyone wearing panties!  Granted he’s had practice being the co-owner of the Hells Canyon Rally and then selling his stake to his brother, but for any motorcycle event to be successful you need to bring large groups of riders together, offer up great entertainment, get biker vendors to support the event, cover the civic (OSP, police, 1st responders etc.) duties and hope that you don’t suffer financial ruin in the end.

Motorcycle Show Trophy's

Motorcycle Show Trophy’s

I’m happy to have participated in the “First PBW!”  Congrats on a most successful rally Eric!

Lastly, I wish I could report that there were no accidents, but Mr. Jason Anteau, 43-years-old, sadly died Friday night in a motorcycle accident at the west end of Pendleton.  Mr. Anteau worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, was a Hermiston volunteer firefighter and was attending the rally.

Motorcycle Show

Motorcycle Show Entry

The preliminary investigation revealed speed and distraction were not factors, nor were any of the drivers impaired.  More information reported HERE.   Obituary HERE.  Rally’s can be a recipe for danger, but PBW is very small compared to other high profile events (i.e. Sturgis, Laughlin River Run etc.) where thousands of riders are packed into a congested area.  It’s an unfortunate blemish this occurred during the rally and we’re reminded once again how important safety awareness is to the motorcycle community, and how precious life really is.  My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Anteau’s family and friends!

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – added link to Mr. Anteau obituary.  Also adding that Mr. Anteau was on the Oregon State HazMat Team and was the vice president of the East Desert Diamondbacks chapter of the Iron Order motorcycle club.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – The 2016 Pendleton Bike Week will take place from July 22 to July 26th. According to this report co-founder Eric Folkestad said the event met attendance and revenue goals and was able to break even. PBW brought in a total of 5,740 people over the five day event. The event peaked on Saturday, when 2,150 motorcycle enthusiasts arrived at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Photos taken by author.

**Approximately 57,000 Oregonians served “in country” during the Vietnam War with 719 killed in action.  Another 5,000 were wounded in action.  39 remain missing in action after 40 years.  Of the 333,000 veterans living in Oregon, approximately a third served during the Vietnam conflict. Interstate 205 (I-205) is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway and Highway 97 is known as the WWII Veterans Memorial Highway.  Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways in honor of Vietnam vets.

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DSC_0164It was 73 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.

It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

DSC_0160Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“1935 — The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle.”

Visiting the U.S.S. Arizona memorial is always a somber experience and this event still effects our world…

Photos by author.

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