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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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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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ambulance with lightsI know there are ongoing activities to promote motorcycle safety in Oregon.

Yet, my observations riding around the Portland metro area is that we just don’t see as much in the way of highly visible – “in your face” – awareness programs this year.  Maybe I’ve missed the billboards while concentrating on and trying to navigate the highway ruts/grooves from all the road construction?

I’ll tell you what I have noticed…   Several motorcycle crash reports from Oregon State Police and articles in the Oregonian.  It’s sad to say, but when I see a motorcycle accident in the paper, that’s increasing awareness!  Some might even debate that reading about motorcycle accidents provides a better deterrent than a motorcycle awareness campaign could accomplish.

What do you think?

When there is an accident, the motorcycle community wants to know what happened.  Why and who caused it?  But, more often than not we’re left speculating about what led up to the accident, or second guessing the police report.  Follow up seldom occurs and accurate conclusions are challenging to get.  I truly dislike blogging about these disheartening events, but over the last 4-weeks we’ve seen a spike in accidents.  All motorcyclists were wearing helmets and below is a brief summary:

  1. June 17 –  John Edward Tomer was eastbound on Highway 26 near milepost 46. For an unknown reason, the motorcycle traveled across the westbound lane where a witness in another vehicle slowed to avoid it. The motorcycle continued off the highway into a ditch and hit a tree bordering the north side.  Mr. Tomer was pronounced deceased at the scene.
  2. June 21 – Terry Brateng stopped his motorcycle with two other motorcycles on the right southbound shoulder of I-5 near milepost 194 underneath an overpass next to a concrete shoulder barrier to shelter from a passing heavy rain shower.  After getting off his motorcycle, Brateng was walking around the front of the motorcycle when he was struck by an automobile driven by Kaitlyn Inman which failed to drive within a lane.  Brateng was seriously injured and remains in Sacred Heart Medical Center.
  3. June 23 –  Stephen Anthony Williams was on Highway 37 about 8-miles southeast of Highway 97 and collided into the passenger side of a dodge van turning into a private driveway.  He was air lifted to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend where he died of injuries.  The van’s driver, Glen Harvey Jr was arrested for criminally negligent homicide and DUII.
  4. June 24 – On Highway 19 west of Spray, Randall Upshaw was found by a passing motorist in the highway along with a dead deer.  Upshaw was deceased and the preliminary investigation indicated a collision between the motorcycle and the deer.
  5. July 3 – Robert Irving Floding died from injuries suffered during a crash on June 10th.  This was the 19th traffic fatality in Portland in 2013
  6. July 5 – An adult male crashed his motorcycle in the 1400 block of SE 10th Avenue in Portland and was pronounced deceased at the scene.  A medical condition was being reviewed.  No names were released.
  7. July 9 – A Roseburg couple, Kenneth and Linda Minshew were critically injured on Highway 138E two miles west of Tokette when the motorcycle traveled off the highway and struck a tree.
  8. July 11 – A fatal motorcycle crash on SE Milwaukee Avenue just south of McLoughlin Blvd.  Damian Gerold Waytt was traveling at high rate of speed on a Kawasaki ZX6 and failed to negotiate a partial right turn and went off the road.  Video HERE.  This was the 23rd traffic fatality in Portland in 2013.
  9. July 11 – Jacob J. Godfrey was found lying in berry bushes several hours after an overnight motorcycle crash off Highway 194 (Monmouth Highway) and 3-miles east of Highway 223.  The Yamaha motorcycle traveled off the highway and when Mr. Godfrey didn’t come to work the next morning friends went looking and spotted the mark on a road side tree, stopped and heard him call out for help.  He was reported in fair condition.
  10. July 16 – A motorcycle and dump truck were involved in an accident on Highway 229 at milepost 21 near Siletz. For an unconfirmed reason the motorcycle operated by John Hausmann and with passenger/wife Angela Hausmann crossed the center line and collided with the truck.  Their injuries are believed to be non-life threatening.
  11. UPDATED:  July 19 — A reckless motorcycle was traveling eastbound on Highway 30 in excess of 100 mph and tried to eluded OSP.  The trooper tried to stop the motorcycle rider, but he failed to yield to the trooper’s emergency lights and siren, then continued on eastbound.  Iosif Savitskiy eventually crashed into a yard in North Portland and was arrested.  Video HERE.  Another idiot giving motorcycle riders a bad name…

My condolences and sympathies go out to the families and friends of these riders.

There are many reasons for the spike in motorcycle accidents and clearly we can’t shove all the blame onto distracted automobile drivers.

Given the high number of riders who will be out this weekend packing the roads for Run21 and the National BMW rally, I wanted to remind riders… please just pay attention and ride safe.

Photo courtesy of lifemoresimply.blogspot.com

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Road Traffic Accidents

We live in a world of overwhelming statistics.

We experience the most poignant human conditions in the form of numbers and abstractions and being the most connected culture in human history, our experience of reality and truth gets washed over by the onslaught of rhetoric and opinions that isolate us from critical issues that often affect us.

Motorcycle fatalities is a subject that our society has become particularly good at communicating solely in statistical terms.

Numbers put us all at ease, isolate the acute human pain associated with an accident and inevitably numbs us to the reality that we or someone dear to us may be suddenly afflicted by a life-changing event.

During the last week of January the northwest experienced dry and spring-like weather conditions.  As a result many additional motorcyclists exited their garages to take their favorite ride on a spin.  The area roads are in pretty good shape being mid-winter with the occasional gravel rock from the ice storm earlier in the year bouncing off the windshield.   Yet, on January 25th at approximately 3:25pm Mr. Ronald V. McNutt became the first fatal motorcycle crash in Oregon.

According to OSP reports:

Mr. McNutt (age 66) entered the northbound lanes of I-5 near milepost 250 when he appeared to lose control in the area of the middle and right lanes.  A school bus operator saw the motorcyclist losing control and tried steering to the left lane but was unable to avoid the motorcycle as it fell toward the school bus.  The school bus was loaded with about 50 high school students and struck the motorcycle operator who was pronounced deceased at the scene.

OSP continues to investigate the accident and if they provide the media an update I’ll update this post.

I’ve been thinking about this accident off and on for the last couple of weeks.  I debated the merits of blogging about it.  Then I thought about the frequency at which certain motorcycle accidents are growing in our society and if it warrants the question of whether it’s good enough that we just know that they happen or whether we should become better acquainted with them and why.  By knowing more, we’re truly able to understand the extent of suffering (not in a creepy way, but learning) and extend to them a hand of help, either as money that helps the family, or a charity or simply as an act of acknowledgement and well wishes to the survivors.

I confess that I have absolutely no connection or personal knowledge of Mr. McNutt, yet found this accident disturbing not only by the statistic (first fatality), but in antidotal information about the frequency of accidents on the rise for this age group.  We can debate causes endlessly, but what I hoped to communicate was the gravity of these accident’s which forces us to come face-to-face with the human dimension and to help raise awareness on the importance of driving safe out there.

UPDATE: February 10, 2011 — As if we need another example: Dale Stark (64) critically injured in an accident yesterday.  More info HERE.

Photo courtesy of World Health Org. Graphic image full size HERE.

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Yesterday, President Obama returned to Portland, OR to try and fire up the Democrats or rekindle some political magic.  There was an enthusiastic crowd estimated near 10,000 which packed the convention center and listened as the president stumped for John Kitzhaber, who is locked in a tight race for his old job as governor.

Sadly, the visit occurred in the middle of rush-hour traffic and triggered an accident on I-84 when eastbound traffic slowed to watch Obama’s motorcade traveling west from the Portland Air National Guard Base.

At about 6pm, a northeast Portland man (Peter Kendall Gunderson, age 59) was eastbound when he may have failed to see traffic ahead of him was slowing as police were closing down the westbound lanes for the upcoming presidential motorcade to travel in.  Gunderson lost control as he braked for the slowing eastbound traffic.  The motorcycle skidded then fell onto its side, sliding uncontrolled in the left eastbound lane until it hit underneath a stopped 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. The motorcycle came to rest near the center concrete barrier and quickly caught fire.  Some witnesses pulled Mr. Gunderson away from the burning motorcycle to the far right eastbound lane.  Mr. Gunderson was transported by AMR ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital with critical injuries, but died this morning.  The full OSP report is HERE.  It’s unclear if police had enough lead time to plan a safer route in Portland.

Peter Gunderson Accident

I did a quick search and it turns out that there are many deaths across the U.S. just so the president or a dignitary doesn’t need to sit in traffic. Many are motorcycle officers, but some are similar to Mr. Gunderson being caught up in the police route.

For example, in 2006, a Honolulu officer died when he and two other motorcycle officers crashed while part of a presidential motorcade. In 2007, a police officer died after crashing his motorcycle while riding in a motorcade with President Bush.  In 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s only campaign swing through North Texas was cut short after a police officer in her motorcade died in a crash on the way to a rally.  Also in 2008, an Albuquerque, N.M., police officer in President Bush’s motorcade died in a motorcycle crash.

I’m not blaming Obama – just pointing out that presidential motorcades aren’t safe for everyone!  My condolences to Mr. Gunderson’s family.

No word if President Obama or anyone in his administration has tried to reach out to Mr. Gunderson’s family.

Photo courtesy of Oregonian and OSP.

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Starting in 1994 with only 1,500 bikers participating, Street Vibrations has grown into the nation’s 6th largest bike event.  It was estimated (no info supplied on how) that slightly more than 25,000 motorcycles attended Street Vibrations in 2010.  About the same as previous years, however, hotels like the Peppermill, Grand Sierra Resort, the Nugget and Atlantis all reported shorter stays for guests on average vs. other years.

During the event period there was an increase in motorcycle accidents.  It’s unclear if the increase was attributable to the split-event in Sparks which many riders complained about.  Here is how the stats break down:

Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) arrested 39 people of which 21 were DUI arrests.  There were 15 accidents investigated, which included 2 fatal crashes, including one with a motorcycle.  In total there were 8 injury crashes and 5 crashes involving property damage only.  NHP didn’t report which arrests involved only motorcycles.

Reno Police reported making 72 arrests for various offenses stating alcohol was a factor in most.  They handed out 533 traffic citations and placed 4 people in civil protective custody (public intoxication).  They also handed out an additional 428 traffic warnings.  There were 6 stolen motorcycles (which the Pepper Mill Casino seemed to be hit most often) and 10 stolen tour packs (saddle bags).

Stealing saddle bags? That is just down-right mean! I hope they set up sting operations in the future to take down the jerks.

In addition, there was a brawl reported between 30 people (unknown if it was bikers?) that left one man stabbed in Sparks and was sent to the hospital.  The Carson City man was treated with multiple stab wounds which were non-life threatening.

Speaking of large groups… it’s unclear if related to last month’s HAMC and Vagos MC shootout in Arizona (Chino Valley, north of Prescott) where 27 people were booked on charges ranging from attempted murder to participation in a criminal street gang and where more than 50 rounds were fired between the two clubs… but, there was an extraordinarily large mass of the “Green Machine”, and the “Red & White” along with support clubs like the “Miscreants” on the corner of 4th and Virginia Street on Saturday.  I was on the street at the time and the atmosphere was most tense, it looked as if a confrontation would explode similar to scene’s from the problem-oriented “Hot August Nights” event.  Even the few LEO’s looked somewhat threatened.  Fortunately no confrontation occurred and within a half-hour the groups had mostly cleared out.

And speaking of the Reno police, they worked a lot of overtime and were paid based on a grant called “Joining Forces”.  The “Joining Forces” grant program is one of the many Nevada Office of Traffic Safety’s proactive safety initiatives coordinated directly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide grant funding for special enforcement campaigns, education, equipment and training throughout the calendar year.  There are currently 28 law enforcement agencies in Nevada that participate in this program. Some of those enforcement campaigns include DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints, speed enforcement, traffic signal enforcement at identified high-accident intersections, and crosswalk & pedestrian safety enforcement initiatives.

Lastly, is my rant about the fact that Nevada has over 49,000 miles of road and nothing is more treacherous than the I-80 and U.S. 395 interchange (known by locals as the “Spaghetti Bowl”) in downtown Reno.  Motorcyclists have seen at least 2 years of congested traffic flow from this construction project, but more important is trying to navigate through or ride over and avoid the deep crevices and cracks in the concrete.  It’s dangerous for motorcycles and get it done already!

Stat sources: Daily Sparks Tribune #1#2News 4Carson Now.

Photo’s taken at the event.

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Motorcycle/Car Collision In Oregon City

According to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Oregon’s traffic deaths fell to a low of 9.4% from 416 in 2008 to 377 in 2009.   Washington’s road fatalities dropped from 521 to 492, a 5.6% decline.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited the weak economy as a contributing factor, saying many Americans had cut back on “discretionary driving,” including going out to bars and restaurants after work or on weekends.  At the same time, LaHood stated cars are becoming safer and motorists are becoming increasingly safety conscious.

In Oregon, the annual highway safety report also found:

  • The number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities continued a five-year slide, dropping from 137 in 2008 to 115 in 2009.
  • Speeding-related road deaths declined from 147 to 125. In 2005, there were 161.
  • The number of bicyclists killed in crashes dropped slightly, from 10 in 2008 to eight in 2009. While the number of pedestrians killed on the road dropped from 51 to 35.
  • After improving dramatically in 2008, the number of teenagers killed in crashes was on the rise again in 2009, climbing from 34 to 46. In 2005, 84 teens died in vehicle crashes.

Bucking these overall positive trends were motorcycle fatalities in Oregon increased to 53 in 2009 from 48 in 2008.  Nationally motorcycling fatalities in 2009 decreased for the first time in more than a decade, dropping to 4,462 in 2009 from 5,312 in 2008.  To read the 2009 FARS data in detail click here (.pdf).

Fred J. Brehony -- Patriot Guard Riders

In related news and sadly was this morning’s report of a motorcycle rider who died at the scene after a collision with a car at the intersection of South Springwater and Bakers Ferry roads in Oregon City.  According to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective Jim Strovink the victim’s wife was following in a separate vehicle and witnessed the crash making this event even more of a tragedy.  Names were not released, but photos of the crash scene indicate the rider was a member of The Patriot Guard.  They are volunteer’s who provide escorts for veteran funerals, and Veterans coming home ceremony’s.  My sincere condolences to his wife and family.

It’s unknown if the driver didn’t yield or if the motorcyclist was at fault.  I’ll continue to follow the reports and provide updates.  My view is that you can never be defensive enough so please be safe out there.

UPDATE: September 11, 2010 — There is a good update in the Oregonian about Fred J. Brehony who was killed yesterday on his way to the Willamette National Cemetery.  As a member of the Patriot Guard Riders he was in route heading to a funeral for Howell “Hal” Birdwell (a U.S. Vietnam War vet) when he collided with a car.  Mr. Brehony was a U.S. Navy Veteran who served on a destroyer during the Vietnam War and deeply believed in the mission of the Patriot Guard.  He will be missed.

UPDATE: September 14, 2010 — KGW did an expanded story on Mr. Brehony.  Video is HERE.

UPDATE: September 14, 2010 (3pm PST) – Information was posted on the PGR Forums Web Site which outlines a two phase mission for Mr. Brehony.  One on Thursday, 16/Sept/10 and another on Sunday, 19/Sept/10.  Staging and briefing times are covered HERE.

Photo courtesy of Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.  Brehony photo courtesy of Olivia Bucks and The Oregonian.

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