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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!

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Watch For Motorcycles!

Many of you already know that May is motorcycle awareness month.

The self-appointed “wise men” and policy elites down in Salem, OR declared it (.PDF) – so it must be true!  They’ve also piled on and proclaimed it to be Transportation Safety Month, further relegating the motorcycle to the “end of the line” as they blah, blah, blah, espouse the virtues of raising awareness on motorcycle safety.  Why not pile on with farm tractor safety month and stop texting month too?!  Why limit the pile on?

The real story is that with warmer weather approaching motorcyclists are hungry to get out on the roads and this is a good opportunity to remind riders to realize that our fellow ‘cagers’ might have forgot over the long and wet winter that they share the roads with motorcycles and to ride defensively.

Speaking of riding defensively, did you know that Oregon back in 2005 was named by the NHTSA as having the top motorcycle safety program in the nation?  Either did I, yet it’s true.

And since I’m talking about defensive riding you might be interested to know what a couple of our poster child riders are up to – which serve to reinforce the public’s viewpoint of motorcyclists.  Let’s highlight Mr. Richard Boedigheimer (33) who showcases “driving safe” during motorcycle awareness month: He was pulled over on Oregon 22 west of Mill City after being clocked at 140 MPH.  He told the Marion County deputy that he was “just having fun” with his new girlfriend of one week who was a passenger at the time.  No word on the girlfriend status after the arrest.  Need more examples?  How about Mr. Nicholas Houck (20), who attempted to elude state police on a H-D motorcycle without a helmet at speeds exceeding 100 MPH.  First you draw attention to yourself for not wearing a helmet, in a state that requires it, then more troubling decide to elude. Mr. Houck also had a suspended license…

Notwithstanding the above poor judgment… the good news is the number of motorcycle crash fatalities in Oregon have dropped to their lowest level since 2004; the bad news is that 38 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in 2010 according to preliminary data from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

report released (.PDF) this week by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that nationwide motorcycle fatalities declined in 2010 by at least 2 percent. Based upon preliminary data, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities declined from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or less in 2010. The projection is based upon data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The decline comes on the heels of a dramatic 16 percent drop in 2009, which followed 11 straight years of steady increases in motorcycle deaths.

The new report—the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2010—was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. GHSA is projecting declines in approximately half of the states and for Oregon they are projected to be down 27 percent.  The Oregon GHSA Vice Chairman Troy Costales credits the state’s progress to a strong training program and a new law strengthening penalties for riders who do not have a motorcycle-specific license as well as working with motorcycle clubs, who are advocates for riding safe and sober.

The disturbing news which comes with deeper analysis of the data reveals that there are some areas for concern. First, 2010’s decrease of at least 2 percent is far less than 2009’s dramatic 16 percent decrease. Second, the 2010 decrease was concentrated in the early months of the year, with fatalities actually increasing by about 3 percent in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in 2009. Additionally, with the improving economy and surging gas prices, motorcycle travel is expected to increase, thus increasing exposure to risk. Finally, motorcycle helmet use dropped from 67 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2010.  In addition, motorcycle registrations continue to rise as the baby boom generation rediscovers riding a motorcycle.

In Oregon, the laws focus on safety and training.  The 2009 Oregon Legislature passed several motorcycle safety related laws in an effort to improve safety. In 2010, the penalty for riding without a motorcycle endorsement changed from a Class B (minimum $360) to a Class A (minimum $720) violation. Changes were also made to Oregon’s motorcycle training requirements, requiring new motorcycle riders to complete an ODOT-approved training course. The law has a five year phase-in period based on the age of the rider. As of January 2011, new riders age 30 and under must complete a basic or intermediate rider training course. Additional age groups will be phased-in each year until 2015 when all new riders must take training.

Oregon has made significant progress in motorcycle safety, but I’d argue that an awareness campaign once a year is not nearly enough.  Remember the rants and blog posts about those ODOT message boards?  No, I’m not bitter…

Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

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