Numerous crashes have made August a deadly month for Midstate motorcycle enthusiasts.
Of the nearly 8.9 million licensed drivers in Pennsylvania, there are more than 860,000 licensed motorcyclists, many of whom are out on the roads this time of year, according to statistics provided by PennDOT.
In 2013, of the 3,427 motorcycle crashes that occurred, 181 people were killed, PennDOT reported.
Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson Trooper Robert Hicks said the main causes of motorcycle crashes are speed and other drivers not paying attention.
“We see a lot of motorcycle crashes where the bikers are driving too fast and/or aggressively and lose control, or take a bend in the road too fast and end up going off the roadway,” he said. “The other factor is other drivers not paying enough attention and they might not see the motorcyclist, so they cut the biker off or pull out in front of them, causing a crash.”
In nearly 34 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes, the investigating officer indicated that the motorcycle rider did not contribute to the crash. Additionally, 33 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes were angle crashes — a crash which most frequently occurs at intersections, according to PennDOT.
Speed, however, was the main contributor in 45 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2013, PennDOT said.
Another reason for crashes is impaired drivers. PennDOT listed 27 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2013 involved a motorcycle rider who was under the influence of alcohol.
Craig Kissenger, president of the Turnpike Ramblers, said it is important for all drivers, especially motorcyclists, to pay attention and obey all traffic laws in order to keep from becoming a statistic.
August has seen a string of fatal and non-fatal incidents involving motorcycles.
The most recent incident occurred Aug. 16 in Monroe Township, when Patrick A. Hefflefinger, 23, of Mechanicsburg, was killed after being thrown from his motorcycle at the intersection of Kuhn Road and Oak Hill Drive at 1:13 a.m.
This crash came on the heels of several crashes the day before, including incidents in Lower Allen Township and Franklin County.
The Franklin County incident occurred in the area of the 13000 block of Path Valley Road, Metal Township, when Timothy Rock, 54, failed to negotiate a curve and drove off the road into a field. Rock was pronounced dead at the scene and was not wearing a helmet at the time, police said.
The Lower Allen incident involved a man who was flown to the hospital for injuries after police said he crashed into the side of a van on Gettysburg Road at Hartzdale Drive at 1:30 p.m.
The previous week also saw several fatal incidents, including the Aug. 12 death of Seth M. Stellfox, 33, of Philadelphia, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when his motorcycle hit a guardrail. Stellfox, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Also that day, Cody Johnson, 23, of Hamilton Township, was killed in a crash on Edenville Road in Chambersburg. Investigators say Johnson was not wearing a helmet.
Gary Strausbaugh Jr., 57, of York Haven, succumbed to his injuries Aug. 12 after a two-vehicle crash at 6:51 p.m. Aug. 10 on Susquehanna Trail at Locust Lane in Manchester Township. Police said Strausbaugh was not wearing a helmet.
Hicks said it is important for all drivers to be aware of motorcycles, in order to keep from being involved in incidents such as these.
“I have a motorcycle myself and enjoy riding,” he said. “Being on a motorcycle you are very exposed out there. A collision between a motorcycle and car/truck is usually never going to end well for the biker.”
Kissenger said it is also important to take advantage of educational opportunities provided by the state.
“We are losing lives out there because of the lack of education,” he said. “Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous undertaking. So, therefore, the more education you can get, the smarter you should be.”
He said members of his group recently completed one such course, a Basic Rider Course 2, at Battlefield Harley-Davidson in Gettysburg, “to learn more about how to control our motorcycles and what to watch out for on the road, to have strategy, an idea of how to be safer on the road.”
Kissenger said all motorcyclists should continue to refine their skills using these educational opportunities.
“If we’ve ridden for 10 years, a lot of times maybe we think we are pretty good, but the reality of it may be that our skills can always use improvement,” he said. “We can always get better at controlling the motorcycle and expecting the unexpected. We are trying to be safer, trying to do what it takes to ride a motorcycle safely because it is so enjoyable.”
He said it is important to promote motorcycle safety also as an ambassador for motorcycling by being courteous on the highway
The best way to protect yourself is to ride smartly, Hicks said. Controlling speed, not driving aggressively, staying out of blind spots, leaving space between vehicles are important safety tips, he said.
“When I ride, I always assume other drivers do not see me because more often than not, they don’t,” he said. “I always try to think ahead while I am riding and I assume that I am going to get cut off or a car is going to pull out in front of me, and I try to come up with a plan should that actually happen.”
Wearing protective clothing and a helmet is also very important, he said.
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