Road savvy - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Road savvy

Idaho motorcycle deaths more than double from 2011

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Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2012 12:00 am

Dave Cazel has ridden a motorcycle for more than 30 years, but he still considers himself a student on two wheels.

"Every time I take a class I learn something new," the Coeur d'Alene man said. "There's always room for education. Motorcycles are a pleasurable activity, but you've got to be on your toes for automobiles, construction, individuals, animals and just the lay of the road."

Idaho motorcycle fatalities are up more than double from last year through the end of July from six to 13, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Six of this year's deaths occurred in July, which tied for the fourth-highest month in the past six years.

A NHTSA report indicates that the warmer weather this year may be playing a part in the increased numbers.

"Certainly, nicer weather means more riders on the road," said Stacey "Ax" Axmaker, Idaho STAR (Skills Training Advantage for Riders) Motorcycle Safety Program director.

The recent spike in motorcycle fatalities has prompted safety groups to issue warnings.

However, this year's total is still lower than the 16 in 2010 at this time, 17 in 2009, 19 in 2008 and 14 in 2007.

"Last year may have been an anomaly, but we hope it wasn't," Cazel said.

The average number of motorcycle fatalities per year for Idaho during the past five years is 27.4.

Last month's motorcycle fatalities included Kurt Henson, a 47-year-old from Post Falls who was a Spokane police officer and formerly worked at the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Henson died in an accident on Highway 200 near Clark Fork on July 24. Police said the motorcycle struck an abrupt lane in a construction zone, throwing Henson and his passenger, Kimberly Lennox, 43, also of Post Falls, from the motorcycle. Lennox was treated and released from Bonner General Hospital.

Police said a pickup driven by Brianna Knapp, 28, struck Henson and the motorcycle. Knapp was later arrested for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

Idaho State Police on Thursday said the case is still being investigated, there's no new information to be released and it remains unclear if alcohol was a factor.

About 70 percent of the fatal motorcycle crashes in Idaho from 2009 to 2011 were associated with driver error, according to NHTSA.

Cazel, a leader in the Kootenai Chapter of ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) of North Idaho and STAR advisory committee member, said ABATE estimates that about 40 percent of motorcycle fatalities are due to failure to negotiate curves because of inattentive driving, speeding and other factors.

"When a crash does happen, good quality riding gear - a jacket, pants, gloves and helmet - can make a huge difference in injury and even survival," Axmaker said. "If you are a rider, please gear up. If you have a rider in your life that you care about, ask them to gear up."

Cazel said the motorcycle world has come a long way toward educating riders about safety in recent years, and statistics show it. But there's always room for improvement and there's going to be some who don't believe they need training.

"Encouraging riders to take education safety courses is the best thing we can do to alleviate problems," Cazel said.

According to an Idaho Transportation Department report, there were 489 motorcycle crashes in 2011. It was the lowest number in the past five years and a 7.4 percent drop from 528 in 2010.

Of all motorcyclists involved in crashes in 2011, 85 percent resulted in injuries.

Ten percent of all motorcycle crashes involved impaired motorcyclists, while 35 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved impaired motorcyclists.

Nearly half of all motorcycle crashes were single-vehicle crashes and 65 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved only a single motorcycle.

Of the motorcyclists killed in 2011, 65 percent were over the age of 40. The report states a motorcyclist was injured in a crash every 20 hours.

Fifty-five percent of riders involved in crashes in 2011 were wearing a helmet.

The report states there were 56,643 registered motorcycles in the state in 2011, a 4.3 percent increase from 2010.

Post Falls' Sam Martin is considering buying a motorcycle because he enjoyed riding as a teen.

The 54-year-old said he understands there are risks, but, just like driving a car, that risk can greatly be reduced by paying attention to the road and not getting sidetracked.

"Riding offers the freedom of being outdoors, but it probably pays to be a little more cautious than even being in a car," he said. "I believe in being protected (with riding gear) and my wife makes sure that I am. Education also helps, even for us older folks who believe we've been down the road before."

Motorcycle safety

Idaho STAR (Skills Training Advantage for Riders) will put on three Basic I courses in September. They run from Sept. 7-9 in both Sandpoint and Hayden and Sept. 21-23 in Hayden. Basic II classes will be held Aug. 17 in Sandpoint and Aug. 24, Sept. 22 and Sept. 23 in Hayden. Both Basic classes cost $105. STAR also puts on an Experienced course that will be scheduled later. For more information, visit or call (888) 280-7827.

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  • rocky123 posted at 9:36 pm on Fri, Aug 17, 2012.

    rocky123 Posts: 9

    I agree with you. This post is truly inspirational. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.The weather was not such|| He was rich enough|| I don't know her || The first player to score|| The most convenient ||

  • whatever123 posted at 4:32 pm on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    whatever123 Posts: 58

    I agree that the driving has steadily gone down. I was hit by someone that blew through a stop sign not too long ago. Have been watching that intersection since then and see that 90% of people just slow slightly and then go.

    I also have a problem with those on 95 or other roads with lots of stop lights slowing down 2 or 3 blocks back coming up to a red light? those who want to make turns can't get to the turn lanes and then on top of that the light turns green and people have slowed so far back they hit red again and don't have a chance to make the green before it turns again.

  • pubcrawler posted at 7:09 am on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    pubcrawler Posts: 83

    Motorcycling is a safe activity, but the key is to manage the risks. You'd like to think that alot of the incidents involve kids on crotch rockets, but the only incident I've seen on the road involving a crotch rocket was where a passenger fell off the back during rapid acceleration, and unfortunately thst looked like a bad result. Most incidents seem to involve older men on cruisers and result from complacency. If I was to share some advice for riding in the conditions we experience in Idaho I'd have these thoughts: spend your money on performance, not glitz. Ride defensively at all times. Get where you're going before dusk, deer whistles are a fraud and animals don't care about loud pipes. Maintain your bike, and follow the prudential rule: if its bigger than you are, stay out of its way, who has the right of way is absolutely irrelevant.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 8:14 am on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    K has nothing to do with how long one has lived here. DMV is MAKING people change their plates. GHEEZ!

  • voxpop posted at 6:02 am on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Indeed. Experience makes all the difference. But there are still two types of riders: those who've had an accident, and those who will have an accident. And I totally agree about Cda drivers today. The vast majority of these impatience, arrogant, selfish morons have K license plates.

  • efromm posted at 12:50 am on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    efromm Posts: 689

    No amount of education can ever replace seat time! Take all the classes you want. It does not make you a proficient rider. Unless those classes are held on a track or are on the road. Riding in circles in a parking lot will not help you. I have seen my fair share of accidents over my 30 years plus riding motorcycles. Some of my dearest friends have died on the road and the majority of them were because they did not know what they were doing. They had not put in the time to learn the skills that they needed to save themselves. A big ego can lead to a terrible end.

    The people in this town drive like poo. I was almost hit three times today and I was in a car. On my bike it's much worse. I have owned the same bike for 22 years. And over those 22 years I have seen a trend around here of the driving getting worse with the more people moving here from the cities. And there are a lot more bikes on the road now than there ever has been before.

    When you get on a motorcycle you are literally taking your life in your own hands. I love how they will make you wear a seat belt in a car where you are protected by the cage. But on a bike your totally exposed. You will be ejected it's where your ejected that is the problem. Like the poor officer killed. It's obvious that the woman driving the truck was following too closely. She had zero time to react to what was happening in front of her. She was taking a chance with his life. And he lost. The penalties for killing a motorcycle rider should be very stiff. Don't tailgate bikes!

    I learned a long time ago that speed does not kill. It's inexperience that kills. Knowing what to do has to be practiced. And learning what your bike can do also has to be learned. That is why riding a dirt bike or a dual sport is a good place to start. You can learn how a bike slides and reacts to input. And if you dump it it's not as big of a deal cause the speeds are slower and the cost of repair is much lower. Instead of the STAR program which every person who rides a bike has to pay for which I think is ridiculous. They need to institute a graduation system like they have in England. Where you have to pay to learn to ride and graduate to a 1000cc plus bike. So you just can't go out and buy that big bike until you actually know what your doing. That alone will lower the fatality rate. It may take you 4 years before you get up to 1000cc plus bike. But when you do you will know how to actually ride a motorcycle when you do.

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