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Published: Monday, 5/20/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Area fatal crashes spur motorcycle safety effort

State, city looking to beef up traffic enforcement soon

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Three fatal motorcycle crashes in Toledo since mid-March and reports of bikers traveling at very high speeds likely will lead to a crackdown on all riders. Three fatal motorcycle crashes in Toledo since mid-March and reports of bikers traveling at very high speeds likely will lead to a crackdown on all riders.
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A string of serious motorcycle crashes has city and state officials considering a joint safety and enforcement campaign in Toledo.

Lt. Jeff Sulewski, head of the Toledo Police Department’s Traffic Section, said three fatal motorcycle crashes in the city since mid-March — including one Wednesday and another May 7 that killed two people — already surpass the two that happened in Toledo all of last year, with most of the summer riding season still to come.

At least three fatal motorcycle crashes also have occurred this spring elsewhere in northwest Ohio.

“We are going to assign special units to work in conjunction with the TPD and aggressively enforce motorcycle laws and regulations,” Lt. William Bowers, commander of the state patrol’s Toledo post, said.

Troopers have been instructed to be particularly alert for motorcycle violations, the post commander said, and the more concerted effort is planned to start within a few weeks.

Lieutenant Sulewski said the earliest of the three Toledo crashes, a March 14 collision at an East Toledo intersection, was blamed on the motorcyclist’s excessive speed, and witness statements from the two more recent crashes also indicate speed as a factor.

In the March incident, investigators calculated that Darrell Camp of Ruthdale Avenue was traveling between 84 and 95 mph in a 35-mph zone on Seaman Street in East Toledo when a sport utility vehicle pulled out from Longdale Avenue into his path, the lieutenant said. The bike skidded into the SUV and Mr. Camp became trapped beneath it; he died of brain and neck trauma.

At 84 mph, a vehicle travels 123.2 feet each second or, Lieutenant Sulewski said, slightly more than the length of a football field in three seconds.

SUV driver Mary Grace Maggard, 35, “never saw him coming because he was going so fast,” he said. “No charges have been filed because of the speed.”

Investigations of the two more recent Toledo crashes continue.

On May 7, John Lamb, Jr., 37, and Shaneil Williams, 28, both of Toledo, were killed when the motorcycle they were riding at about sunset crashed into a tractor-trailer that was pulling out of a business driveway in the 3200 block of Hill Avenue.

And Wednesday afternoon, Randy Randolph, 22, of South Toledo was killed when his motorcycle collided with a van in the 1100 block of West Alexis Road. Mr. Randolph was westbound with two other motorcyclists about 2:55 p.m. when a van turned in front of them into a driveway, police said.

According to the reports, Mr. Camp was wearing a helmet, but Mr. Randolph was not, while the report on the Hill Avenue crash lacked helmet information.

Statewide through April 30, 11 motorcyclists had been killed in fatal crashes, said Lt. Anne Ralston, an Ohio Highway Patrol spokesman. That’s 13 fewer than occurred during the first four months of 2012, she said, but unusually warm weather in early 2012 made last year a statistical anomaly for all types of traffic crashes.

 

A motorcycle was wedged between the guardrail and the berm of I-475 in a 2011 crash with other vehicles. A motorcycle was wedged between the guardrail and the berm of I-475 in a 2011 crash with other vehicles.
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Other crash types

Among the statewide fatalities are the April 28 death of Timothy Moore, Jr., of Carey, whose motorcycle struck a pole along State Rt. 568 east of State Rt. 330 near Vanlue, Ohio, and the April 30 death of Dean Martin, 48, of Findlay, who was eastbound on U.S. 6 at I-75 when an opposing driver turned left across his path to enter the freeway.

More recently, Steven Bradner, 59, of Wauseon was killed May 10 when an oncoming driver on State Rt. 108 turned left across his path.

The crashes involving Mr. Moore and Mr. Bradner occurred at night, while Mr. Martin’s crash occurred at 5:15 p.m.

According to a highway patrol report, the crash on U.S. 6 occurred just after a passenger in the car driven by Kalena Kuhnle had exited the vehicle and started walking away following an argument.

Miss Kuhnle told investigators she had seen a motorcycle “down the road by the curve” before she started to turn, and was not distracted by anything at the time. Witnesses said they did not think the motorcycle was speeding.

Lieutenant Bowers said the crash involving Mr. Bradner appears to be a case of the other driver not seeing the motorcycle’s headlight because it “blended with the vehicle behind it.”

A report on the crash near Vanlue was not yet available. All three crash investigations are ongoing.

Overall last year in Ohio, there were 165 motorcycle-related fatalities, with motorcyclists deemed responsible for 71 percent of them, according to a patrol statement. In Michigan, 129 motorists died in motorcycle crashes last year, which a Michigan State Police statement said was 20 more than in 2011. The statement did not attribute blame.

 

Defensive driving

Both states’ police agencies urged motorcyclists to drive defensively, regardless of whom might end up responsible for a crash, and take motorcycle safety training to help them be safer riders.

“Riders who wear high-visibility gear stand a better chance of being seen on the roadway,” said Michael Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “No one intentionally pulls out in front of a motorcycle. They do it because they don’t see the rider.”

The Michigan agency suggested riders wear bright colors — such as fluorescent red, orange, yellow, or green — and reflective trim for better visibility day and night.

The Ohio Highway Patrol’s statement, which identified May as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness month, said all drivers must be aware of, and acknowledge the rights of, motorcyclists by looking out for them, not following them too closely, and not infringing on their travel lane.

“We’re trying to raise awareness,” Lieutenant Ralston said. “Take a second look, particularly when you’re pulling out, turning left, or changing lanes.”

But the Ohio agency also called on motorcyclists to be properly trained and licensed, wear proper safety equipment, and ride sober. Half of the 509 fatal motorcycle crashes in Ohio between 2010 and 2012, the highway patrol said, involved impaired riders.

Twenty percent of tickets issued last year to motorcyclists in Ohio were for operating without a license or proper motorcycle endorsement, the patrol said.

Riders interested in improving their skills — and particularly their ability to handle emergency maneuvers — should take weekend safety courses above and beyond the basic training required to get a motorcycle license, said Sgt. Tyson Coates, commander of the Toledo Police motorcycle patrol.

Such courses, he said, teach 17 exercises in maneuverability and quick stopping that help avert crashes.

“The biggest thing I see is people not applying their brakes properly,” Sergeant Coates said.

The forward brake is more effective for rapid stops, but riders who get only basic instruction don’t learn how to do that, he said — and some motorcyclists simply keep renewing their temporary permits and never get a proper license at all.

Lieutenant Sulewski said licensing issues are common among the motorcyclists Toledo police occasionally pull over for unsafe operation, and can lead to impoundment of their motorcycles.

“If they’re under suspension, it’s a mandatory tow,” the lieutenant said.

But many of the racing-bike riders, whose late-night, high-speed joyrides — if not outright drag racing — on Toledo-area streets have been the subject of ongoing complaints from people in several residential areas, are going so fast that police have a hard time stopping them, he said.

“They pass us on the expressway, and they don’t even slow down,” Lieutenant Sulewski said.

It is primarily for those motorcyclists — the ones Lieutenant Ralston said are unlikely to be reached by safety messages — that the Toledo police and highway patrol are planning the dedicated enforcement campaign.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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