Instructors say education is key in limiting motorcycle deaths

Posted at 2:11 PM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 19:09:15-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Warmer weather has motorcycle enthusiasts dusting off their bikes and hitting the roads. 

In Kansas City, traffic fatalities involving motorcycles have climbed in recent years.

Many motorcycle riders tell 41 Action News they've had drivers swerve into their lanes.

"The closest call I’ve ever had - and he intentionally tried to kill me," explained Rick Wheaton, a rider coach certified through Motorcycle Safety Foundation and Harley Davidson. "I just went like this to push him away and he cranked it hard my way."

Wheaton said how he handled it was providing time and space, so he slowed down, letting the aggressive driver go in front.

Kansas City Police say that in 2016 there were 8 deaths and in 2017 that number jumped to 16. So far in 2018, there have been three.

Overland Park officers said they have not had any motorcycle traffic deaths in 2018. In 2016 they had two and in 2017 one.

Deaths in motorcycle accidents happen 29 more times than in car wrecks, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

A Kansas City, Mo. Police sergeant tells 41 Action News a leading cause of traffic wrecks is impairment - drugs or alcohol.

Sgt. Bill Mahoney, who leads many traffic investigations for KCPD, said Kansas City may have seen more deadly crashes in 2017 because of warmer weather.

Nationally, 2016 saw the most motorcycle deaths since 2008 at 5,286.

Mahoney also said officers see distracted drivers or people pulling up to intersections with their heads down, all of the time.

"Usually a phone or some other device in the vehicle is to blame for it," said Mahoney, who has heard similar stories from construction road crews.  "Whether you're in a car or motorcycle, it's something everybody needs to be aware of."

In Missouri, if you're under 21 you cannot legally text and drive.

In Kansas, it's illegal to text and drive.

Wheaton said he still sees it, and it puts motorcyclists at risk.

"If they’re distracted, they may run over you and kill you," said Wheaton.

In Missouri, you have to wear a helmet while riding or as a passenger on a motorcycle. In Kansas, that is not the case.

"You’re not only hurting yourself, you’re hurting your family and your kids," said Wheaton.

The CDC reports if you do wear a helmet and are involved in a crash, you are 37 percent more likely to live.

Wheaton said you should always have a DOT approved helmet and wear protective clothing. 

If you get into a tight spot, you should search, evaluate and then execute.

Wheaton said you should also keep time and space between you and the car in front of you.

"Driving out there just double check your blind spots, be aware," said Mahoney, who explained motorcyclists will be seen more and more frequently and drivers should look to sharpen up their skills.

Wheaton encourages motorcycle riders to come to a class taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

"I want to save as many lives as I possibly can. Teach as many people the safe way to ride one of these. Save your family and yourself," said Wheaton.