Deadliest Year for Motorcyclists
CDOT Launches New Awareness Campaign
With the warmer weather comes the need to hit the open road on your bike and feel the wind in your hair. And no doubt hundreds will be doing just that this first real spring weekend in Leadville. But it’s also a good time to take note of May being designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, coinciding with the beginning of the riding season in the state. And while its difficult to believe that in the year of the pandemic Colorado saw its deadliest year on record for motorcyclists, its the reason that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is launching a new campaign aimed at keeping motorcyclists safe.
“Last year, there were 137 motorcyclists killed on Colorado roadways, more than any year on record, and a 33 percent increase from 2019 when there were 103 motorcyclists killed. Although motorcycles are only 3 percent of the registered vehicles in the state, they made up 22 percent of the traffic fatalities in 2020. The research and data show helmet use as the most important factor in the survivability of a motorcycle crash,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “Head injuries are common in these crashes. So, whether you are riding around town or cross country, we encourage riders to always wear a helmet.”
New data shows that 52 percent of motorcycle riders killed in 2019 were not wearing helmets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 83 motorcyclists’ lives could have been saved in Colorado between 2015-2017 if all riders had worn helmets. Instead, there were 334 motorcyclists were killed during that period, most not wearing helmets.
“Motorcycle ownership requires great responsibility from riders with skill and gear as key ingredients,” stated Matthew C. Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Whether this is your first season or your fifteenth, you will enjoy the ride more as a safer, more confident rider. Don’t be content with just passing the training required for the issuance of your license, add to your knowledge and skills for advanced mastery of your motorcycle.” The Colorado State Patrol can help riders develop new skills through the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST). For more information, visit www.comost.com.
In May, CDOT will launch the new Aftermath campaign to underscore the importance of wearing a helmet. The campaign will dispel misconceptions about wearing a helmet, such as they are too restrictive, by showing the devastating consequences of not wearing one. The campaign will run across the state on billboards and on social media. Some of the images used in the campaign are here.
CDOT also reminds drivers of cars and trucks to use caution around motorcycles. This includes carefully checking blind spots and using extra caution at intersections since motorcycles can be hard to see. In addition, it is advised that drivers never follow motorcycles too closely since a motorcyclist can stop more quickly than a car.
In addition to wearing helmets, riders should do the following to stay safe on Colorado roads:
- Get a license endorsement. Getting a motorcycle license endorsement keeps the motorcyclist in compliance with state law and verifies the motorcyclist has the basic skills to operate a motorcycle on a roadway.
- Wear proper gear. Proper gear includes a helmet, boots that cover the ankles, riding pants and jacket, gloves, and eye protection.
- Receive professional training. All motorcyclists should receive professional training. Long-time riders are encouraged to go to training classes for a refresher every few years.
- Follow all traffic laws. All motorcyclists are required to follow the rules of the road. In Colorado, lane splitting is illegal.
- Ride sober. Even one drink can decrease reaction times, coordination, vision, judgement and concentration, all of which are crucial when operating a motorcycle.
State Patrol Sees Increase in Crashes, Fatalities
By Trooper Gary Cutler, Colorado State Patrol
As fun as it is to ride a motorcycle, I wanted to let you know that the Colorado State Patrol is seeing an increase in motorcycle crashes and fatalities and we really want to curb that problem. Contrary to what a lot of people may think, a lot of these crashes haven’t included other vehicles. They are single motorcycles going down. This issue seems mostly to be with riders that don’t have a lot of training or as much experience as they should have to ride. Their skills may not be the best because they don’t ride every day. This is not meant to be demeaning to these riders, but to have them realize steps may be needed to increase their riding abilities.
Consider researching a motorcycle operator skills course. As Brian Tracy states, “Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.” I believe that whole heartily when it comes to strengthening your riding skills. You can never know too much about riding techniques. The courses have different levels of skill training for all riders. Usually they teach for beginners, intermediate, and advanced riders. So even if you’ve been riding for years, a training course can be for you. Maybe try an advanced riders’ course and see how it can improve your skills.
So, lets delve into some of the problems we see when it comes to motorcycle riders crashing.
- Dirt and rocks on the roadway. Some riders are not looking out for it. You see a lot of it especially in early spring from snowplow operations.
- Going into blind curves too fast and going off the road or into oncoming traffic. Know the area your riding. If it’s an area your unfamiliar with don’t outride your skills. Take your time and enjoy the ride.
- Having passengers on the bike that are unfamiliar with leaning, or who don’t have confidence in the operator and counterbalance causing the bike to go off the roadway. It also goes the other way with motorcycle operators who don’t know how to ride with a passenger on the back of the bike. Have that conversation prior to riding with someone on the bike.
- Not knowing how to use the front brake in tandem with the back brake. It is imperative to be able to stop quickly when needed. Learn how to use your brakes correctly.
- Watching for vehicles coming into your path. Have an escape plan to stay out of the vehicle’s way. You can always be in the right and still be injured.
- Leaning into curves that place your upper body over the center line and in the path of oncoming traffic. Don’t hug the centerline so closely.
- Not having the proper safety equipment to prevent injury in the event of a crash. This includes a helmet, eye protection, gloves, boots, padded jacket, and pants.
- Absolutely no alcohol when riding. It happens more often than you think.
One last item. Make sure you have that motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license. We do check for those on a traffic stop. So, if you don’t ride, but know someone who does, talk to them about some of the things I hit in this article. You may save the life of a friend or loved one. These are very basic concepts of riding, but they are so often overlooked.
As always, safe travels!
Trooper Cutler is a Public Information Officer for the Colorado State Patrol.
Commuters Prepare for Delays Over-The-Hill
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and prime contractor, United Companies, will begin a repaving project next week (May 1) on westbound Interstate 70 between Silverthorne and Frisco. According to a press release distributed to media outlets last week, westbound lanes will be repaved within the project zone, spanning approximately five miles from Mile Point 203 to MP 207.
The bad news: the completion is expected in late fall. The good news: eastbound traffic will not be affected, so good #afterhours planning on the westbound return trip home could help ease the cone zone pain. Improvements include the removal and replacement of deteriorating portions of three concrete bridge decks, including the westbound I-70 on-ramp at Silverthorne (Exit 205). According to CDOT officials, potholes are forming where on-ramp lanes join I-70 because of the current traffic patterns. Upgrading the bridge deck will improve safety and minimize potholes from developing.
“Addressing the delamination on the bridge decks is an important part of improving the motorist experience and maintaining this popular section of I-70,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “We’re looking forward to conducting repairs with a new class of concrete that provides better bonding strength will lessen overall maintenance and further road damage.”
Repairs will improve the bridges’ integrity and longevity. The full extent of work will be known once the asphalt is removed and the existing concrete is tested for soundness. Guardrails will also see upgrades on this project, with new features that help prevent future slope erosion. Approximately 15,402 linear feet will be removed and replaced throughout the project.
According to CDOT officials, minimizing impacts to visitors and residents has been considered in the planning stage, therefore, work will take place from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., starting on Monday nights and ending Friday mornings. Weekend work is not anticipated although schedules are subject to change. While work is underway, only one westbound lane will remain open for motorists. Delays may be possible during heavier traffic hours. Bridge deck work could require additional closures.
Commuters can stay informed about the I-70 project in the following manners:
Other Summit County Projects
Two more Summit County jobs are currently underway. Each has its own team and prime contractor. More information on these projects can be found at www.cotrip.org or on their specific website pages.
Other CDOT Projects Across Colorado
While Leadville and Lake County do not have any planned CDOT Projects for Summer 2021, for travelers who leave Lake County, here’s what other delays you may encounter and want to plan for in the coming months.
The Dancing CDOT Dude of Minturn
It’s a throwback video of one of everyone’s favorite CDOT dancing dude from last summer’s Minturn construction project. Does he take requests? Or can communities request him? His enthusiasm is contagious!
Work Zone Awareness Highlighted
Today wraps up the 21st Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week. The week-long event is a focused effort to remind motorists and workers alike on the need to be safe and remain vigilant through areas where road construction and maintenance operations are taking place.
This year’s theme of “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives” aims to remind drivers to prevent the often-tragic consequences of work zone crashes by slowing down, following road sign directions and paying attention to flaggers. It also encourages workers to stay safe by continuing to follow the rules and regulations designed to prevent deaths and injuries.
“Work zone safety is the responsibility of anyone who’s traveling through a location where roadway construction or a maintenance operation is occurring,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “We’re asking the traveling public to remain diligent when coming up on work zones by giving the road your full attention: stay off your cellphone, look out for other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and other potential hazards, slow down, and please watch out for the people doing their jobs to build and maintain our roads.”
While highways workers are at great risk every day, it is just as critical for motorists to be safe and responsible in work zones. In fact, four out of five work zone fatalities are motorists, not roadway workers.
“Enforcement in work zones is a top priority for our troopers and for good reason, lives are more important than convenience,” stated Colorado State Patrol Chief Matthew C. Packard. “Motorists have to do their part to create a safe environment for workers and themselves. Whether it is reducing speed, merging safely, or concentrating on the road for activity, or lane adjustments, construction traffic is temporary, and moving through the zone is much quicker if crashes are avoided.”
Approximately 200 CDOT construction projects take place on the state highway system annually. Maintenance projects requiring lane, shoulder or ramp closures number about 25,000 per year.
A recent reminder on the importance of worker safety was the death of CDOT surveyor Steven Hagemann in 2020. He was struck by a hit-and-run driver while working on a pedestrian safety project in northwest Denver. His name was added to the Memorial Rock in front of CDOT’s Denver headquarters last year.
Recent Work Zone Crash Statistics in Colorado
- Fatal crashes: two year-to-date 2021
- Fatal crashes: 14 resulting in 14 deaths in 2020
- Fatal crashes: nine resulting in nine deaths in 2019.
- Crashes resulting in serious injuries in 2019: 49
- Overall crashes: 2,462 in 2019