Georgia on Two Wheels
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1214589454Q2B5aOBicyclists love this time of year … the good weather and sunshine makes riding a real joy. And with so many beautiful rides in Georgia and many events that are aimed at bike enthusiasts, our state is a great place for a great ride. One recent bicycling event was a somber reminder that our roads can also be unfriendly at times. Earlier this week, Roswell City Hall was the site of a memorial for those who have lost loved ones and friends due to bicycle or pedestrian accidents. There were opportunities to memorialize those tragedies and the people who have lost their lives on foot or on a bicycle. In addition, a forum was created during this event in which those attending were given two minutes each to express their feelings and ideas about how Georgians can lower the fatality rate for those who are sharing the road with motor vehicles of all kinds.

The Georgia Department of Transportation keeps tabs on many aspects of road safety and statistics and is reporting a very steep rise in bicycle fatalities since last year. The alarming statistic is that as compare to 2014, these fatalities have risen a shocking 63 percent. Overall, those most vulnerable sharing the road such as bicycle riders and pedestrians, comprise over 15 percent of Georgia’s traffic and road fatalities. On their Twitter feed, GDOT notes that in the first three months of 2015, 17% of fatalities on our roads were either bicyclists or pedestrians.

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Motorcycle rider on fall roadwayAn unusual incident involving a Rex, Georgia motorcycle rider occurred last week. Police in North Myrtle Beach report that a man riding a stolen motorcycle was killed after running a red light. The authorities said they attempted to stop the rider because his license wasn’t displayed correctly, but the rider did not stop for the police and instead dropped off his female passenger in a parking lot and sped off. The passenger is from Decatur, Georgia and was not injured in the accident.

While all of this was unfolding, the rider ultimately ran a red light and struck the side of a boat that was being towed behind a pick up truck. The driver of the truck was attempting to make a left turn at the time of the crash. The rider, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown a great distance from the stolen bike and although he was taken to the hospital, he passed away from his injuries. He may have sped up just prior to the collision. This appears to be a tragic accident that could have been avoided.

At this point, the authorities are not citing anyone for this accident. And although the man appears to have been evading the police, we have no facts about why he was riding the stolen bike or if he knew it was a stolen bike. The early reports indicate that the bike had been stolen in Alabama.

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motorcyclecrashSeveral motorcycle crashes over the past two weeks in the Atlanta area have served to remind us all of the dangers of intersection motorcycle collisions and other potential for fatal collisions as the weather improves and more riders are out on their bikes. We need everyone to stay safe, but spring has already seen fatalities that are leaving families and friends grieving. Just this past week, two vehicles, one a motorcycle and one an pick up truck collided in an intersection in Gwinnett County. Reports of this collision indicated that the truck driver, who was attempting to make a U-turn, drove into the bike’s path. The rider did not survive this crash. And another collision in Gwinnett between a car and a bike near the Mall of Georgia occurred this past week, with potential injuries that have not been reported at this time.

Another rider was fatally injured after a car attempting to turn left in a Cobb County intersection was struck by the bike. The driver and passenger in the car were not seriously injured, but were treated for the injuries they did sustain.

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Motorcycle4In October 2014 at a gathering in New York on highway safety, a researcher from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) presented preliminary results from the naturalistic riding study that is currently underway at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).  The study is a coordinated effort with MSF and VTTI. The data collected thus far is not being formally published yet as it is too early for researchers to reach final conclusions from it. But there are some general points emerging thus far.  The purpose of the study is intended to help researchers understand “the role of human factors in traffic safety outcomes.” In other words, it is an effort to identify how riders can manage their rides more safely and avoid bike crashes and fatalities. We have been sharing information about this study that has been underway for the past couple of years in four locations around the country. These include riders in Irvine, California riding year round;  those in Orlando, Florida riding in similar conditions; riders in Blacksburg, Virginia with lots of two-lane roads and hills; and, those in Phoenix, Arizona where there are many sports bikes and no helmet laws.

The intention of this study has been to collect riding data in a natural way using video and other technologies that will pin-point what specific factors are involved in motorcycle crashes and near-crashes. Although the data is still being collected and analyzed, there are some early patterns emerging based on what has been collected thus far. The collected data is based on over 350,000 miles of riding so far. Riders of all ages are part of this study. All types of riding is also part of this study — subjects were not only those riding during leisure time, but those who use their bikes to get to work. It also includes those who wear protective gear and those who do not.

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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610One of the best things for most bike riders is the freedom of the open road, unencumbered by the “cage” of a car or truck. One of the facts of riding is that it is fairly impossible for bike riders to be distracted by the use of hand held devices while riding. Unless you have three hands or an extra arm, texting while riding is not going to happen. Perhaps a rider might check a handheld at a stop sign or signal, but hand held and bike riding is thankfully just not physically realistic. But for those driving in cars and trucks, we see this distracted driving more and more and it is very dangerous for everyone sharing the road, particularly those on bikes. Drivers in cars and trucks using hand held devices, which are to varying degrees illegal for use while driving in many states, are often the cause of injury-causing accidents with those on bikes.

A study from the Florida Department of Transportation states that those in cars and trucks are in fact more often at fault for the failure to yield to bikes and other small vehicles. The study indicates that those in cars and trucks are more often to blame in severe or fatal crashes than the bike rider. One of the reasons for this is that drivers simply don’t expect to see a smaller vehicle on the road and don’t pay attention at times to what is around them. This is becoming true also with pedestrian accidents. If you are riding a bike or walking across a street, it is necessary to become a defensive rider or walker to protect against this level of distraction. Add to this inherent lack of awareness and thinking ahead on the road, those distracting handhelds and it is really quite a dangerous formula. This is especially true as the weather improves in warmer climates and as we move into spring. Drivers will start seeing more riders out as the weather improves and some of them will fail to notice the increased presence of motorcycles.

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Thumbnail image for candles .jpgLast month, one of the musicians for a popular heavy metal band lost his life on his bike. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends. Although reports do not provide a great deal of detail on the passing of the Black Tusk bass player and Georgia resident Jonathan Anthon, he was said to have sustained what were deemed critical injuries after his Harley bike broadsided another vehicle. The band had several recordings already out on their record label and had just finished another in the recent past.

The band posted a very sad memorial note on their website. They had been advised by the hospital physicians that Mr. Anthon sustained severe brain injuries. Although he was placed in a medically-induced coma, the doctors were not able to save him after the serious injuries to his head that eventually caused his death. Apparently, his wishes were known by those close to him or he had a health care directive which indicated that he did not want to remain on life support and that he wanted his organs donated. The deceased band member’s girlfriend was a passenger on the bike when the crash occurred. She survived the crash without serious injury, but her loved one did not.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for burned out bikeGeorgia on Two Wheels has posted in the past about the dangers of guardrails to motorcycle riders, and to vehicles in general, during a collision. Just this past week, a couple riding their bike in California rounded a curve, hit a guardrail and were fatally injured. They were wearing helmets, reportedly speed was a factor in the crash. Such tragedy seems unlikely given that guardrails are supposed to protect, not kill. But many unsuspecting riders and drivers are unaware of the inherent dangers in many guardrail systems. Drivers assume that these roadside structures are intended to keep them safe on impact. But unfortunately, the opposite can be the case. Last year, we posted about a Marietta man who was killed when his bike crashed into a guard rail in a single bike crash. Guardrails are not only dangerous to riders in a collision, but drivers in general in four wheel vehicles. We have just learned that the Georgia Department of Transportation will no longer use a particular type of guardrail due to safety concerns. Due to pending litigation involving a particular guardrail system, they have issued a moratorium on the installation of the guardrails until further testing is completed.

The particular guardrail in question is called the “ET-Plus.” An investigative report by Channel 2, WSBTV noted that a passenger was killed when part of a guardrail entered the vehicle in which he was riding struck the guardrail. Although this type of guardrail is intended to keep motorcycle riders, cars and trucks safe, there is a big issue with these guardrails. In the horrific injury involved in the I-285 crash, the guardrail actually went through a door of the vehicle and struck the passenger. Otherwise, that portion of the vehicle was actually not at all impacted during the crash. The victim’s family was left to grieve a loss of life that was avoidable, the worst pain of all.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003222033XSmall.jpgThe danger of intersections for bikers was brought home again this week as a Paulding County man was killed on his bike. The 55-year-old beloved grandfather was on his way to a bike rally. His life was cut short when another vehicle failed to stop at a red light and attempted a left turn through an intersection which the biker was entering at the time. Other bikers ran to help the victim, but tragically he had been struck and was dragged quite a distance after he was hit. He ended up under the vehicle. His wife was one of the other bikers traveling with the victim. It is possible that the driver of the vehicle that allegedly struck the biker may have been talking on her cell phone at the time of the crash. Reports indicated that other drivers stopped at the intersection, while she continued to drive through it and some witnesses report seeing her on her phone. This is not confirmed.

The driver has now been charged in the biker’s death. Charges against the driver include those found in Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393 for homicide by vehicle, as well as failing to stop at a red light. The biker’s happy trip to the Georgia State HOG Rally was cut short so tragically and needlessly.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for burned out bikeThis past week, a Georgia State Route 144 motorcycle crash resulted in a life flight to Memorial Medical Health University. The rider was said to have been traveling eastbound when the truck in front of him began to make a turn or was stopped. Unfortunately, the bike hit the left rear wheel of a truck and ended up on its side, sliding across the road with its rider on it. It was reported by the Georgia State Patrol that the biker may not have been able to see the truck’s rear lights due to cargo that was strapped to the back of the truck. It is uncertain whether charges will be filed against either driver.

Coming up on a road hazard is not actually a rare occurrence. All riders need to be prepared to know what to do when out of the blue, a vehicle or other hazard appears. Although we do not know whether there was a way for the rider to avoid hitting this truck, given the issue with the truck’s brake lights being concealed by cargo, we thought it might be helpful to go through some braking tips in case a reader encounters a road hazard and needs to quickly avert and take defensive action.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1214589454Q2B5aO.jpgLast month, we posted about a Morningside hit and run involving a person driving a vehicle and a cyclist, which apparently was the result a previous interaction between the two. The vehicle’s driver has now been arrested. The accident … which authorities allege was an intentional collision … seriously injured a cyclist who was hospitalized for an extended time and is now recovering from brain trauma at another location under medical care. The suspect in the hit and run was taken into custody and is charged with several serious charges, including attempted murder and serious injury by vehicle found in Official Code of Georgia sections 16-4-1, 16-4-1(a) and 40-6-394. The cyclist and the vehicle’s driver had an interchange only minutes prior to the hit and run. Although he tried to extricate himself from the verbal altercation, the cyclist was tracked down and according to police intentionally struck by the driver. In addition, another person (apparently the driver’s girlfriend) has been arrested for evidence tampering. This too is a serious crime in Georgia set out in Official Code of Georgia section 16-10-94 which prohibits interfering with evidence or with the apprehension or prosecution of persons involved in potentially criminal activities.

The hit and run appears to have been solved through the offering of a reward and the type of investigative work we have discussed previously in hit and run accidents. In this situation, the authorities were able to locate evidence that matched up to the arrested suspect’s vehicle. In addition, the reports on the arrests reveal that investigators also had some video recorded evidence that shows the suspect’s girlfriend who has also been arrested, with doing something with the evidence in their possession. The investigation was also greatly guided and supported with the use of video from the scene. Cameras captured an unusual sequence of events that unfolded on a quiet evening in Morningside.

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