Safe Riding

2006 Daytona Bike Week Fatalities

Written by  April 30, 2006

Welcome to “Behind Bars.” Catchy name, huh? Contrary to what you might think or may have heard, this doesn’t mean I’ve been in the joint. I picked the name to signify the fact that the views expressed in this column are from the perspective of someone who rides. These views are all mine. You may agree or disagree; that is what letters to the editor are for. Mostly the content of this column will convey what has been on my mind recently regarding motorcycles. As anyone who knows me can tell you, much to our Editor-in-Chief Mike’s chagrin, I am not shy with my opinions.

I have always had a strange affinity for statistics. This year I learned a new one I wish I could forget. Twenty-one people died in Daytona Bike Week-related accidents this year. The previous record for deaths at Daytona was 15 in the year 2000. I know riders die all the time; I have lost friends and acquaintances in motorcycle accidents, but for some reason these deaths haunt me. I don’t know why. What I do know is this—eight of these people were killed by drivers who “didn’t see them.” That leaves 13 deaths that were not deemed the fault of someone in a cage. Two of these folks died in a head-on collision with each other. One rider tried to pass a truck and took out himself and the other rider. We are still left with 11 deaths that were blamed on no one else but the rider. One of these deaths befell a man who had just bought his motorcycle at the rally. The bike’s odometer showed 72 miles at the accident scene. Was he a new rider? We don’t know. Did he have enough miles to know his new bike? I don’t think so. Was drinking involved in some of the accidents? I could not find anything to indicate yes or no in the records I found. Was it just kids on sport bikes hot-dogging? While many people like to excuse their risky riding by saying “at least I’m not acting like some moron on a crotch rocket,” the ages of the victims seems to say that youth in this case wasn’t a factor.

There is one other factor I would like to explore, the “lack of riding experience” factor. I, like a lot of my friends, ride most of the year. Give me a day above 35-40 and I am just as likely to be riding as driving. I also admit my cold weather riding is nowhere near as frequent or as long in duration as my warm weather riding. After the season when rides may be days to weeks apart, I always feel a little rusty when warm weather finally gets here. Keep in mind I have been riding over 25 years and average 12,000-15,000 miles per year and I still feel the need to work out the winter kinks and practice some of the riding techniques I haven’t used for a while.. Now, take a rally the size of Daytona, which is held when many bikes from states that have a real winter area are still tucked away cozy in the garage only to be loaded onto a trailer headed for the Sunshine State. These bikes are unloaded in the midst of 500,000 other bikes, many which may have been in hibernation only days before. Could this be part of the problem? Who knows for sure, but I would be inclined to think it is a least a part.

So, to sum all this up I ask all of you who ride: Go to the rallies but go prepared. Don’t go plunk down $25,000 or more on something you can’t operate safely in a crowd, and I do mean crowd. If you have never ridden at a big rally, it is like nothing you have ever seen. Practice your panic stops and evasive maneuvers. Take a riding skills course if only as a refresher. Last but not least, if you are only going to ride 100 miles per year, don’t do it at a rally. Think about the people listed below. The person you kill may not just be yourself.

By Loney Wilcoxson

2006 Daytona Bike Week Fatalities:

Jody Driggers, 39, Tarrytown, GA
Dean K. Ruland, 65, Cobleskill, NY
Louis Polk, 44, Daytona Beach, FL
Craig Brooks, 24, Daytona Beach, FL
Robert Lee Welsbach, 41, Boca Raton, FL
Janet Solomon Welsbach, 37, Boca Raton, FL
David Batson, 60, Cocoa Beach, FL
Lawrence M. Lokatys, 48, Manchester, CT
Robert Earl Cameron, 47, Edgewater, FL
Joseph Poda, 38, Branch Dale, PA
David H. Hudson, 63, Lake Wales, FL
Alvin Palmer, 59, Arlington, VA
Brian Rooke, 44, West Palm Beach, FL
Louis Hinds, 57, Fortville, IN
Bruce Thalheimer, 51, Naples, FL
Richard Germain, 21, Raymond, NH
Richard Benjamin Nichols, 53, Everett, WA
Robert Fliss, 51, St. Cloud, FL
Jerry C. Bolding, 56, Fountain, SC
Jason Perron, 21, Apopka, FL
Richard Highsmith, 42, Orlando, FL