For emergency responders the “vehicle-versus-motorcycle” call from 911 dispatchers usually means preparing for the worst.
“We go to it (motorcycle accident) as we would go to anything else, but in the back of your mind you’re sort of getting yourself ready for a situation that’s going to be a little more serious than normal,” said RCMP traffic officer Cpl. Ted Manchulenko. “It’s harder for people to see. I mean two vehicles hit and a fender gets torn off and it’s not a big deal to see, but when it’s a person lying on the road it’s a whole different dynamic, it affects everybody a little differently and that’s consistent for the emergency services (personnel) too.”
In the past month alone there have been six such accidents near Penticton, which according ICBC statistics, has been the entire number of crashes during each of the last four years in the city.
The most recent accident was Wednesday’s collision between a car and motorcycle on Main Street, the fourth in a seven-day period.
“We’re all just shaking our heads at why there has been so many in such a short period of time, it’s just hard to determine why,” Manchulenko said while at the scene of that accident. “In this case it was a motorcycle going northbound on Main Street and a southbound passenger car making a left turn and she thought the road was clear and things went bad from there. The rider went down with leg injuries and was taken by ambulance to PRH (Penticton Regional Hospital).”
In three of the last four crashes the drivers of the vehicles were at fault, turning into the path of the motorcycles, and the other involved a deer, which was hit while crossing the road.
The other two accidents this year were in May, one of those being a fatality which happened on Eastside Road and also resulted in serious injuries to the passenger.
Particularly worrisome to officials is the stats show May-June is generally the slower time, only one or two crashes, with the peak being in July and August with about four.
Not all motorcycle accidents are the fault of the “other” driver. In fact, Manchulenko believes it is more likely a 50-50 split. It is just that there are few motorcycle crashes where there are not injuries.
“With the safety features of the newer vehicles in an urban environment when two vehicles hit the chances are pretty good everybody is going to walk away with minor injuries, but in a similar situation with a motorcyclist, or cyclist for that matter, even though the speeds aren’t that great, somebody is going to hit the pavement pretty hard.”
Those problems are compounded if the rider is going at excessive speeds or driving in an unsafe manner. According to ICBC, motorcyclists have an eight times greater chance of dying and are 40 per cent more likely to be injured in an accident.
Manchulenko urged everyone using the streets to be aware of what is happening around them because the consequences of one mistake can last a lifetime.
“Slow down a little bit, take your time,” he said. “I think one of the problems is, especially now, our roads are so multi-use. Just look at Eckhardt and Highway 97. You have children crossing on their way to school, there are logging trucks, cyclists, people on scooters or mobility chairs and everyone is just trying to get safely to their destination.”
In the case of a fatality, the officer added even though it may be one person who dies, the impact is community-wide, from friends and family to first responders.