The need for increased motorcycle safety in the South Okanagan was epitomized the day after the RCMP held a demonstration on the issue.
The accident happened around 12 p.m. on Hwy 97 at the Kaleden turnoff involving a motorcycle and a sedan. The vehicle was struck by the motorcycle as it was attempting to turn left off the highway onto Lakehill Road. Both the driver and passenger of the motorcycle were taken to hospital; one by airlift.
Sgt. Harold Hallett, unit commander of the South Okanagan Traffic Service (SOTS), said the accident was serious but not life threatening. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.
Because the SOTS has noticed a trend in motorcycle accidents recently, they hosted a motorcycle safety demonstration the previous day, May 22.
From what they are noticing, motorcyclists involved are middle aged men, with speed reported as the leading cause. Between 2012 and 2014, the SOTS found that three-quarters of accidents included riders over the age of 45 and almost all were men. Hallett suspects the cause is due to demographic trends.
“A lot of people who rode when they were younger have the money now to get a nice Harley, and they start riding again after a 20 or 30 year absence,” he said. “Some are just getting older and don’t have the same reflexes as they used to.”
The rider involved in last weekend’s accident was also over that age, Hallett said.
Historically, the average number of motorcycle fatalities in the South Okanagan Similkameen is one per year. But in 2014 alone, there were four fatalities and a 38 per cent increase in serious injuries. While middle-aged men were reported as the riders in the majority of the accidents in the South Okanagan, that trend has also seen many women involved.
“It’s usually men that ride, and usually their wives drive their own bikes with them, especially if they go on trips.”
Last year, nearly one-fifth of fatal accidents in the South Okanagan involved motorcycles, a ratio that Hallett feels is far off balance, adding that the numbers don’t take into account how motorcycles are restricted from driving during the winter months.
Hallett is looking into conducting a vehicle count to study to disproportionate rate.
“It’s way out of proportion,” he said. “We’re trying to get the message out there to educate the public and get them thinking.”
During the May 22 demonstration, Cons. Dave Cramm offered a simple set of instructions that can go a long way on the roads. Cramm was also sharing lessons at local motorcycle stores and rental shops.
“He teaches counter steering, where to look, how to sit on the bike properly, and a lot of slow speed manoeuvres, which is great way to improve your skills,” he said.
The SOTS will be focusing on enforcement and education for the duration of the 2015 riding season.