Motorcycle-related fatalities increase, authorities hope to stop the trend


Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. — It's a great time to get outside. That's especially true of motorcycle riders. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of motorcycle riders has led to a sharp increase in motorcycle-related fatalities in our area.

ISP District 13 reported four fatalities in 2010. Last year, that number jumped to 14. So far this year, there have been four deadly crashes, three involving motorcycles and one involving an ATV.

May is Motorcycle Safety Month and troopers said those numbers show the safety message is not getting through.

Larry Wood said his 19-year-old grandson Eric loved riding a bike.

"He just rode it at home," Wood said. "More of a recreational thing than anything else."

But Wednesday, Larry and his wife are marking the spot on Route 13 where Eric died back in 2011.

"We were not expecting to find him dead," said Wood.

Eric Wood was driving east on the highway. A woman pulled across in a car and hit his motorcycle.

"It threw him across. The bike exploded and he was killed instantly in the median," his grandfather said.

ISP Trooper David Sneed said the recent increase in cycle crash fatalities is alarming.

"Our fender bender in our vehicles could be a fatal involved with a motorcycle," said Sneed.

Sneed said it's even more eye-opening when you consider how old most of the victims are.

"You normally think that it's the teen, young driver our there on a crotch rocket. But our average age was 40 on our fatalities," said Sneed.

Marty Keoughan, manager of Cycle Connections, said that statistic makes sense.

"They're the ones that are out riding through the week, not just weekends," Keoughan said.

Authorities don't know what's behind the uptick in motorcycle crashes. But their way of stopping it includes putting a face to the fatality with the hope it will save a life.

"Please pay attention to those motorcycles," said Wood. "Motorcyclists don't take those chances I've seen people taking."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports Illinois does not have a law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. Both Missouri and Tennessee require all motorcyclists to have helmets on.

In Kentucky, riders younger than 21 must wear helmets.