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With the prospect of thousands of motorcyclists visiting Oregon roads this coming weekend could it be one of the deadliest?

I hope not, but on July 15 – 18th two major motorcycle rallies take place in Oregon.  The first is the BWM International Rally in Redmond, OR.  It’s been 9 years since the BMW National Rally has been held in the state and area businesses are rolling out the welcome mat.  There is the Redmond 1000 long distance ride (1000 miles in 24 hours) for motorcyclists along with more than 100 vendors who have set up shop on the rally grounds.  In addition, Redmond is the starting point of the 2010 Rally Coast-to-Coast.

BMW National Rally -- Redmond, OR

On the same dates is the Good Vibrations Rally in Salem/Keizer.   Rally activities are happening at Salem Harley-Davidson, Oregon State Fairgrounds, Spirit Mountain Casino, and the cities of Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, and McMinnville.  The Good Vibration event is produced by Randy Burke, President of Road Shows Inc., and is modeled after his very popular Street Vibrations Rally held every year in Reno, NV.  The Oregon rally has the added value of wine tastings at Willamette Valley Vineyards and Orchard Heights Winery.

Northwest Motorcycle Rides

Both rallies bring desperately needed tourist dollars into the state, while providing riders with some fantastic summer weather, Northwest scenery, winding roads and top tier entertainment.  But why has Oregon State Police (OSP) yet to acknowledge the existent of the rallies in their media press release process?  And is ODOT so heads down on pothole repair to plan a state-wide advisory to “WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES ON THE ROAD” campaign using the variable message signs around the state?

In the last 4 weeks we’ve seen 4 motorcycle related deaths and 2 riders seriously injured on Oregon roads:

1.    On July 10, 2010, a Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by WILLIAM ROY ANDERSON, age 60, from Aloha, was northbound on Highway 97 near milepost 17 when it failed to negotiate a curve and struck a guardrail.  ANDERSON was ejected from the motorcycle onto the highway and then run over by two commercial trucks traveling in opposite directions whose drivers were unable to avoid him.  ANDERSON was pronounced deceased at the scene.

2.    On July 8, 2010, a Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by JAMES C. HEADRICK, age 56, from Dallas, Oregon was northbound on Interstate 205 near milepost 10 when it came upon slowing traffic.  The motorcycle crashed into the back of a stopped 1998 Honda Civic driven by WALID M. SALLOUT, age 28, from southeast Portland, in the left northbound lane.  The motorcycle’s passenger, MELVA HEADRICK, age 61, from Dallas, was ejected off the motorcycle, over the concrete center barrier and landed in the left southbound lane.  No reported deaths from this accident.

3.    On June 26, 2010, a 2003 Harley Davidson operated by RAYMOND SCOTT McMAHON, age 49, from Bandon, was westbound on Highway 42 near milepost 26 followed by his brother on another motorcycle.  McMAHON entered a curve too fast, traveled off the highway into a ditch and then was ejected from the motorcycle as it went airborne.  McMAHON came to rest on the highway and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

4.    On June 17, 2010, JEFFERY DEAN RANDALL, age 39, from Klamath Falls, was operating a 1990 Kawasaki motorcycle eastbound on Highway 140E near milepost 29.  As RANDALL was negotiating a left curve the motorcycle travelled on to the gravel shoulder where he lost control.  The motorcycle crashed into a rock, ejecting RANDALL.  RANDALL was pronounced deceased at the scene.

5.    On June 11, 2010, a 2007 Honda Goldwing three-wheel converted motorcycle operated by DYRL ARNOLD SPENCER, age 64, was southbound on a straight stretch of Highway 395 near milepost 129 when it traveled partially off onto the right gravel shoulder.  SPENCER tried to bring the motorcycle back onto the highway but lost control, crossing both lanes and going off the opposite shoulder where it crashed into a tree about 30 feet off the highway.  SPENCER was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The state generated these stats in one of the wettest early summer riding seasons in 10+ years.  It’s only 3 days until we see a major influx of riders…

Please be careful out there!

UPDATE: July 12, 2010 — I received a response from the Governor’s Advisory Committee on motorcycle safety (Michele O’Leary) which stated there are no plans for the State Traffic Engineer to change the “NO” response on variable message sign use.  Good grief!  I’m starting to wonder if a rally the size of Sturgis would even convince the Oregon State Traffic Engineer to use the signs?!  However, there is more being done about safety awareness:

  1. Billboards are out on Hwy 97 and I-5 at Keizer for motorist awareness.  Radio spots are currently running, bus transits have ads and print ads are running.
  2. They just printed a new motorcycle map that is being made available at both rallies. The map is full of safety messages along with some awesome riding routes,. They also have some other safety information from the advisory committee.
  3. The Chair of the Governor’s Committee (David Peterson) will be at the BMW rally evangelizing safety.
  4. There is work in process on a communication/press release for the motoring public to be aware of what’s going on.

Michele notes: “We’ve been losing a lot of motorcyclists involved in group rides this year so please spread the word and encourage everyone to ride sober. Our concern with the Good Vibrations Rally in Salem/Keizer is the wine-tasting activity they’re doing and what safeguards they will have in place.”

Update: July 19, 2010 — A early scan of the motor vehicle accident reports suggest that this past rally filled weekend was relatively safe for motorcyclists.  The exception being where OSP was dispatched to an accident involving two motorcycles on Highway 20 near milepost 14. The incident was the result of a bucket which blew out from the back of a pickup onto the roadway.  A 2001 BMW K1200LT motorcycle, operated by BENJAMIN JONSSON, and passenger CARA JONSSON, both age 54, from Spruce Grove, Alberta Canada was westbound on Highway 20 near milepost 14 when they came upon the bucket. BENJAMIN JONSSON was able to successfully swerve and miss the bucket.
However, a 2003 BMW R1150T motorcycle, operated by FREDERICK HERZOFF, age 61, and passenger  as ANNETTE HERZOFF both from Paradise City, California were also westbound traveling some distance behind JONSSON’S motorcycle.  FREDERICK HERZOFF attempted to swerve around the bucket and in doing so crashed into the back of JONSSON’S motorcycle. JONSSON and HERZOFF were not traveling together.
All four riders were transported by ambulance to Saint Charles Hospital in Bend. BENJAMIN and CARA JONSSON sustained minor injuries. FREDERICK HERZOFF sustained serious injuries and ANNETTE HERZOFF critical injuries. All four riders were wearing helmets.

Accident information/photo courtesy of OSP.

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