UHP urges rider education, says many motorcycle fatalities are avoidable crashes

Posted at 9:58 PM, Jul 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-18 23:58:43-04

SALT LAKE CITY – So far this year there have been 24 motorcycle fatalities on Utah roadways, and the Utah Highway Patrol says many of them could have been avoided.

UHP Troopers said a lot of the riders we see here in Utah are riding to experience the scenery.

“I mean, it's just epic how fast it changes and the scenery and the emptiness is awesome,” motorcycle rider Dave Palazzolo said of riding in Utah.

And while some of Utah’s canyons are easy to ride, others are more technical and require education and experience.

“You look at your Parley's Canyon, it's a larger, three lane highway, it's not that technical,” said Sgt. Donovan Lucas of the Utah Highway Patrol. “You get into Cottonwood Canyon or something like that in the Salt Lake area, that's a little bit more technical. It's a two lane to four lane road. There's no median strip down the center or any guard rails or something like that, so it's a little bit tighter."

Lucas is a motorcycle trooper, and he said the biggest mistake they see people make is not braking properly. He said riders use the old bicycle mentality that if you put too much pressure on the front brake, you'll flip over the handle bars. But that's not fully the case with motorcycles.

“In training that we do as law enforcement on motorcycles, is it's almost a 90 percent and a 10 percent rear,” Lucas said. ”In fact, we don't even place, we put our foot barely on the rear brake and then we apply--and then the forward momentum of the motorcycle will apply the pressure on the rear brake."

Lucas said 75 percent of the motorcycle fatalities they've seen in the last five years were a result of rider error.

“It used to be as we're driving down the road the guy would cut in front of us on the left turn or something like that, now a lot of times it's the motorcyclist being a little bit more aggressive,” Lucas said. “You know, 'Oh, I can make that light,' or, 'Oh, I can make that turn,' type of thing instead of yielding to the vehicle that is obviously bigger than you."

Palazzolo has been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years, and he said one of the most important things riders can do is take courses.

“I felt like a dry sponge, you know, I thought I had all this experience,” he said. “I thought I had like ten years’ experience, and what I had is I had one year of experience repeated ten times."

Palazzolo said another important thing is proper gear like boots, gloves, pants, jackets—and, most importantly: a full-faced helmet.

“I wouldn't ride without one,” he said. “It's your brain, right? It’s your head. Everything is in your head."

Lucas said even at 10 miles an hour, you can receive critical injuries by hitting your head without a helmet.

“What's our speed limit out here on the freeways now? 70, 65, 70, and 80 in some areas--that's a watermelon basically being dropped,” Lucas said.

For more information and motorcycle safety tips from the Utah Highway Patrol, visit Ride to Live Utah.