Rockford, Ill., May 17 — May is Motorcycle Awareness Month and is heavily sponsored by both the State of Illinois and local biker groups. It has been a long, cold winter, but we are finally getting some riding weather in the area. Now that the weather is better it’s time for the Kishwaukee Valley ABATE (KVA) chapter’s Motorcycle Awareness Parade to let people know we’re back.
The parade started at the Carlson Ice Arena near Perryville Road, one of the most highly traveled roads in both Loves Park and Rockford, and was assisted by the fine officers from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department leading the way and providing road-crossing stoppage. I had a good time with the KVA members as they arrived. Even though I belong to that chapter, I don’t get to many meetings and it is fun to get together.
Soon the squad cars were on their way with lights flashing and you could see a difference in the way the cars traveled. Behind the squad cars was a KVA pickup with a large sign saying, “Look twice, save a life, Motorcycle Awareness.” I stayed back to get some photos and by the time I arrived at the end location, Kegel Harley-Davidson in Rockford, officers from KVA were finishing up some thank-you comments to the crowd for a successful ride. I was still able to get to the food line, manned by Mark Kegel and his daughter Katrina, and enjoyed the largest hot dogs I have ever seen. That, along with chips, cookies and beverages made my day.
The State of Illinois promotes “Start Seeing Motorcycles” and does a lot of promotion for motorcycle month with TV ads and lots of signs in bikers’ yards and businesses. Just recently our local H.O.G. chapter, with the state’s help, held a free windshield-washing event for drivers coming from Wisconsin on the Tollway at the first major rest stop as you enter the state. It was interesting to see the look on drivers’ faces as they were approached by a large group of bikers asking if they wanted a free windshield wash. All but one couple said yes, and all were very complimentary when the job was done. In fact, all their windows got washed, as the H.O.G. members got carried away with their job.
Bikers have mostly been off the road since last October, and now the activity is picking up so it is important that car drivers realize we are back and need other motorists’ protection to keep us safe from accidents—and all the public relations help. The latest reports I could find were from 2012 State of Illinois Department of Transportation statistics. There were 148 fatal crashes involving motorcycles (the state also includes motor scooters, motorbikes and mopeds); an increase of 2 percent over 2011 and 19 percent over 2009, which was the highest year for registrations with 365,448. 2012 accounted for 356,446 registrations. Motorcycles account for 15 percent of fatal crashes, while they only account for three to four percent of all motor vehicle registrations. I think this points out the need for public relations and our continued perseverance and good, safe riding. Interestingly, 22 percent of the fatalities were less than 30 years of age, 40 percent were 30-49 years of age and, surprisingly, 39 percent were 50 and older. The 50-54 age group had the highest number of fatalities with 23, or 16 percent, so we all need to be careful out there. The most dangerous time was 3:00 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. on Sunday and Saturday, and 96 percent of accidents occurred in clear weather and on dry pavement. The state keeps track of 23 counties, accounting for 85 percent of the state’s population, with the other counties added to the total.
(This article Safety in Numbers was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, North edition.)