Recent motorcycle fatalities on mountain roads, two within six days, underscore an ongoing problem of irresponsible motorcyclists riding winding roads at unsafe speeds.
Three fatalities and nine incidents in less than four months (from Oct. 5, 2014 to Feb. 21, 2015) represent a significant increase over previous years.
In 2012, there were 18 motorcycle collisions for the whole year on Hill roads but no fatalities. In 2011 there were 14 incidents and no fatalities. In 2010 there were 24 incidents and three fatalities.
CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer connects the uptick in the economy with more motorcycle traffic on Hill highways and as a result more serious incidents. “More people have discretionary money and may be spending it on motorcycles,” he posited.
But Meyer cautioned that Idyllwild’s economy benefits from responsible motorcyclists and that there is a fine line in how to regulate and patrol. “We will ramp up enforcement, using aerial surveillance and education targeting motorcycle clubs,” said Meyer.
Statistics show, the problem has existed in the past at similar levels and has not gone away.
By comparison, in 2008 prior to the economic downturn, motorcycle collisions on highways 243 and 74 claimed five lives, with three fatalities occurring within one month of each other. In all cases in 2008 but one, and in all of the nine incidents within the last four months, motorcyclists were found at fault from driving at unsafe speeds and crossing over the double yellow line.
In 2008, California Highway Patrol Office Daryl Crandall, reporting officer on the incidents, said, “The roads don’t cause crashes; the roads are well marked. All they [the cyclists] have to do is take heed to the advisory signs.”
Of the most recent incidents at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, in addition to the fatalities, riders sustained major injuries in two, three with minor injuries and one with no injuries.
CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer said his office is working with Caltrans on a variety of means to educate and deter motorcyclists from operating in unsafe ways on mountain roads. Caltrans discussions are underway on removing debris from mountain roads, sweeping gravel and installing additional signage.
Eyewitnesses at the recent fatality noted that the woman killed was wearing a GoPro camera on her helmet. CHP cannot yet confirm either that she was wearing the camera or that, as some eyewitnesses reported, that there were regular “races” from Hemet to Idyllwild.