West Valley City • Aaron Zimmer remembers flipping backward through the air, crashing into the hood of the car behind him and bouncing onto the road with a skid. The car had just rear-ended his motorcycle as he stopped to let a police car with sirens blaring pass by on a cross street in Orem.
“I didn’t break anything. I was just banged up,” he says, giving thanks for the helmet, boots, gloves and other protective body gear that he always wears while riding. “I always say, ‘dress for the slide not the ride’ — and without it I probably would have had at least a head injury.”
And the Saratoga Springs retiree also might have become the No. 48 motorcycle fatality in Utah last year — when motorcyclist deaths rose by 24%, from 38 to 47.
It was the highest increase in state history.
“We’re on pace to have that many deaths again this year,” says John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation. Utah suffered six cyclist deaths so far, compared to seven at this time in 2018. “It really is a major concern, and behaviors need to change.”
UDOT and the Utah Highway Patrol organized an event Tuesday featuring some crash survivors to urge all drivers to look more carefully for motorcyclists, and to urge cyclists to take more steps to protect themselves. They held it at Bill’s Boneyard in West Valley City, a junk yard where crashed motorcycles often end up.
Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said two recent fatal motorcycle accidents show how few precautions some riders take.
“Neither one of them even had a motorcycle endorsement,” which is essentially a cyclist’s driver license, he said. “And they weren’t wearing helmets. So they were setting themselves up for a not-good situation.”
Street urged cyclists, especially new ones, to enroll in a rider skills class. He said 93% of motorcyclists killed in crashes never took such a class.
“They will get the heads-up training and basic riding skills to keep themselves a little safer, versus those who think that their mom, dad or brother gave them a good enough education,” he said. “Riding a motorcycle is much more complex than driving a car, and you need some professional training.”
He said the state set up a website, ridetolive.utah.gov, where Utahns may receive a 25% discount on such courses.
Salt Laker Lindsay Ross — another motorcycle crash survivor — says she took one of the class, and swears that it pays dividends daily to help her avoid inattentive drivers.
“Every day, I look over and see the other driver talking on a cellphone, or talking to another person and not paying attention — or they are eating,” she said. She learned in class and by experience to assume that other drivers don’t see her, and constantly plans ahead about what evasive action may be needed.
It even helped a bit when she was doing 40 mph in Park City and a driver ran a stop sign — and clearly was about to hit her. “I was able to maneuver so he didn’t hit me quite a bad as he could have,” she said. Still, she had broken ribs and a broken chin.
Again, thanks to the boots, leather jacket, helmet and other gear she always wears, “I’m alive. I easily could have been killed.”
“I could get hit by three truck and I would be back on my motorcycle…. I would miss the adrenaline,” she says. “Just be aware and cautious because you are essentially invisible.”