Motorcycle accidents on the rise

September 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you haven't noticed already, there are a lot more motorcyclists on the road than ever. Sadly, it also means more accidents and deaths. Firefighters of a small Peninsula town who respond to these accidents are getting some much needed help from a motorcycle club.

Hundreds of motorcyclists gather near Alice's Restaurant at the junction of Highway 84 and Skyline Blvd. It's a popular spot for recreational bikers. Just two miles away, the La Honda Fire Brigade is on alert.

"Approximately 15 percent of the overal calls we respond to, fires, medical aids, vehicle accidents are solely motorcycle accidents," says La Honda Fire Brigade Chief Larry Whitney.

John Clelland loves to ride his sleek, fast Italian-made Ducati, but he rides with caution.

"You hit gravel. There's a lot of wild animals that jump out in the road. There's just a lot of things that can happen," says Clelland.

A wooden cross along Highway 84 is a stark reminder to motorcyclists in La Honda of the dangerous twists and turns. In the past 17 years, Chief Larry Whitney has been with the fire brigade, he's seen too many motorcycle accidents.

"Motorcycle versus vehicle, motorcycle versus deer, motorcycle versus vehicle, motorcycle versus vehicle," says Whitney.

Motorcycle deaths in this country are skyrocketing up about 80 percent in the past decade. There are also millions more bikes on the road. From 1995 to 2004, the number of motorcycles sold increased by a whopping 128 percent.

Clelland heads the Nor Cal Ducati Desmo Owners Club. He says new owners, especially young riders, simply can't handle the powerful motorcycles sold nowadays.

"The manufacturer and dealers basically are selling a loaded gun to a 16 year old," said Clelland.

Benny Gebing is 40. He's seeing lots of motorcyclists his age and older.

"There's a lot of older guys who've gotten bikes now. Maybe they can afford it or the gas. The gas is expensive. Bikes are cheap on gas," said Gebing.

The La Honda Fire Brigade is manned by volunteers. For the past four years, Clelland's Nor Cal Ducati Club members have held a fundraiser for the firehouse.

"I somewhat selfishly thought I should pay for them to get a little better equipment when I crash," says Clelland.

While Fire Chief Whitney is grateful, he also sees the irony of the fundraising.

"While they're a significant user of our services, they're also offsetting our costs."

So far, the La Ducati Day events have raised $20,000; the next fundraiser is October 12th.

For more on the fundraiser, click here.


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