Motorcyclist's death inspires plans for safety event
Mar 09, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The friend of a motorcyclist killed in a wreck last month has teamed with a regional transportation agency to create an event that will encourage biker safety as boom traffic continues to strain infrastructure and accidents continue to increase.
"The thing is too many people are driving too crazy," the friend, Midlander Martin Munguia, said. "People are getting hurt. And they shouldn't have to be."
Munguia met last week with Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp. The pair are lobbying Midland and Odessa to issue official proclamations, gathering statistics about motorcycle crashes and finding both a date and location for the event.
Munguia said his goal is a biker and awareness party at the CAF hanger in Midland sometime in Midland. Munguia's friend was Joe Anthony Montemayor, who was killed on Feb. 5 as he rode his motorcycle southbound on Big Spring Street when he collided with a Ford F-150 headed east on the service road of Loop 250. Montemayor, 36, was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene. No one was charged.
Friends and fellow bikers, including Munguia, gathered at a candlelight vigil later that week.
"I just want to do something for people to see that we need to slow down," Munguia said. "We need to take our time."
Beauchamp said he hoped to fold the event into the Drive Smart campaign, which includes outreach about issues like distracted driving.
"The bikers, they're a close knit group and I think a couple of these recent fatalities have hit them pretty hard," Beauchamp said. "It all comes back to awareness."
Beyond the greater risk of injury should an accident occur, motorcyclists are less visible than cars and trucks, and drivers tend to have greater difficulty gauging their speed, Beauchamp said. Most accidents involving motorcycles happen during a turn.
"What happens is people just don't see motorcyclists," Beauchamp said. "When you get in a car you tend to look for other cars and that's kind of what causes the problem."
For greater safety, MOTRAN urges drivers to give motorcyclists more space, wait longer before turning when one is approaching and, generally, to pay more attention. Meanwhile, the agency urges motorcyclists to wear helmets, obey traffic laws and make themselves more visible through means such as blinkers, hand signals and running lights.
The Texas Department of Transportation is compiling 2012 motorcycle crash data. Odessa spokesman Gene Powell said 2011 figures show 470 motorcycle fatalities statewide, accounting for 16 percent of traffic deaths. Motorcyclists are five times more likely to be injured in a traffic accident and 25 times more likely to die.
TxDot's Share the Road motorcycle safety campaign begins next month, which emphasizes many of the same safety measures promoted by Munguia and MOTRAN.
"The conversation should never stop," Powell said. "We should always be on the lookout for cyclists."
Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrime on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.
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