Tragic Motorcycle Crash — Could it have been avoided?

On July 30, 2009, the motorcycling community lost one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Bruce Rossmeyer, the largest Harley-Davidson dealer in the World, died at 66 years of age due to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in Wyoming. In route to the 69th Annual Sturgis, SD Motorcycle Rally from the Harley-Davidson Summer Dealer Meeting in Denver, CO he was traveling with five friends on a two lane road in a remote area of Wyoming.

According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol report: “They were trailing a Ford pickup pulling a double axle camper-style trailer. The truck driver, Robert L. VanValkenburg, 73, of Rock Springs, WY, slowed down and began making a left turn when Rossmeyer tried to pass him. Rossmeyer, who was not wearing a helmet, struck the driver’s-side door. VanValkenburg’s turn signals and brake lights were working at the time of the crash.”

This is a tragic loss. Perhaps too early to discuss so soon after his death; but, it does present an opportunity to look at what can be learned from this accident. This isn’t about helmets or no helmets. And, it isn’t about placing blame on either party to the accident. It is about how to avoid situations because as riders we are ultimately responsible for our own safety.

Lyle McCreary a.k.a. “El Padre”, Motorcycle Consultant for Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, commented, “I hear so many people talk about the traffic in Florida being so terrible and that the automobile drivers here have no concern for motorcyclists. Keep in mind that the Rossmeyer accident happened on a two-lane road in remote Wyoming. In rural Wyoming you may not see another vehicle for miles…going either way. Matter of fact, in Wyoming, there are more motorcycling injuries and deaths due to collisions with animals than other vehicles.”

What can we learn…

  • 1. Accidents can happen anywhere…at any time…to anyone. There are no exceptions.
    We need to always ride in the now! Staying tuned in to the surroundings and always having an
    escape route when the unexpected is thrown at us.
  • 2. Always take a left turn signal at face value. It indicates the driver’s intention to do just that…
    turn left. Watch the tires on the vehicle to see if they stay straight; if you’re passing a vehicle look for the driver’s face in their side mirror; pay attention to the speed of the vehicle; sound your horn. Remember the old days when you sounded your horn when getting ready to pass someone? That was done to alert them that you were overtaking them and were coming around. The only time you hear horns today is when someone is expressing irritation toward someone
  • 3. Riding attitude. Regardless of what stupid moves operators of other vehicles make, it’s still
    our fault…it is always our fault, because we are more vulnerable than they are and we are responsible for our own safety. By riding with that attitude I believe we put ourselves in a better position to survive.
  • 4. We, as riders, often depend on other drivers being “tuned in” to what is happening around them. Talking, even texting, on cell phones while driving, certainly are some of the biggest causes of traffic accidents today. Clearly there are more than enough reasons for us, as riders, to depend on no one but ourselves for our own safety.
  • 5. If a motorcycle passes you when you are in a vehicle, look once, twice, even three times to see if there are other motorcycles around. Always make sure that all signals are working properly.
  • There is much that we do not know about the accident because, at this point, we have not heard from any of the other riders. But, when something like this happens, it is normal to ask, “Could it have been avoided?”

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