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Motorcycle crashes on upswing

Alhough SCV sees fewer fatalities so far this year, recent accidents point out dangers riders face

Posted: August 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.

A handful of flowers and a cardboard sign taped to a traffic light fixture in Stevenson Ranch call attention to the perils of riding a motorcycle in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since the start of the year, officers with the California Highway Patrol and deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station have logged more than half a dozen serious crashes involving motorcycles.

One such crash claimed the life of Johnny Sanchez Jr., who died in the hospital last week, 10 days after he was hit by an alleged drunken driver.

A road sign memorial reads: “In loving memory of Johnny Sanchez 08/21/13, taken too soon by a drunk driver ... please think before you drive.”

The driver of the car that collided with Sanchez’s 2005 Suzuki has been charged with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Local traffic investigators, who put together details of the crashes that change the lives of motorcyclists forever — including many recovering in rehabilitation hospitals — have some advice.

“My advice to motorcyclists is don’t over-extend your capabilities and experience,” said Sgt. 'Rich Cohen, who heads the traffic section at the local sheriff’s station.

“They know it’s not necessarily their driving skills in question but rather the driving of the other drivers,” he said.
“Be careful, slow down, put some distance between you and the other driver a little,” he said. “Give yourself plenty of room.”

Serious injury
One motorcyclist still on the slow road to recovery is Robert Torrez.

On March 3, Torrez was seriously hurt when his Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle and a car collided in front of In-n-Out Burger on Sand Canyon Road south of Highway 14.

Fire Department paramedics rushed him to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, where he remained in critical condition for more than a week before he was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The two women identified as occupants of the car involved in the crash were not hurt, authorities said.

Torrez is one of several motorcyclists undergoing rehabilitation after collisions in the Santa Clarita Valley.

One of them is San Gabriel Police Department Officer Steven Rodrigues of Canyon Country, who was injured last month on his way to work.

He was taken to Henry Mayo on July 17 after his motorcycle and a car collided at an intersection in Canyon Country. He underwent emergency surgery after suffering a broken left leg, a broken right foot, a concussion and numerous abrasions.

“He’s doing well and is in rehab,” one of his coworkers told The Signal last week. But Rodrigues has yet to return to work, he said.

Worrisome statistics
Last year at least a half dozen motorcyclists suffered serious injuries in crashes in the Santa Clarita Valley. Two were killed.

A woman and two men were hurt in the same traffic collision on Bouquet Canyon Road at mile marker 9.6 after two motorcycles collided on May 26, 2012.

In addition, Tim Best, 49, of Acton, died Nov. 18, 2012, in a crash on Sierra Highway just south of Soledad Canyon Road and about two miles south of Pearblossom Highway. A passenger with Best was injured.

Within a month of the crash that killed Best, Newhall resident Benjamin Borick also died in a motorcycle collision. The 20-year-old was killed Dec. 13, 2012, when the motorcycle he was riding westbound on Highway 126 collided with an SUV near Chiquito Canyon Road.

The death of Johnny Sanchez last Wednesday marks Santa Clarita Valley’s latest motorcycle fatality.

Riding ‘of necessity’
Sheriff’s Sgt. Cohen said he’s noticed a correlation between the bad economy and increased motorcycle crashes.

Nationally, motorcyclist death rates increased 55 percent from 2001 to 2008, and the number of nonfatal motorcyclist injuries treated in emergency rooms also increased, from nearly 120,000 injuries in 2001 to about 175,000 in 2008, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But in 2008, motor vehicle crash-related deaths involving cars and light trucks reached an all-time low in the United States, the study said.

“When the economy starting taking a (downturn), we saw a lot more people riding motorcycles out of necessity,” Cohen told The Signal.

But he says he’s seen an improvement this year compared to last. Fatalities are fewer, he said.
“We were having a lot of motorcycle deaths, but that number seems to have dropped down,” he said.




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