Motorcycle deaths on the rise: Like ‘riding on pins and needles’
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2012 3:14PM
Bill Gade, who owns an Oswego motorcycle touring business, is tired of going to funerals for those killed on motorcycles. He wants to start a campaign to help bikers fight back against irresponsible drivers. | Photos courtesy~Bill Gade
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:00PM
Bill Gade, who owns a motorcycle touring business in Oswego, sees all those white crosses in the Fox Valley that are reminders of the bikers who died on our highways and roads.
Some of those crosses memorialize riders he knew personally. The president of Tour on 2 says he’s been to “so many funerals this year that I’ve lost count.”
Among those fatalities were 23-year-old Max Torres, who died in May on Hill Avenue in Aurora, the victim of a hit-and-run driver in a white Chevy Traverse SUV; and Gade’s good friend Ron Oswald, a 57-year-old father of eight, who was killed a month later on Route 126 in Plainfield near County Line Road while on his way to honor veterans at a Warriors Watch Ride.
Also killed in June was 63-year-old Gerald Puglise, who was approaching River Road on Ogden Avenue in Naperville when police say he was struck by Michael Moreno, a Plainfield man who was chasing a teenager in an apparent road rage incident.
Traffic deaths have risen on Illinois roads this past year, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. And the largest spike has been among motorcyclists, with crashes statewide up 39 percent over the same seven-month period last year.
Gade, a biker for 47 years, came close to becoming a statistic himself. In June, a teenage driver ran a stop sign at the corner of Circle Drive and Boulder Hill Pass in Montgomery while Gade was riding his Harley with wife Pam on the back.
Luckily, they were able to avoid hitting the teen’s Mercury Cougar. But Gade got the description of the car and driver, along with the license plate number, and called the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department to file a complaint.
The driver was arrested and found guilty after a bench trial, marking Gade’s first citizen arrest and conviction. But the teenage driver only got slapped with a paltry $125 fine, said Gade, who teaches and writes about motorcycle safety.
The rash of biker deaths, Gade insists, stems from a culture of increasingly undisciplined automobile drivers. “We have many laws to protect everyone, but just writing a law does not protect us against irresponsible drivers,” he says. “They believe talking on a cellphone or texting is more important than someone’s life.”
That’s why he is starting a campaign to give motorcycle riders another offensive tool. Speaking at a recent meeting of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE), Gade stressed the importance of carrying cameras and taking photos of cars, drivers and license plates to increase the likelihood charges could be filed when laws get broken.
On a recent September morning, on the way to the Wounded Warriors fundraiser, Gade says he was cut off by yet another driver who ran a stop sign. When he confronted the driver, Gade said, “he didn’t think almost killing me was a problem.”
Then last Saturday, Gade and his wife were on the Harley heading to a Plainfield restaurant when a young girl on Route 34 zoomed past his cycle on the right, anxious to get to the next stop light. A few minutes later at Wolf Crossing, a driver pulled out in front of him. Once on Route 30, a minivan “almost ran us over going about 60-70 miles an hour,” he says. And finally, at Heggs Road, “a car cut out in front of them,” again, just to get to the next light.
“It’s gotten so bad, you are riding on pins and needles all the time,” Gade said, adding that, while “the joy of riding is still there, now you know that when you throw your leg over that bike, it may be for the last time.”