CANADA 'Surge' in motorcycle deaths in southwestern Ontario has forced...

‘Surge’ in motorcycle deaths in southwestern Ontario has forced OPP to stress safety

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OPP’s Sean Johnson, inspector for the Transportation and Maritime Division of the Western Region, says southwestern Ontario has seen a “drastic increase” in motorcyclist deaths this year compared to last year. (Michelle Bot/CBC)

The police have a clear message to motorcyclists going for a ride this long weekend: make safety a priority.

The directive comes after the Ontario Provincial Police in the Western Region said there was a “dramatic increase” in deaths this year compared to 2021.

“We have a deadly problem,” OPP Insp said. Sean Johnson of the Transportation and Marine Division of the Western Region.

“The last thing I want this weekend, being a holiday weekend, is for an officer to knock on someone’s door… and tell them they’ve lost a loved one in a preventable tragedy.”

Motorcycle fatalities have nearly doubled from last year in southwestern Ontario, according to police, and account for more than half of the province’s road deaths this year.

Twelve motorcyclists were killed in collisions in the area in 2022—an annual average over the past 10 years—compared to seven during the same period in 2021. More than 70 percent of collisions this year are attributable to motorcyclists, according to police.

According to OPP, the western region of the province leads in the number of car and motorcycle accidents. (Michelle Bot/CBC)

“These clashes don’t have to happen. They are completely preventable and must be stopped,” Johnson said.

Speeding, loss of control and failure to yield at intersections are major contributors to fatal motorcyclist collisions. The weather did not matter – all the collisions took place in clear, sunny and dry weather.

“These are people who go on a pleasant ride on Saturday or Sunday, where most of the collisions take place,” he said, most from noon to 4 p.m.

“It’s sobering and heartbreaking”

“These people, unfortunately, are getting seriously injured and killed on these roads,” Const told OPP. Melissa Tutin, who has been riding motorcycles for 22 years.

OPP Post. Melissa Tutin, who has been riding motorcycles for 22 years, says the rise in motorcycle collisions in the Western Region is sobering. (Michelle Bot/CBC)

“It’s sobering and heartbreaking.”

Tutin said motorcyclists should never assume that vehicle drivers can see them. She advises riders:

  • Keep your head on the ball, look towards the horizon and study your surroundings. Scan every entrance, intersection, entrance and exit.
  • Plan your destination, know where you’re going, and take breaks.
  • Act according to the rules of the road – speed limits, road signs and traffic signs.

John Patrick, head motorcycle instructor at Fanshawe College, shares this advice. He has been teaching motorcycle skills for 30 years.

“You have to remember that you are on a motorcycle and you have no protection,” Patrick said.

The rise in motorcyclist deaths is a “wake-up call,” says John Patrick, chief motorcycle instructor at Fanshawe College. (Michelle Bot/CBC)

He is concerned that too many people are riding beyond their limits and encourages riders to train every spring and take skill development courses.

“The more you practice, the more efficient you will be at what you do.”

Victims of older drivers

Patrick has witnessed a demographic shift in his training as people want to learn how to ride motorcycles later in life.

He said the statistics are alarming as 28 percent of those killed in motorcycle collisions this year were between the ages of 56 and 64.

“No one likes to hear that someone has lost their life. But this should be a wake up call for all of us who ride motorcycles to rethink what we do, reevaluate what we do, so we’re ready the next time we get on a bike.”

Gray Bruce and Norfolk counties each had three deaths this year, the highest in Ontario.

The London and Windsor regions are no exception – in Ontario they have faced one of the highest average death rates in the last decade.

Essex County has the highest average motorcyclist death rate in the province, at 19 deaths per year. Middlesex County ranks third with an average of 14 deaths, behind the Greater Toronto Area’s 16.

“Any injury or death on our roads is a tragedy,” Johnson said. “They are not only tragic for families and communities – they are tragic for incoming emergency services.

“Do your best to protect yourself, make sure you arrive alive, drive defensively, drive like your life depends on it.”

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