• December 14, 2019

TxDOT projects higher motorcycle crash rate - Odessa American: Vehicle Accidents

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TxDOT projects higher motorcycle crash rate

Motorcycle ministry to bless motorcyclists, bikes with prayer

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Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 3:28 pm

Congested roadways caused by increased oilfield activity have amplified safety concerns for drivers that are often the least protected while driving on Ector County roadways.

The Texas Department of Transportation is still in the process of gathering comprehensive statistics for 2018, but the unofficial report shows a 44 percent increase from last year in motorcycle traffic crashes in the Odessa District.

The unofficial figures state the number of motorcycle crashes in the 12 counties totaled about 172, which resulted in about 17 motorcyclist driver and passenger deaths.

The district experienced a 32 percent increase in motorcycle traffic crashes between 2016 and 2017, and during the same timeframe motorcycle crash fatalities rose from seven to about 15 deaths.

In 2017 Ector County edged ahead of Midland County with 79 motorcycle traffic crashes and eight fatalities compared to 62 crashes and seven fatalities, respectively.

Jeff Niedecken has been riding motorcycles for 37 years and said during that time there has been a significant population increase in Midland-Odessa that has resulted in higher stress levels for riders.

Niedecken is the road captain of the Misfits in Christ Motorcycle Ministry and said staying alert, obeying traffic laws and most importantly remaining noticed are his key tips for a motorcyclist to avoid a potentially fatal crash with another vehicle.

“We’re pretty small and we don’t take up a whole lot of space as individuals,” Niedecken said. “You have to be really defensive when you’re driving … most of it just comes down to you having to watch out for other people.”

TxDOT has also reported a steady increase in total traffic fatalities throughout the Odessa District.

TxDOT Odessa District Public Information Officer Gene Powell told an audience during a February press conference that the number of traffic fatalities in the district has nearly doubled in the past two years, with 107 traffic fatalities reported in 2016 and 211 traffic fatalities in 2018.

The large volume of commercial vehicle traffic is one factor accounted for in the increase, but officials say many crashes are preventable.

“I’m not pointing fingers at the energy industry or commercial vehicles because it’s all of us,” Powell said. “We all have a role in preventing these crashes.”

Powell said the concept applied to motorcyclists as well. He said a driver in a passenger vehicle may pull out in front of a motorcycle because they were not paying attention, but fault could also be on the motorcyclist if they were travelling at a rate of speed that was different from what was expected.

“If I’m going 40 mph and I can see him fine and I think I have plenty of time, but he’s going twice the speed limit then he’s on me before I realize it and I’ve already committed,” Powell said. “It’s not always the motorcyclist’s fault and it’s not always the passenger vehicle motorist’s fault.”

Department of Public Safety Spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal said the biggest factors driving higher crash rates in the TxDOT district is driver inattention followed by failure to control speed.

Niedecken said the motorcycle ministry will add a layer of protection for motorcyclists in the community at their third annual Blessing of the Bikes event on March 30.

“We’ll pray over the bike and the rider and ask for God’s blessing over them and for protection while they’re riding and enjoying God’s creation,” he said.

Niedecken said the ministry prayed over about 135 motorcycles last year and countless riders.

“We don’t judge and we don’t discriminate,” he said. “We pray for everyone.”

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