Rash of fatal motorcycle crashes spurs safety warning (7/4/16)

by Francesca Fontana | The Oregonian/OregonLive

At least six motorcyclists have died on Oregon roads over the past 10 days, prompting a state police safety warning.

Speed was a factor in four of the six crashes, initial investigations indicated.

The cluster of fatal accidents began June 24, when 56-year-old Michael Lucier of Swisshome died on Oregon 36 near Mapleton in a head-on collision with a pickup.

The last two occurred Saturday, when a 45-year-old man crashed into an SUV on Southeast 82nd Avenue in Portland and 33-year-old Cory Nathan Tocher of Cottage Grove slammed into a car pulling onto a road near Cottage Grove. Authorities haven't identified the Portland crash victim yet.

The others: 57-year-old Patrick Michael Daley of Cave Junction, who hit a tree on Oregon 46 near Cave Junction on June 25; 39-year-old Kevin Argo of Lebanon, who collided with a truck at an Interstate 5 interchange north of Albany on June 26; and 68-year-old Richard Araujo of Deadwood, who missed a corner on Oregon 36 near Deadwood and sideswiped a pickup on June 30, police said.

Motorcycle crashes killed 44 people and injured 940 in 2014 in Oregon, according to the latest statistics available from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Deadly crashes are on the rise in general, reflecting a national trend, said state police Capt. Bill Fugate.

This trend follows an improving economy, Fugate said.

"Gas prices are lower, so it's more affordable for people to be on the roads driving," he said. And the more miles traveled, the more likely that crashes happen.

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable, Fugate said. "(They) are just not protected," he said. In each of the recent crashes, the motorcyclists died but the drivers of the cars involved escaped mostly unscathed.

The state transportation website advises motorcyclists to dress appropriately in helmets and protective gear, avoid speeding and take basic training courses.

Fugate advises people to be cautious on the road "when they're driving any kind of vehicle" -- not just motorcycles.