Colorado sees spike in motorcyclist deaths |

Colorado sees spike in motorcyclist deaths

A Classic Air helicopter takes off from the scene of a motorcycle crash on U.S. Highway 40 on July 15. The man who was driving the motorcycle was airlifted to Yampa Valley Medical Center in critical condition, where he later died.
Scott Franz

— The Colorado Department of Transportation has seen a spike in motorcyclist deaths this year.

So far, there have been 58 deaths, a 14 percent increase compared to the same time period last year.

Of the 58 motorcyclists killed, 34 were not wearing helmets. 

The death toll includes two motorcyclists who were killed last week in Routt and Jackson counties.

On July 15, Richard L. Backer, 56, was driving his motorcycle with his wife when he failed to negotiate a left-hand turn.

The motorcycle rolled several times, and the Nebraska couple was ejected.

Richard Backer died at Yampa Valley Medical Center. His wife sustained serious injuries.

Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said Richard Backer was not wearing a helmet, and he died from blunt force trauma to the head.

It was still unclear why the motorcycle went off the road. A Colorado State Patrol spokesman said Friday that neither excessive speed, drugs nor alcohol were suspected as contributing factors to the crash.

On July 14, James Dodge, 62, of Erie, was killed on Colorado Highway 14 in Jackson County. Dodge was also ejected when his motorcycle went off the road and rolled several times.

Similar to the Backers accident, neither excessive speed, drugs nor alcohol were suspected as contributing factors to the crash.

According to CDOT, Colorado motorcyclist deaths hit an all-time high in 2015, with 105 deaths.

According to CDOT and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, motorcycle deaths, nationwide, increased by 10 percent from 2014 to 2015.

CDOT has launched a safety campaign aimed at motorcyclists, and drivers are being encouraged to “look twice for motorcycles.”

“This is a growing and alarming problem, not just here in Colorado, but nationwide,” CDOT Communications Manager of Traffic Safety Sam Cole said in a news release. “A problem in which everyone — both riders and drivers — need to help combat.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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