Standing at the scene where the fifth recent Southwest Idaho motorcyclist to die in a crash had wrecked, Lt. Stan Niccolls’ advice became a drumbeat.
“Wear a helmet,” the Boise officer repeated.
Lance Gines, who has been riding motorcycles in Idaho for 45 years, watched the news of the latest fatality spread like wildfire across Facebook on Thursday. Many commenters talked about helmets saving lives — and he believes that.
“My personal reaction is: ‘Was the rider paying attention? Was the driver of the car paying attention?’” said Gines, who hasn’t been in an on-road crash but said he has close calls almost every day during his 10-mile round trip to work in Downtown Boise. Inattention seems to be a factor in many collisions, he said.
The rash of fatalities over the past eight days — three in Boise, one in Canyon County and one in Boise County — is alarming for many reasons.
Here’s one: There was the same number of fatal crashes in all of 2010 in five Treasure Valley counties the Statesman examined (Ada, Canyon, Boise, Gem, and Owyhee counties), according to Idaho Transportation Department data. In 2015, there were 13 fatal motorcycle crashes in those counties.
The string of motorcycle fatalities is baffling even to local experts.
“I really don’t have an explanation. If you come up with one, let me know,” said Brian Eichler, manager of the Learn to Ride program at High Desert Harley-Davidson in Meridian. “I’m here to save lives.”
Boise Police Cpl. Kyle Wills echoed Eichler.
“There’s nothing that I can really point my finger to and say, yep, that’s what’s causing it,” said Wills, who has been in the department’s motorcycle and traffic unit for 14 years.
In the coming months, Boise police and other law enforcement agencies around the state will be doing extra patrols that focus on aggressive driving, distracted driving and impaired driving – typical for the 100 days between Memorial and Labor days.
Both Eichler and Wills said the value of training in preventing motorcycle accidents and injury can’t be overstated.
“Training is perishable. Your motorcycle skills are perishable. If you don’t use them, you lose them,” Eichler said. “I’ve been training [others] for almost 10 years, and I still go to training. Every chance I get, I still go to training.”
To get a motorcycle license or endorsement in Idaho, you must pass a written test and a skills test — but no training is required beyond the ability to pass those tests.
High Desert offers classes for motorcyclists of three different skill levels, and you don’t have to have a Harley-Davidson bike. The training runs from five hours for the most seasoned riders ($45) up to 2.5 days for beginners ($149).
The dozen officers in Boise’s motorcycle police unit all go through a two-week training course to handle their 500- to 600-pound BMW 1200 RTs. They also participate in up to 80 hours of ongoing training throughout the year.
Managing tight turns and cornering are a big part of the initial training that officers get, Wills said.
“It’s not just going through a curve that’s a challenge, it’s being able to stop on a corner,” he said. “It takes a lot of training to understand how a bike stops.”
Learning to scan and anticipate things that could go wrong is another key skill. As an example, he said a cooler lid that flew out of the back of a pickup and landed unexpectedly on the road in front of him Thursday could have been a disaster, had he not been a safe distance behind and ready to maneuver.
Gines, who owns Into the Horizon Adventure Motorcycle Tours and Rentals, said he often hears new motorcycle owners ask what bike accessories they should buy.
“Training,” he said. “A class is the best thing you can buy.”
He and others also emphasize helmet use because of evidence — such as these studies — that when a crash does happen, helmets lessen the chance of death or serious injury. Idaho law does not require adult motorcycle riders to wear helmets; two of the five recent motorcyclists killed did so.
“I don’t care if it messes up your hair, I don’t care if it messes up your look. It doesn’t matter when you wreck and you don’t have one on,” said Niccolls, the BPD lieutenant.
Details on five crashes
The investigation into the crashes will last for weeks. Here’s what we know so far:
▪ In Thursday morning’s fatal crash, the motorcyclist was headed north on Cole Road and at 8:04 a.m. hit a southbound pickup truck turning left from Cole onto Brentwood Drive. Aleksandr A. Tymoshchuk, 23, was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene.
Witnesses suggested that Tymoshchuk was driving at a high rate of speed and passing other vehicles on the right, Niccolls said. Crash reconstructionists were working to confirm those details.
The pickup driver was not injured but was shaken up, as were other witnesses, Niccolls said. “It’s very traumatic to see something like that,” he said.
Niccolls called for all drivers to show more caution and care, and to drive defensively — and if you’re on a motorcycle, assume that you’re harder to see.
“The awareness is the big thing,” he said. “We can’t control how people drive. But hopefully when people see this, the next time you go to get on your motorcycle, you’ll stop and think twice.”
▪ Late Wednesday night, 63-year-old Jack Lee Montgomery, of Boise, crossed the center line on State Street near Sycamore Drive and hit a Ford Focus head-on, said Idaho State Police and the Ada County Coroner’s Office.
Montgomery was pronounced dead at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
The driver of the Ford, 18-year-old Tyler Kasuba, of Meridian, was not taken to the hospital, ISP reported.
▪ A 59-year-old Nampa man died Tuesday afternoon after attempting to pass a tractor at the intersection of Riverside and Symms roads in Canyon County. Kevin Cherrington hit the tractor as it turned left onto Symms Road; he died at the scene.
▪ On Monday, a 52-year-old Boise motorcyclist died after hitting a pickup truck along Warm Springs Avenue, at Starcrest Drive. Police believe that Craig Allen Carlisle crossed the center line of Warm Springs. Carlisle was wearing a helmet.
▪ Boise County officials say 27-year-old Christopher Booher, of Meridian, died in a crash on Idaho 21 on the night of June 15. His body was found in Mores Creek the next day.
Booher was wearing a helmet. Alcohol was believed to be a factor, said Boise County Coroner Pam Garlock.
In three of the other wrecks, authorities are still awaiting toxicology reports.
Reporter Ruth Brown contributed to this story.