There have been 19 deaths from motorcycle accidents in Oregon since the beginning of 2014, more than twice the number of fatalities to this point last year, according to ODOT. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
"We really wanted to believe that last year was the trend that was being set for motorcycle riding,” Pat Hahn, communications manager for TEAM OREGON, said Thursday.
“But it seems that we were just having a really good year for motorcycle riding," he said.
TEAM OREGON is a motorcycle education and training program that’s been state-mandated since 2011. Since then, the number of fatalities from crashes involving motorcycles had been decreasing.
Deschutes County only accounts for two of the 19 deaths so far this year.
ODOT Region 4 Public Information Officer Peter Murphy says it’s due to the type of rider one finds in Central Oregon.
“We have people who are weekenders, or vacationers. We don't have the same commuter patterns as they do in the Valley," Murphy said.
For those areas where deaths are higher, there are a number of theories, but no solid answer. Some believe part of the answer lies in the rear-view mirror.
“I think if you’re going to get your driver’s license, you should have to take the written portion of the motorcycle test, too,” said Brandon Nash, co-owner of the Harley Davidson dealership in Bend.
“I have my motorcycle endorsement and driver’s license, and it makes me a much better driver," Nash said.
Despite questionable road relations between motorcyclists and drivers, the statistics support the idea that ignorant drivers aren’t usually at fault.
“Three-quarters of the motorcycle crashes that happen in Oregon are the fault of the rider," said Hahn said.
One of the surprisingly large factors behind some of the fatal crashes this year has been deer. While unproven, tracks have been found at a few locations where single-vehicle motorcycle accidents have occurred.