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October 1, 2014

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Trio of motorcycle wrecks adds to high death toll for bikers, highlights risk of riding

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Steve Marcus

A Metro Police investigator looks over a motorcycle after a fatal accident on West Sahara Avenue near Buffalo Drive Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.

Motorcycle Fatal On West Sahara

Metro Police investigators look over an accident scene after a fatal motorcycle accident on West Sahara Avenue near Buffalo Drive Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Launch slideshow »

A motorcyclist died in a wreck Thursday night, the third such rider to die in Las Vegas in less than two days.

Jesus Vizcarra, 24, Las Vegan was killed about 10 p.m. Thursday in a hit-and-run crash when a car ran a red light at the intersection of Lamb Boulevard and Alexander Road, Metro Police said.

The two other victims in the 36-hour period died in unrelated incidents after their bikes struck another vehicle attempting to make a left turn from the opposite direction. Such “left-turn” accidents are common for motorcyclists because they often go unnoticed by other motorists, experts say.

“It’s a matter of visual perception,” said Bill Johnson, the assistant director of the Vegas Wings, a local group of riders who advocate for motorcycle safety. “If you see a bus coming down the street, you see it getting larger and larger. You see a tiny motorcyclist ... it’s hard for drivers to judge how fast we’re going.”

The first victim was Tyler Weber, 19, who was traveling east on Sahara Avenue when his cycle collided with a Honda Civic that was turning left onto Miller Lane from Sahara’s westbound lanes about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later – just before 3 p.m. Thursday – 28-year-old Michael Wayne Herman Derryberry of North Las Vegas was killed at the intersection of West Lake Mead Boulevard and North “D” Street. Police said Derryberry’s motorcycle crashed into a Chevrolet Silverado turning left from Lake Mead Boulevard.

“Most of the young riders are running into things,” Johnson said. “Old riders are losing control of the bike or getting hit.”

Fatal motorcycle crashes are up this year, according to Metro Police statistics. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, the department investigated the deaths of 20 motorcyclists, up significantly from 16 deaths during the same time period in 2012. That number was even lower in 2011, when the department reported only 13 year to date.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclists are about 30 times more likely than passenger-car occupants to die in a crash, according to 2010 data. The fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists that year was six times the fatality rate for passenger-car occupants.

The biggest risk factor is the sheer difference in size between a bike and a traditional vehicle, Johnson said.

Despite the hazards, the motorcycle enthusiast says he has enjoyed riding for the past 30 years because he finds it simultaneously tranquil and exciting. Still, he acknowledges motorcycles can be especially dangerous for the young, reckless and inexperienced.

“Experience comes with age, and judgment comes with getting older. I enjoy riding, but I don't want to die,” Johnson said. “(Younger riders) are immortal.”

Metro Police officials urged drivers to use extra caution around motorcyclists, avoiding distractions and paying extra attention to smaller vehicles. Officer Larry Hadfield said motorcyclists should avoid speeding and riding “like you are invisible” to other motorists. Never ride in someone’s blind spot, he cautioned.

“Slow down, pay attention, and be courteous to all drivers,” Hadfield said.

While motorcycle fatalities are up, overall traffic fatalities are down by 21 percent this year compared with 2012. Thursday night’s incident was the 79th traffic fatality this year in Metro’s jurisdiction.

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