A black motorcycle helmet adorned with loving messages rested on a telephone pole at the intersection of Rancier Avenue and Crockett Drive on Tuesday, its glossy surface reflecting the busy traffic passing by.
The small memorial is for 18-year-old Chase William Evans, who was killed in a fatal vehicle crash March 11.
According to Killeen police, Evans was traveling on his Yamaha motorcycle east on Rancier Avenue when a minivan attempted to turn south onto Crockett. Evans was unable to avoid the vehicle, causing the motorcycle to collide with the passenger side of the minivan. Evans was pronounced dead at 7:38 p.m. that night.
He was the first motorcyclist fatality of 2014 and likely won’t
be the last. The accident marked the 22nd fatal crash involving a motorcycle in Killeen since 2009, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation.
Last year, TxDOT reported five fatal crashes involved motorcycles. In 2012, nine fatal crashes involved motorcycles, the highest number in the six years of data provided by the department. Killeen also had 86 crashes that resulted in “incapacitating injuries” over the same six-year period.
TxDOT defines incapacitating injury as “any injury, other than a fatal one, which prevents the injured person from walking, driving or normally continuing the activities they were capable of performing before the injury occurred.”
Keith Potvin, an officer with the Killeen Police Department’s traffic division, said two common situations often cause such crashes.
“One is when a driver of a car does not see the motorcycle and pulls out in front of it,” Potvin said. “The other is when an inexperienced (motorcycle) rider rides above their experience level.”
Fort Hood saw an increase in fatal motorcycle accidents involving soldiers last year, from six in 2012 to seven in 2013, according to the III Corps Safety Office,
James Doherty, safety office director, said motorcycle fatalities are commonly male sport bike riders ages 22-27.
Excessive speed, drivers exceeding their abilities due to inexperience and failure to maintain adequate following distances were common factors in fatal motorcycle accidents, Doherty said.
Greg Deschapell, instructor with the Army Traffic Safety Training Program Campus, said other issues could also contribute to such crashes.
“When you talk about trends you have the obvious and not so obvious,” Deschapell said. “The obvious trends are speeding, not wearing (protection) and when alcohol is involved; the not so obvious trends are inattentiveness, inexperience and things like that.”
The Motorcycle Safety Program Policy requires all active duty military personnel who intend to operate a motorcycle on or off post to complete motorcycle rider safety courses. Soldiers are also required to be licensed and wear the required personal protective equipment.
For civilian riders, an initial motorcycle riding and safety class is required to earn a motorcycle license. Potvin said several intermediate and advanced motorcycle courses are available to riders.
Such classes are offered by organizations like the non-profit Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which conducts beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for civilians and military riders alike.
“You don’t just want to build skills, but you want to learn and develop good judgement,” said Tim Bruche, the foundation’s president. “Any periodic interaction with a motorcycle safety course is recommended.”
Bruche recommend that riders consider some kind of review at least once a year to brush up on those skills and safety lessons.
“You usually tune up your bike once a year,” he said. “Why not tune yourself up, too?”
Capt. Anthony Clas, U.S. Army Sustainment Command,
13th Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this story.