A number of you Colorado Rider News readers are all-season riders but not everyone rides in through the winter season. For those that put the bike away for several of the winter months, the warming weather really creates an itch to hit the road.[Read more…] about Prepping for the Riding Season
It happens at every event we attend. A biker steps up and we ask, “are you familiar with Rider Justice?”
“Yes,” they often reply. “You’re a law firm.”
That’s kind of correct, but it isn’t the whole picture.
I’ve been working with motorcyclists through my firm, The O’Sullivan Law Firm, for over 20 years, now. Yes, I most absolutely help riders who have been injured in accidents, however, my intention with Rider Justice is to extend further and support the riding community in truly meaningful ways. To me, it means not marketing with massive billboards everywhere, but finding avenues that positively impact riders and enhance their lives every day.[Read more…] about What Rider Justice Does for You
Motorcyclists hear this all the time: Be a proactive rider! But what does “being proactive” really mean?
The most important piece of advice you can start using right now: Don’t trust other drivers. You are responsible for your ride. It’s an unfortunate reflection of our current culture that people are driving distracted, wrapped up in themselves, and anxious. Taking control of yourself and your actions should be number one on your to-do list.
Being proactive and being a proactive rider means actively being in control of everything possible about you and your ride and not just responding when something happens on the road. There are things you can control and then there are things you can’t control.
What is in Your Control
Gear — Seriously! Ride with the right gear. Accidents, road debris, weather – they are going to happen. Recommended gear includes: shatter-proof eye protection, full-face helmet, full-finger gloves, sturdy boots, and long pants.
Also, do you have a first-aid kit? If you do, do you know how to use everything in the kit?
Your bike — Most riders love their babies so they have this one covered, but some folks do let maintenance and repairs slide. Don’t be that person that gets injured or stuck in a bad place because of an avoidable breakdown.
Get the right insurance — Because you absolutely cannot trust anyone else out on the road, assume the worst: that they have no insurance or the state minimum. (Don’t even get us started about hit and runs!) This means you must carry enough insurance to care for you and your family if the very worst happens. (Check out our insurance recommendations at riderjustice.com.)
Your skill level — Hone your riding skills. Harley-Davidson said it best: Great riders aren’t born; they’re made! This means new riders should definitely take a class. Experienced riders should keep taking advanced training classes to keep yourself sharp. Rider inexperience is the *number one human contributing factor in motorcycle accidents in Colorado and your skill is completely in your control. Any rider, no matter how many miles under their belt, can learn more.
Situational awareness — Is anyone around you in a state of road rage? Are others texting, distracted, or oblivious? Is there construction, bad weather, or an accident ahead? Recognize what is going on around you and adapt with the sole intention of keeping yourself safe. Don’t get sucked into road rage yourself or teaching someone a lesson. Adapting to avoid danger is a better goal. Another way to plan for safety is to check out the Denver Accident Map and plot your rides to avoid the most dangerous roads in Denver.
Self Awareness — Do you react emotionally to situations? Do you get so angry at other drivers that your hands shake and vision narrows? *Aggressive driving is the 2nd top contributing human factor for motorcycle accidents. Don’t be that guy. Take a deep breath and remember that keeping your cool is a better way to get yourself home safe.
Your Community — Do you know who to call for help if something goes wrong? Not just 9-1-1, but organizations like BikerDown exist to help riders after an accident and offer membership services that can keep you afloat if you get hurt.
Do you have a trusted legal resource, like Rider Justice in your phone so when you have questions you can get advice?
Do you carry an ICE (In Case of Emergency) card?
Ride sober — This one should be a no brainer, but still, *DUI, DWAI, and DUID is the 3rd most common cause of motorcycle accidents in the state of Colorado. Don’t be your own worst enemy! Anything that affects your perception, vision, reaction time, or attention span is taking your control away.
Safety training — If there is an accident, can you help? Do you know CPR? Take classes that train you to confidently deal with what may happen on the road to fellow riders. Follow our Facebook page for announcements for safety classes that we sponsor for riders: https://www.facebook.com/MotorcycleRiderJustice/
What is Not in Your Control
People driving with little or no insurance — No matter how irresponsible – people still do it. You can’t control what insurance they carry or if they drive with none at all. There’s no pot of gold if someone uninsured hits you – insurance is where the money comes from.
Distracted Drivers — These people are a serious danger to everyone on the road. Watch for them and get away as far away from them as possible even if that means letting them move ahead of you so you can keep an eye on them.
Road conditions — You can’t get CDOT to work any faster but you can watch the road carefully to avoid hazards and plan your ride to avoid construction zones.
You probably don’t have a hotline to control the weather (if you do, let us know- we have some requests). Check the weather and just don’t ride if there’s rain, snow, or intense wind in the forecast. If you choose to do so, recognize that you are giving up some safety control to the elements.
Public perception of bikers — This one is rough because we know bikers get a bad rap. It isn’t fair and we don’t like it but we find most drivers assume bikers are the bad guys. Just keep in mind cameras are everywhere and there is a better than good chance that in any road “situation” there will be a camera recording all or part of it. Make sure if you’re being recorded that it’s to your advantage.
The ride should be a beautiful thing, and sometimes beauty takes work and planning. The best thing you can do is take total control of yourself and your ride.
*MOST 2019 Annual Reports
In February of 2016, Brian and Jacquie Lehner were riding their Harley-Davidson on Highway 83 near Franktown when an oncoming driver crossed the double-yellow line and hit them head-on. Both of the Lehners were killed. The driver, Athina Munoz, was found by police to be texting while driving, and she was also high on multiple substances.
Susan Dane was friends with the Lehners, having met them through her Harley-Davidson Chapter in Parker.
“The summer after they died, I told our Chapter members, ‘Something good has to come out of this!’” says Susan. “I looked up the penalties for texting and driving in Colorado and discovered that it was only $50 and one point. We were all shocked and realized we had to get that changed.”
Dane understood that Colorado’s laws were not strict enough to make anyone change their habits, meaning more people could die due to texting and driving. But she didn’t know how to change laws. She had never been involved in any legislative efforts in her life.
Therefore, Susan and a few of the Lehners’ other friends requested a meeting with George Brauchler, the district attorney who had prosecuted Athina Munoz.
“He said we had two options to change the law,” says Susan. “Either we could create legislation and try to get it passed through the Colorado legislature, or we could try to get signatures on a petition and get it on the ballot. He told us legislation would probably easier.”
CORD was Born
Knowing this would take an organized, grassroots effort, Susan and several other motorcycle riders founded CORD: Coloradans Organized for Responsible Driving.
“My role was to go out and find bills that had been introduced or laws that had passed in other states,” says Susan. “I discovered that there was a bill moving forward in Colorado that year! Senator Lois Court had introduced the bill, so I gathered a bunch of bikers to show up and testify on behalf of the bill.”
Susan laughs a bit when she thinks of that day. “When Senator Court saw us all walk in the room – all these motorcycle riders – she was afraid we’d be against the legislation because bikers are typically against more restrictive laws, such as helmet laws. But then we all started telling our stories and she realized we were on her side.”
CORD and Senator Court worked together to cross party lines and get a bill passed that year. It was a victory but, according to Susan, still not enough.
“It was a small victory,” says Susan. “We got the fines increased but it was a very hard law to enforce. Basically, the only way to get pulled over and ticketed is if you’re texting while driving, and you’re driving carelessly, and a police officer sees you.”
(I also testified at that first public hearing and have been working with CORD and Senator Court to pass stricter texting-while-driving laws.)
Sadly, a stricter bill was quickly killed in 2018. But everyone involved agreed that they had to keep trying in 2019. Their first goal was to expand awareness and support of their efforts.
“We got insurance companies, AAA, C-DOT, the bicycle communities and so many others involved,” says Susan. “So many people want safer roads!”
The 2019 bill made it through the Colorado Senate but was killed in the first House committee it faced.
“The opposition seems to come from a perceived profiling concern, and because not everybody can afford a Bluetooth-enabled car,” says Susan, who explains that she has hard data refuting the profiling concern, and that there are many ways to go hands-free in any car.
“We aren’t going away!” she proclaims, insisting that CORD and many others will be back for the next legislative session to get an impactful, habit-changing law passed.
“In my perfect world, I would like to see a fine of $500 and 4 points for the first offense, escalating from there for each additional offense,” she says. “This is just as bad as drunk driving! As a comparison, we have a $1,000 fine for littering!”
Want Safer Roads? Get Involved!
Susan would love to hear from anyone interested in supporting CORD’s efforts, and she understands how intimidating it can be to join the legislative process.
“It’s an eye opener,” she says. “I’ve never done anything like this before. Social studies was not my cup of tea in school so I’m making up for it now. Honestly, it’s very interesting and I have seen how average people can make a difference.”
If you’d like to follow CORD’s work, visit them on Facebook. You can also email Susan directly: email@example.com
As a Denver motorcycle attorney, I have seen some very scary, tragic outcomes after motorcycle accidents. These outcomes, which generally involve serious injuries or fatalities, leave victims and their family members completely overwhelmed by grief, pain and financial fears.
Recently, I met with the girlfriend of a biker who was hit by a car. She was on the back of his bike and she was seriously injured, as was he. Because they weren’t married, they had a lot of confusion about what they could expect from insurance. The truth is this: insurance is ALWAYS confusing, but in the case of unmarried couples, it can get even murkier.
Therefore, I thought I’d share some typical scenarios involving couples on motorcycles, as well as some real-life stories below. Always remember: It is free to speak with a personal injury attorney about your accident to see if you can make an insurance claim.
Couples on Motorcyclists: What Are Your Rights?
There are three typical scenarios involving couples and motorcycle accidents. (Generally, the man is driving the motorcycle with his wife/girlfriend riding in back, so that is how I’ve written these scenarios. I am fully aware that there are many female bikers who are also victims of motorcycle accidents.)
- The accident is his fault and you’re not married: If you’re not married and you are riding on the back of your boyfriend’s bike and he causes an accident, you have a right to make a claim against him for liability. I am NOT suggesting that this motorcycle accident is the end of your relationship because you’re suing him… you’re actually making a claim against his insurance company. (Make sure he has the right insurancebefore you ever get on his bike!)
- The accident is his fault and you are married: If you are married, riding on the back of your husband’s bike, and he causes a motorcycle accident, you both better have great healthcare coverage and disability insurance because you cannot sue a spouse for insurance coverage.
- The accident is someone else’s fault and you’re not married: If you’re on the back of your boyfriend’s bike and someone else causes an accident that injures you, you have three “buckets” to make claims against, in this order: a) the at-fault driver, b) your boyfriend’s Uninsured Motorist coverage (UIM), and c) your own UIM.
Here is a perfect example of that third scenario and why you should always carry Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM):
Last year, an unmarried couple was riding on a motorcycle when they were hit by an oncoming vehicle. Both of them ended up in the hospital with injuries. Here are the ways that the couple is covered after this accident:
- Both of the victims can make separate claims against the at-fault driver. He had policy limits of $100,000.
- The boyfriend can also make a claim against his UIM. He had policy limits of $50,000.
- The girlfriend can also make a claim against the boyfriend’s UIM as well as her own. She had policy limits of $250,000.
This means the boyfriend will receive $150,000 and the girlfriend will receive $400,000! This case proves the value of getting as much UIM coverage as you can afford. (I recommend a minimum of $250,000.)
Again, I am not suggesting that you and your boyfriend get into a legal fight with each other. Not at all! This is about insurance claims; not about taking money away from someone you love. The whole reason we buy insurance is to protect ourselves when something goes wrong and motorcycle accidents can cause a lot of financial hardship. You should use all of the insurance available to you. Consult with a Denver motorcycle lawyer to find out exactly where those “buckets” exist.
Unmarried Couples on Motorcycles: True Stories
A couple of summers ago, I had two cases that broke my heart. In both cases, a woman who had just met a man with a motorcycle, got on the back of his bike and they ended up in accidents caused by the biker. In both cases, the women were wearing shorts and the accidents degloved their legs and arms. (That is as gruesome as it sounds.) Because the bikers caused the accidents, the women made claims against the bikers’ insurance companies. Sadly, the women did not also have their own UIM insurance, which would have provided them with significant financial support as they healed from their injuries.
Never, ever get on the back of a motorcycle without checking the biker’s insurance and making sure you’re covered with UIM!
In another case, a friend of mine and her common-law husband got on their motorcycle to watch the 2017 eclipse in Wyoming. He ended up getting killed in an accident that wasn’t his fault; she was not on the bike at the time, thank goodness. Because we could prove that they were common-law married, she was able to use her UIM coverage to help cover costs from the accident, as well as the pain, financial loss and suffering she experienced after his death.
If you frequently ride on the back of a motorcycle, contact me for a free insurance review! I can quickly make sure that you are covered properly. Call or text me at 303-388-5304.
Dennis Tye is an avid motorcyclist. He is also an avid movie buff. AND he is also an avid writer. A few years ago, it hit him that those three worlds needed to merge so that he could fill what he saw as a glaring hole in American fiction and cinema.
“I watch a lot of movies and I realized that there are no movies about people my age and there are very few good motorcycle movies,” says Dennis. “Usually, motorcycle movies are about wild hogs, or the bikers are all drunks, or there’s slapstick humor. I thought that we needed a good movie to share what it’s really like to ride on the open road. But before you can have a movie, you need a good book. So, I decided to write that book.”
The Last Ride Story
The Last Ride, published in 2015, tells the story of six men who have all received terminal medical diagnoses. They are all dying. The men decide to embark on their last ride together.
Dennis says that he wanted to tell a good story but he had two deeper goals:
To share the brotherhood of bikers and what it’s like to be included in such a sacred bond, and
To share what it’s like to ride a motorcycle out on the open road.
“Riding a motorcycle is so different from riding in car, a bus or a plane,” says Dennis. “But it is darn next to impossible to capture that feeling. I wanted to share what it’s like to drive down a country road, with the sun coming through the leaves, the smell of grass and trees, the scent of barbeque on the air, people walking by, kids getting excited when they see your bike. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Dennis says that, once he sat down to write, it only took him about six months to complete the book. His wife, Lauren Preston, helped edit it. (She sobbed when the characters she loved faced difficulties and she asked Dennis, “Why did you do this to him?!”)
Developing realistic characters was initially hard for Dennis, but he decided to imagine real people as he wrote, which helped break his writer’s block.
“I thought James Brolin was perfect for the main character and Trace Adkins would be the perfect Tony, who is big and brawny but has a gentle heart,” says Dennis. “As soon as I pictured my characters as those guys, it was a lot easier to write.”
Dennis has been writing his entire life. He says poetry is a form of therapy for him. His dad, who Dennis describes as “an amazing painter,” once said to Dennis, “You do with words what I do with paint.”
“That’s the best complement I ever received,” says Dennis.
It would be fantastic if The Last Ride were turned into a movie, but Dennis knows it’s a stretch. He’s hoping to give a copy to Trace Adkins during an upcoming concert, just to see if he might help advocate for a movie. In the meantime, Dennis is already at work on his next novel. It’s called, One Foot in the Grave, and it’s about the motorcycle accident that took his leg and nearly took his life. That book should be published in December 2019.
To get a copy of The Last Ride, email Dennis Tye directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Motorcyclists who have faced the frustration of sitting at “dead red” lights in Colorado have reason to celebrate! The Colorado State Legislature has passed a bill allowing bikers to proceed through malfunctioning lights. The law takes effect on August 2, 2019. However, as with all laws, there are important details that bikers should be aware of in order to take advantage of this new law properly.
I spoke with Bruce Downs, State Coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, about this new law. Bruce has been an advocate and champion for new red light laws in Colorado and he has many insights about this new legislation.
Why Are Dead Red Laws Necessary?
Because today’s streets are so “smart,” sensors are now in charge of when traffic lights change. Today, there are two kinds of sensors that alert traffic lights when someone has stopped at an intersection. Unfortunately, they don’t always pick up light-weight vehicles.
How Do Traffic Lights Know to Change?
- Over-the-Pavement Sensors: These sensors include motion-sensing cameras, lasers and infrared fields. Over-the-pavement sensors are designed to “see” vehicles that reach a certain point in the intersection and they are often very good at picking up small vehicles, like motorcycles, bicycles and scooters.
- In-Pavement Sensors: These sensors are typically the culprit when it comes to dead red lights for motorcycles. In-pavement sensors usually rely on a vehicle’s weight or metal mass to trigger a scale or magnet. You can sometimes tell if an in-pavement sensor has been added to a road because the asphalt has been cut into a circle or square. Beneath that slab of asphalt lies the sensor.
Not only is it annoying for bikers to wait at dead red lights, according to Bruce, it can also be dangerous.
“As we pointed out in testimony, if you’re stuck at a left-hand turn lane and you finally go ahead and make the turn, you’ve made an illegal turn. The other option can be even worse. Sometimes, we have to take a right-hand turn, go down that road and make a U-turn where it’s legal, then go back the other way to cross the intersection. This exposes us to much more danger.”
Bruce says he is aware of many lights that literally never change when a motorcycle is waiting to make a left-hand turn because there’s no oncoming cross traffic.
“A prime example is a light at Highway 83 and Douglas County Line Road,” says Bruce. “There is a light there, and if nobody comes to cross the traffic, it will stay green forever. There are no turn arrows, no crosswalk, nothing.”
New Law Allows CO Motorcyclists to Proceed Through Malfunctioning Light
Senate Bill 19-144, titled “Concerning Allowing a Driver of a Motorcycle to Proceed Past a Malfunctioning Traffic Control Signal,” was sponsored by Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D) and states:
“(1)(a)When a driver approaches an intersection and faces a traffic control signal that is inoperative, that remains on steady red or steady yellow during several time cycles, or that does not recognize a motorcycle that is operated by the driver, the provisions controlling entrance to a through street or highway from a stop sign or highway, as provided under section 42-4-703, apply until a police officer assumes control of traffic or until the traffic control signal resumes normal operation.
“(b)If a traffic control signal at a place other than an intersection ceases to operate or malfunctions as specified in subsection (1)(a) of this section, drivers may proceed past the signal only with caution, as if the signal were flashing yellow.”
In plain English, Bruce restates the law like this: “If a light doesn’t recognize a motorcycle, the driver may proceed as though it is a four-way stop or a blinking yellow.”
However, the law does not require that motorcyclists wait a specified period of time before making this decision, as Bruce had hoped.
“We had requested a two-minute timeframe,” explains Bruce. “If the light didn’t change after two minutes, then the biker would have the legal right to proceed with caution. The new law doesn’t require a specific time limit. It’s just up to the biker to say, ‘The light didn’t recognize me.’”
Clearly, this law leaves a lot of room for interpretation by both motorcyclists and law enforcement, which Bruce was trying to avoid.
Interpreting the New Colorado Dead Red Law
This new law allowing bikers to proceed through red lights could be abused by bikers. For example, a biker might ride up to a red light, wait 15 seconds, and make a left-hand turn. If he says, “It didn’t recognize me,” can he be ticketed for violating the law?
Bruce encourages bikers to follow the intention of the law and not to abuse it.
“I live near the intersection at Iliff and Havana and it’s a longer turn signal than I’d like but I know it works,” says Bruce. “I’ve only seen it malfunction twice in 18 years, but I know it works. I’m not going to abuse this new law and run that light just because I have to wait longer than I want.”
On the flip side, as Bruce makes clear, this law will make bikers safer.
“We can stop at a light and, if it does not recognize us, we do have a legal option to treat it as a four-way stop and go on our way,” he says. “This makes us safer because we don’t have to look for right turns on red or make dangerous U-turns. It’s little things like this that prevent frustration which leads to dangerous choices on a motorcycle.”
There are also concerns that law enforcement may not honor or properly enforce this new law.
For example, if a motorcycle pulls up to a light and it doesn’t recognize him, he may proceed through the light. If law enforcement is coming from another direction and doesn’t see the malfunctioning signal, or if he sees a car recognized and believes the light is not malfunctioning, then the biker may get a ticket.
Time will tell how well this law works.
Turning Left Across a Dead Red Intersection
Because I have seen so many bikers hurt and killed when making left-hand turns, I strongly caution you to wait as long as possible before turning left across oncoming traffic when you’re sitting at a dead red light. If you get hit, it will be your fault because you shouldn’t have turned in the first place. (That’s why nearly every state with dead red laws requires motorcyclists to come to a complete stop and proceed only when it’s safe: the onus is on the motorcyclists to assure his or her own safety.)
As a Denver personal injury attorney, I am very curious to hear from bikers who receive tickets for proceeding through malfunctioning signals. I want to know if this new law is properly understood by both bikers and police. Call or text me if you receive a ticket for proceeding through a dead red light after August 2, 2019. (303-388-5304)
This year’s 5th annual Colorado Freedom Festival was an extravaganza like never before! The event’s goal is to gather people to honor military veterans and to thank them for their service. Every year, proceeds go to benefit veteran’s charities. This year, in addition to benefiting The American Soldier Network, this year Freedom Fest also included Colorado Fallen Heroes Foundation, a charity that serves the families of fallen police officers.
Without question, the venue change to Jefferson County Fairgrounds was a great move by Dean Gary, event organizer. JeffCo offered space enough for the crowd and vendors alike to spread out and get comfortable. Thousands of attendees brought lawn chairs or blankets and kicked back across wide swaths of green grass to enjoy the show.
The bands that performed this year were just over the top:
- Great White
- Steel Heart
With local bands:
- Straight Six
- Lotus Gait
Time between sets was just long enough to make runs to one of the dozens of beer and food vendors. We heard over and over again how great the craft brews tasted!
In fact, so much was better this year because of the additional space that it makes it hard to even compare to past years. Access to food and beverage seemed much more steam-lined and lines so much shorter! The whiskey tasting at the entrance was a treat for all connoisseurs and a sign that the event is growing in sophistication.
At our Rider Justice tent, we collected registrations to give away another customized Yeti cooler. With the heat of summer kicking in the cooler was a hit! We had lots of activity and had a wonderful time meeting new people and spreading the word about our services to the biker community. We handed out buckets of sunscreen to protect the crowd from the blazing sun and even more koozies to help keep their drinks cold!
Next to our booth was BikerDown! Always our favorite non-profit, we were proud to share our space. Wide Open Saloon ran the show by sharing the good work BikerDown does for the community as well as selling raffle tickets for a pristine 2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide. Wide Open Saloon is giving 100% of the raffle sales to BikerDown. If you missed grabbing raffle tickets at Freedom Fest, don’t worry! Raffle tickets can be purchased online here.
A big “thank you” to Dennis Tye, Lauren Preston, and Russ Young for their generous help at our booth. They have such big hearts and already do so much philanthropic work in our rider community, that we know how lucky we are to receive a bit of their time.
And a big, warm “thank-you” to Dean Gary. It takes heart to put in so much time and energy, year after year, to create an event of this magnitude.
“The biggest impact – the real reason I do this—is to let soldiers know they’re loved,” he says. “When soldiers can stand in a crowd of thousands, where people are hugging them and telling them they are loved… that can save lives. Love can save lives. That’s why we don’t quit after the years I lose money. When someone tells you that they didn’t take their life, nothing can replace that.”
“I grew up playing Punch Buggy or Slug Bug, punching my sibling every time we spotted a VW bug,” says Scott O’Sullivan, founder of Rider Justice and owner of The O’Sullivan Law Firm. “I’ve always wanted to create a game for kids that raised awareness of motorcyclists and even bicyclists on the road.”[Read more…] about Rider Justice Has Created a New Car Game to Raise Awareness of Bikers
Munky Mark Berman is a man who found his calling 50 years ago and held on with both hands (on the handlebars)![Read more…] about Munky Mark Found His Life’s Mission with Bikers