News that this year has been the deadliest for motorcyclists since 1991 came just days before the state’s largest motorcycle event of the year.

Six people were killed in five crashes over the Labor Day weekend, bringing the state’s total for the year so far to 26. Thirty-four people died in motorcycle crashes in 1991.

With an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 motorcycles on the roads for the United Bikers of Maine’s 34th annual Toy Run on Sunday, officials are reminding drivers to stay alert on the roadways.

“Motorists need to be aware that this has been a very deadly year — the deadliest in Maine in 24 years,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department.

“They need to be aware and drive accordingly,” McCausland said. “At the same time, many of these crashes have been a single motorcycle.”

He said the causes of the accidents ranged from deer and moose collisions to speed and alcohol.


“It’s just a bad year,” McCausland said. “The reasoning for the crashes this year are really no different than the reasoning in the years when we’ve had less fatalities to deal with.”

 He said many of the crashes were caused by erratic driving on the motorcyclists’ part, McCausland said. That included two from this past weekend.

Others, including the accident in Hiram that killed a couple from Wales on Monday when a truck crossed the centerline and hit the motorcycle head-on, were not the motorcyclists’ fault.

According to data from the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Highway Safety, of the 25 accidents that resulted in 26 fatalities this year, 11 included speed as a factor. Three were collisions with deer and one was a moose collision. Driver inattention is listed as a reason for two of the accidents. Six of the accidents involved other vehicles. In at least one instance, that other vehicle was also a motorcycle.

In an accident that occurred in Fort Kent in August, two motorcyclists collided while driving fast in the early morning. Colby Martin, 19, attempted to pass another motorcycle driven by Donny McBreairty, 22, of St. John Plantation when the two vehicles made contact and caused both drivers to lose control. Martin lost his life. Neither driver was wearing a helmet.

Maine does not have an all-encompassing helmet law. The only motorcycle riders or operators the state requires to wear helmets are those under the age of 18, those who are operating under a learner’s permit or first-year licensed operators and the passenger of anyone required to wear a helmet.


“Maine recommends (wearing a helmet) at a state level, but the vast majority have not been wearing their helmets,” McCausland said.

Reports said only three people in the motorcycle-related fatalities this year were wearing helmets. This number may go up; several of the accidents have occurred too recently for the data to be counted.

McCausland said that, so far, police have determined that alcohol was a factor in four of the crashes. Again, because many of the accidents occurred recently, that number may, and is expected, to go up once blood-alcohol content reports are in.

In addition to fatalities, there have been 95 “incapacitating injuries” to date for 2015. Each year for at least the past 10 years, there have been well over 100 such injuries from motorcycle crashes, with the largest number, 150, occurring in 2007, according to state records.

Craig Anderson is the general manager and one of the owners at Central Maine Powersports, which is celebrating its 10th year in business. Despite ongoing construction in front of his dealership, Anderson said business has been steady throughout the summer. The couple who died over Labor Day weekend in Hiram and the couple they were riding with were customers of his dealership, so the news has hit close to home for him and his staff.

“I hope this year is an anomaly,” he said. “The reality is that things that happen affect other people. The people who were with (the couple from Wales) have that image in their mind forever.”


Anderson says this weekend’s Toy Run will likely go off without incident because when many bikes ride together in a group, it is easier for motorists to see them. It’s single riders or smaller groups that he’s concerned about. Anderson said all drivers, regardless of the type of vehicle they’re driving, have to pay attention and respect the vehicle they’re operating.

“The cause is the same, whether it’s a motorist that’s not expecting a motorcycle, or it’s a motorcycle that’s not expecting a motor vehicle; it’s about respect,” he said.

Anderson cautioned drivers to realize that a text can wait and that even distractions such as tuning the radio can be the difference between life and death.

Safety program for riders

A program is available to help even experienced motorcyclists hone their driving skills. A federal grant administered through the Maine Secretary of State’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, in cooperation with the Bureau of Highway Safety, provides $20,000 for rider education.

“This updated training is available for motorcyclists who have their license already, but who may need a refresher course. There is funding available to pay for the tuition,” Maine Public Safety Department spokesman Stephen McCausland said.

The first of the scholarship events was held the weekend of Aug. 22 and 23, and there will be a second event this coming weekend. The Experienced Rider Education Course features nine exercises, including collision avoidance, slow-speed maneuvering, maximum braking and cornering exercises.

“This is a great opportunity for someone who already has a motorcycle license to get a refresher course,” McCausland said.

To sign up for a scholarship spot in the Experienced Rider Education Course, contact a motorcycle education school to see whether they are participating in the grant program.

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