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Motorcyclist Deaths, Injuries: Unlikely Partners Team To Save Lives

Motorcyclists come to Southwest Riverside County to enjoy rolling open space to the east, and spectacular views along the Ortega Highway to the west. But too many are getting hurt.

In the Temecula and Lake Elsinore valleys, there have been three motorcyclists killed this year. Additionally, 62 motorcyclists have been injured in 79 local collisions since January.

“The numbers are up,” said CHP Officer Nathan Baer, who is based out of the state agency’s Temecula office.

“This is the second busiest area in Southern California, in terms of motorcycle incidents,” said CHP Temecula office Captain Ernie Sanchez. “Pasadena is number one, with its nearby Angeles Crest Highway.”

Locally, motorcyclists come to Southwest Riverside County to enjoy rolling open space to the east, and spectacular views along the Ortega Highway to the west, Baer said.

CHP officers know all too well the “aftermath” of crashes, so the agency

Today it was announced CHP has a new partner in its campaign to save lives.

Swiss Dairy, with headquarters in Riverside, has joined the effort to bring down motorcyclist injuries and fatalities.

After undergoing an in-depth scrutiny by CHP of its equipment and driver safety record, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow approved Swiss Dairy’s participation in his agency’s “Look Twice, Save A Life” campaign. As a result, the Swiss Dairy’s fleet of 220 trucks will display the slogan to raise awareness about the importance of watching out for motorcyclists.

“We’re trying to make it a habit among drivers to always look twice [before changing lanes or turning],” Sanchez explained.

Much like the now-ingrained practice of buckling up when behind the wheel, Sanchez hopes the message will resonate with younger drivers who can effect change on our roads.

Baer also hopes the message will get across to those who travel on two wheels.

“We still need the motorcycle community to do its part,” he explained. Lane splitting, racing on the Ortega, and general unsafe driving are common problems on local roads, Baer said.

The partnership between CHP and Swiss Dairy, which is a subsidiary of parent company Dallas, Texas-based Dean Foods, started with one man: Former-truck-driver-turned-manager Armando Jimenez.

After a 10-year career driving for Dean Foods’ Alta Dena company, Jimenez was promoted in 2000 to group fleet safety manager for Swiss Dairy’s Pacific Coast region.

“There was a lot of ‘misinterpretation’ about safety regulation,” Jimenez recalled of his early years in management. “I wanted to get that straightened out.”

Jimenez approached the CHP, which he says was enthusiastic about helping.

At the urging of Jimenez, today Swiss Dairy works closely with the CHP on everything from driver training and continuing education to safety compliance. The “Look Twice, Save A Life” logos now being displayed on the Swiss Dairy fleet are being paid for by the company, not California taxpayers, Jimenez said.

“Our commitment [to safety] extends beyond plant walls,” he added. “We’re really proud of this relationship with the CHP.”

Of Sanchez and his team, Jimenez said, “Ernie has been so proactive. They are a great asset to us.”

Lauren Vento August 29, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I live off of Ortega Highway. I can tell you that every single time I drive it, I am passed by speeding motorcycles, and often on blind turns. There is a carelessness while up on the mountains, by so many. Its not a safe road, and everyone needs to remember to slow down and stay in your lane. Passing isn't safe at all.
Diana August 29, 2012 at 11:04 PM
This is a great program, being Harley riders ourselves I cannot tell you how many times we have had drivers make a left turn in front of us, try to run us off the road passing other traffic and change lanes without seeing us. Another thing I would like to add is when traffic is stopped on the freeway, drivers need to use their rear view mirrors and let motorcycle riders pass. It is not that they are trying to get a head of you, when you're on a bike and it's hot outside you have the heat of the road, the heat of the bike and the heat of the sun beating on you. For a motorcycle to sit and idle in heavy traffic the bike will over heat faster then a car, so be kind nudge over a bit and let them pass. And for the previous poster, crotch rocket riders propose the same threat to Harley riders, they pass us too into on coming traffic, they are wild and crazy and give the other riders a bad rap.
Eric August 29, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Agreed Diana, I ride a cruiser myself and I've yet to find any of us riding as bad as some of the car drivers and nowhere near as reckless as the crotch rocket riders. Unfortunately it is they (sport bike riders) who give all motorcyclists a bad name. The Harley/cruiser riders that do go down are usually rookies or is the fault of a car driver.
rayne August 30, 2012 at 02:34 PM
What was mind boggling Monday morning approx 8:30 am on Ortega was a motorcycle officer that was passing cars on a blind curve. WTF wanted to take a photo but was driving. Bad example that had the potential of an accident and put the rest of us in danger. I drive Ortega regularly and this was not the first time I witnessed this.
Susan August 31, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I drove Ortega for many years and now am driving to Temecula each morning and home each evening. I witness so many bikes (not just crotch rockets) splitting lanes and practicing overall generally unsafe driving. I understand the bike heat factor and reasoning behind lane splitting while sitting in traffic, but when that traffic is moving at 80 miles an hour, why do so many riders assume they have the right to fly past autos fighting for the same spaces? If they rode in the lanes with the flow of traffic, fewer of them would get injured. Sometimes it is all you can do to watch for the cars cutting you off at 80-90 MPH without having to be responsible for watching out for these careless bike riders as well. They also need to take responsibility for their riding and watch for the unaware autos that assume the bikes are also obeying traffic laws. Maybe it's time to revise and specifically define the law so they don't feel they have ultimate right of way. I have many friends who own bikes and ride, so don't think I am saying they are all guilty. I always watch for bikes, but when it's dark and a black bike with a rider dressed in black passes you on the left at 85 MPH when your blinker is on and you are trying to change lanes while attempting not to be creamed by the semi trying to avoid the semi that just pulled into his lane while attempting to avoid the idiot driver cutting him off............ I'm just saying we all need to watch out for each other.

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