Safety urged as motorcyclists come out of winter hibernation

Brad Dooley taks an early morning ride on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle recently near Quincy. Dooley had an accident in 2000 that nearly cost him his life. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Apr. 1, 2014 9:03 am Updated: Apr. 15, 2014 10:14 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Brad Dooley took his eyes off the road for just a few seconds, a decision that nearly cost him his life.

Riding his brand new Harley-Davidson Springer west on Broadway in Quincy near the Quincy Mall on March 6, 2000, Dooley was stuck in traffic. The right lane of traffic was blocked off near the entrance to McDonald's, meaning there was a backlog of traffic in the left lane. He decided to zip up the right lane and try to find a way into the left when he got near the blockage.

Dooley didn't realize it at the moment, but there was a small opening in the left-lane traffic as someone was letting another driver who was going east turn left into the mall entrance at 33rd and Broadway.

"(The car) was 30 feet in front of me by the time I noticed it and I was going 35 to 40 (mph)," Dooley said. "There wasn't even time to say one bad word."

Dooley was in the intensive care unit at Blessing Hospital for the next six days with a laundry list of injuries. He broke both of his cheek bones, his right eye socket and nose. He had a skull fracture, a broken right jaw, a compression fracture to two discs in his lower back, a broken right leg below his knee and a crushed left ankle.

Dooley also was leaking spinal fluid in his brain.

"I'm lucky to be here," the 59-year-old Dooley said.

With warmer spring weather starting to take root in the area, more motorcycles will be out on roads. Quincy is coming off a year in which two motorcyclists died on city streets.

Carl A. Wollbrink, 21, of Quincy, died Sept. 9 near 18th and Maine after his motorcycle ran a stoplight and struck a sport utility vehicle. Police said they tried to stop Wollbrink around 18th and Broadway, but he sped away.

Brandon J. Smith, 32, of Quincy died Oct. 8, less than three days after he was involved in a crash at 18th and Harrison. A van pulled into the path of Smith and another motorcyclist.

Those deaths were among the four last year in the area patrolled by Illinois State Police District 20, which covers Adams, Brown, Pike, Scott and Schuyler counties. There were 74 deadly motorcycle crashes in Missouri last year, a 24.4 percent decrease from 2012. The drop wasn't as pronounced in Illinois, which had 142 deadly crashes, a 4 percent decrease, leading to 153 deaths.

In Quincy, the number of motorcycle crashes on city streets stayed constant in 2013 -- 14, the same number as in 2012. Quincy had 10 motorcycle crashes in 2011.

Quincy police officer Neal Meyer, the department's traffic safety officer, said most motorcyclists involved in crashes suffer some sort of injury. He said injuries were reported in 25 of the 38 crashes over the past three years, including the two deaths last year.

Meyer said it's important for both motorists and motorcyclists to remember that there are going to be more bikes on the road.

"Both parties have a responsibility," Meyer said. "Motorists should be more aware that there are going to be more motorcycles on the road. Motorcycles need to have their front headlight lit. And motorcyclists should not assume they are going to be seen. Motorcyclists should drive on the defensive and assume that the person might not see you and be prepared to brake at any moment."

"You have to be so defensive," Dooley said. "Defensive driving is huge for the rider."

He said motorcyclists would like a little help from those driving in automobiles, too.

"It's been a long, hard winter and automobile drivers aren't going to be used to seeing motorcycles," he said. "You look right past us because we're so little. Just watch closer for us. Take a second look. Some people might complain about the noise our bikes make, but a little Harley rumble might not be so bad thing so that you're noticeable."

Despite his injury, Dooley hasn't quit riding. He was back on his bike about four months after his crash. He said he's driven more than 135,000 miles on his three Harleys, which have the license plates "Lucki 1," "Lucki 2," and "Lucki 3."

He has made five trips to the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., and two to Daytona Beach, Fla. Dooley has taken trips to the Grand Canyon and to Niagara Falls.

Even though he's had a few close calls since his crash, Dooley doesn't plan on stop riding anytime soon.

"While I was laying in the ER, my parents and my wife asked me if I was still going to ride," he said. "I told them that it wasn't the bike's fault. If I wreck my fishing boat, am I going to quit fishing?"



A look at motorcycle crash statistics in Illinois and Missouri in 2008-13, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Illinois Department of Transportation.

Year    Fatal crashes  Total killed   Injury crashes    Total injured


2008 103 108 1,955 2,284

2009 83 85 1,843 2,182

2010 94 97 1,731 2,036

2011 81 82 1,893 2,166

2012 98 104 2,065 2,404

2013 74 NA 1,237 1,251


2008 130 135 3,166 3,463

2009 124 130 2,822 3,152

2010 130 131 2,917 3,189

2011 142 145 2,745 3,020

2012 148 148 3,036 3,132

2013 142 153 NA NA