BRADFORD COUNTY — Two fatal motorcycle and ATV accidents in Bradford County occurring less than a week from each other is prompting officials to urge safety measures to combat the loss of life.
On July 12, Towanda native James Todd “JT” Place, 47, was killed in a motorcycle accident in East Smithfield and on July 18 Wysox resident Joshua Starr Hanley, 45, was killed in an ATV accident in Herrick Township.
PennDOT officials told the Review that Bradford County has had seven fatalities due to reported motorcycle and ATV accidents from 2015-2019 with 99 total crashes that each had the potential for death. Data for 2020 is not yet available.
According to PennDOT, a few safety precautions for motorcyclists can go a long way in preventing accidents:
- Wear a U.S. DOT-approved helmet, face or eye protection and protective clothing.
- Know your motorcycle and conduct a pre-ride check.
- Be seen. Wear reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your protective riding gear and motorcycle.
- Use common sense by riding sober, obeying all speed limits and allowing enough time to react to dangerous situations.
- Practice safe-riding techniques and know how to handle your motorcycle in adverse road and weather conditions. Road conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces that usually pose minor annoyances to motorists are in fact major hazards for motorcyclists.
- Consider attending free training via PennDOT’s Motorcycle Safety Program.
- During spring riding, be cautious of gravel buildup from winter road maintenance on the edges of roadways and near intersections. Riders can report hazardous conditions due to gravel along the road to 1-800-FIX-ROAD.
Pennsylvania law mandates that anyone under the age of 21 must wear a helmet but riders over that age in good standing with all other PennDOT regulations may choose not to.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also provides some tips for ATV riders to better their safety:
- Wear a helmet and eye protection at all times and other protective clothing suitable to the environment. It is illegal to operate an ATV without a securely fastened helmet on the head of the operator.
- Do not carry passengers on your ATV.
- Do not let young or inexperienced riders operate ATVs without training and supervision.
- Do not use alcohol or other drugs when you ride.
- Learn proper riding skills from an instructor or qualified rider and practice such skills before riding.
- Always maintain a safe distance between riders. Tailgating can lead to collisions and injuries.
- Ride with others and let someone know where you are riding. Never ride alone.
- Obey the laws.
- Stay on trails designated for ATVs.
- Be informed of local weather conditions and dress and equip yourself appropriately. Know the area you are riding in. Be aware of its potential hazards.
- Always ride at a safe and responsible speed. Know your abilities and don’t exceed those levels.
- Make sure your equipment is in top working order; check before heading out.
- Carry a map of the trail or area you intend to travel.
- Use common sense.
Bradford County Director of Public Safety Robert Barnes told the Review on Tuesday that the increase in wrecks has “been a little crazy.”
“Cars and trucks should be looking out as well, if driving you shouldn’t get too close, leave lots of space,” he added.
Barnes reminded the public to follow the rules provided for ATV safety.
“Adhere to those rules. They’re not toys, they’re machines. You need experience and good judgment to operate them.”
When asked if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has potentially increased the accidents due to the activity not being hindered by the restrictions Barnes said that COVID fatigue is a real issue on many fronts.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that were going to overcome it eventually, and we can’t disregard the rest of the precautions we take for the rest of our lives.”