Motorcycle safety instructor shares crash experience to teach road safety across Virginia

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) — As the temperatures begin to warm up, the DMV is reminding drivers to be aware of an increase in motorcycles sharing the road for Motorcycle Safety Awareness week, which runs March 4-8.

"As more people are getting out of the house and the cold winter months are passing, more motorcyclists are getting out and getting their bikes out of the garage," Ken Crumpler, the motorcycle safety program manager for the DMV, said.

He's been an avid rider for many years, but it wasn't until July 2017 that he experienced his first crash.

"As we like to say, 'our unscheduled dismount,'" he chuckled.

And it was all due to a distracted driver.

"The motorist told the state trooper, 'I didn't see him.'"

Crumpler suffered several broken bones and road rash, but said the proper gear he was wearing saved his life.

"It was a hot summer day, but I was wearing a full-faced helmet, an armored jacket, heavy boots and gloves," he said.

Though pictures show the damage done to the bike, they don't fully explain what happened to Crumpler.

"I tumbled across the road surface there. And as you can see on my helmet, this part scraped on the interstate," he pointed to the dents and scratches on his helmet. "Which would be approximately right here on my face."

Crumpler isn't the only motorcyclist to experience a devastating crash in Virginia. From 2016-2019, there were between 70 and 90 motorcycle fatalities and more than 8,000 crashes across the commonwealth.

"Here in the Roanoke area alone in 2019, there were 1,960," Crumpler said.

Highway corridors like Interstates 81, 64 and 95 are some of the most dangerous areas for motorcyclists. Motorcycles being smaller mean they can appear farther away, making it extra important for drivers to pay attention.

"If I happen to notice a driver distracted, on their phone, et cetera," Crumpler said. "I make sure I give myself as big a cushion as possible to stay away from them."

However, it's not entirely up to drivers to keep motorcyclists safe. Riders also need to wear the proper gear.

"All motorcyclists are taught the concept, 'all the gear, all the time,' or ATGATT," he said.

And even though the gear won't necessarily prevent injuries, it can lesson the severity of them.

"Motorists need to look out for motorcycles, be aware that they are sharing the road. And that motorcyclists need to hone their skills and be the best rider, most alert, most attentive and best geared up as they possibly can."

Crumpler has taught motorcycle safety for about 10 years, but his lessons became more personal after his crash.

"I've always been a true believer in motorcycle safety, but when it happens to you, it becomes that much more real and you can speak from that first hand experience."

All week, the DMV is actively putting out reminders to drivers and motorcyclists alike to pay attention to the road. Their safety rules and guidelines can be found here.

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