500 For Life to promote Motorcycle Safety
Last updated 5/16/2023 at 12:08pm
May is National Motorcycle Awareness Month. Local motorcyclists from Orange and Jefferson Counties will be staging a rally this month to help drive home how important motorcycle safety is and to help make motorists more aware of motorcycles on the roadways.
The second annual '500 For Life' event will be held on Saturday, May 20. The motorcycle rally will start at the Cowboy Harley Davidson dealership in Beaumont and conclude at the Columbanus Motor Sports center in Orange.
Last year's '500 For Life' was held on June 25 and was the idea of Van Jordan the then director of the local chapter of the Harley Owners Group or HOG who lost his nephew Corey Stinnett in a motorcycle crash with a vehicle. A memorial was built using Corey's motorcycle to heighten the awareness for motorcycle safety.
The first time event drew 184 motorcyclists and three-wheel bikers last June. Participants came from not just Orange and Jefferson counties but from other neighboring counties and parishes in Louisiana.
Jordan sadly passed away in September of last year but his desire to promote motorcycle safety and to encourage other motorists to watch for motorcycles when driving is being carried forward. J. W. Dalton was installed as the new director of the local Harley Owners Group chapter in January.
Dalton is enthusiastic to carry on the work started by his friend Van Jordan. "Van wanted to do something that could impact and get the attention of everyone concerned about motorcycle safety. We want to make sure we keep Van's legacy going. What we have done since last year's event we have got the '500 For Life' as a 501c3 status now to where we can bring the educational lessons hopefully to the schools to make sure everybody that is going to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle understands the importance of look twice, save a life," Dalton recalled.
The term '500 For Life' came from Jordan's goal of getting five hundred or more motorcycle enthusiasts to participate in the rally to increase the caution of motorists to watch for motorcycles and improve motorcycle safety. The need for more awareness is apparent by the fact that motorcycle fatalities in Texas have been on the increase in recent years.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) released figures that showed there were 562 motorcycle riders killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2022. That represents an eight percent increase over the previous year.
TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams pointed to the fact people on motorcycles are more vulnerable. "It's important for drivers to pay extra attention and look out for motorcycles, especially at intersections, when turning in front of oncoming traffic, and while changing lanes," Williams explained.
Dalton echoed the slogan originated by TxDOT of 'Look Twice, Save a Life' to promote safety for motorcyclists. "Motorists need to make sure at intersections to watch for us because one third of all motorcycle fatalities in Texas happen at roadway intersections, and that's people not paying attention. They're turning, not looking or checking at the intersection. They may be looking for a vehicle but they are frequently not looking for us on our motorcycle," Dalton described.
Checking mirrors on your vehicle is another important precaution to avoid collisions with motorcycles. Dalton reminded, "Check your blind spots. You need to understand the hazards of using cell phones while driving and staying off them while driving a vehicle."
TxDOT gives seven helpful tips to motorists for helping to promote motorcycle safety. Motorists should stay alert to give driving their full attention, pay special attention at intersections, take extra care when making a left turn, look twice when changing lanes, give motorcyclists room when passing them, stay back a safe distance when following a motorcycle, and slow down by obeying the posted speed limits while also driving according to the weather and road conditions.
The responsibility of motorcycle safety is shared by everyone but the bulk of the effort is done by the motorcyclists themselves. "As I ride I always look for the what if and the way out, what am I going to do if a vehicle comes over on top of me. Everybody just needs to stay alert and vigilant," recommended Dalton a motorcyclist for the last 50 years.
The primary sponsors for '500 For Life' are the Cowboy Harley Davidson in Beaumont and the Columbanus Motor Sports in Orange. Both companies are very much in favor of supporting motorcycle safety.
Jennifer McConnell is the secretary for this year's '500 For Life' and works at Columbanus Motor Sports. "This is to raise awareness with a big showing of motorcycles so people see them and then they recognize them on the road when there's not a huge group of them. We have lost a few of our customers to accidents, so we definitely want to raise that awareness on the road to other people to look for motorcycles," McConnell stated.
The route of the motorcycle rally will be the reverse of last year's event which started in Orange and culminated in Beaumont. McConnell indicated, "The ride is going to end here. We're going to have guest speakers, we're going to have the national anthem sung, we're going to have a deejay, we're going to have some food booths here, so, it's going to be a big event for us."
The goal as mentioned is to get 500 motorcyclists to join the rally on Saturday, May 20, but the long term goal is bigger. "Our plan is to bring this rally to each location of Harley Davidson in San Antonio and Austin as well as Beaumont. On the motor sport side of it Columbanus wants to do the same thing. As president of the '500 For Life' I'm committed to keep this going because that's how important this is. It's not going to be every ten years, it is every year because you look at the numbers 562 people died last year an eight percent increase just think how many people that's impacting," Dalton concluded.
The '500 For Life' will begin at the Cowboy Harley Davidson dealership on Interstate 10 in Beaumont on Saturday, May 20. Motorcyclists will begin staging between 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, there will be a blessing for the bikers at 10:15 AM, and kick stands up at 10:35 AM to start the rally. The motorcycle caravan escorted by law enforcement vehicles and motorcycles should arrive at the Columbanus Motor Sports center on Interstate 10 in Orange around 11:15 AM with activities to continue there until about 2:00 PM. Participation in the '500 For Life' is open to all motorcyclists and is free of charge.