Second Annual 500 For Life Held in Orange
Last updated 5/23/2023 at 9:20pm
The second annual "500 For Life" motorcycle rally was held Saturday, May 20, for local motorcycle enthusiasts. Over fifty motorcyclists rode together from Beaumont to Orange to promote safety and to make drivers of other vehicles more aware of motorcycles on the road.
The rally started at the Cowboy Harley Davidson dealership on Interstate 10 in Beaumont escorted by motorcycle riding police officers. All together 55 motorcycles arrived at the Columbanus Motor Sports center in Orange at shortly after 11 o'clock Saturday morning.
The reason for "500 For Life" is to raise awareness of the vulnerability of motorcycle riders to vehicular traffic on the highways and on city streets. The original idea for the event came over a year ago from Van Jordan the then director of the local chapter of Harley Owners Group (HOG) after his nephew Corey Stinnett was killed on a motorcycle when a driver of another vehicle said they did not see him resulting in the fatal collision.
Van Jordan passed away last year from a heart attack but his desire to make motorists more aware of riders on motorcycles has been carried on by the new director of the local HOG chapter J. W. Dalton. "This is serious what we're doing here today. We're tired of being killed and the excuse is 'I just didn't see them officer'. That has to stop, that mindset has to stop," Dalton expressed.
It was a year ago that Nicole Wantuck known by her friends as "Sweet Pea" lost her husband Bill when he was killed on his motorcycle riding to work. Nicole pleaded, "Making sure motorists are aware of us will save another wife having to bury her husband, another son from having no father, and grandchildren from not having their papa. We must do something. Whatever the cost it needs to be taken care of so that nobody has to stand right here and do what I did this week and go to a cross because that's where my husband died."
The organizers of "500 For Life" invited several guest speakers to the Columbanus Motor Sports for the rally. Among those in attendance were Orange County Sheriff Lane Mooney, Orange County Commissioner Chris Sowell, Jefferson County District Attorney Keith Giblin, and Mayor Larry Spears, Jr. of the City of Orange.
Sheriff Mooney recited the sad statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety that 562 motorcycle deaths accounted for fourteen percent of highway fatalities in Texas last year. The sheriff added that motorcyclists were twenty-eight times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than occupants in a motor vehicle.
Mooney shared the seven tips from the Texas Department of Transportation for drivers of vehicles to practice to be more aware of motorcycles:
• Stay alert. Give driving your full attention. Even a momentary
distraction, such as answering a phone call or changing the radio
station, can have deadly consequences.
• Pay special attention at intersections. One-third of all motorcycle
fatalities happen at roadway intersections.
• Take extra care when making a left turn. Always assume motorcycles
are closer than they appear and avoid turning in front of an oncoming
• Look twice when changing lanes. Check mirrors, check blind spots,
and always use turn signals.
• Give motorcyclists room when passing them. Move over to the
passing lane and don't crowd the motorcyclist's full lane.
• Stay back. If you're behind a motorcycle, always maintain a safe
following distance. When a motorcyclist downshifts, it can catch drivers
off guard since there are no brake lights to signal reduced speed.
• Slow down. Obey posted speed limits and drive according to
Jefferson County District Attorney Keith Giblin spoke how courts need to be more stringent on motorists involved in fatal motorcycle crashes which met with strong approval from the motorcyclists attending the rally. "We have to hold people accountable. If you run over somebody and kill them you need to be held accountable. I do believe there's no such thing as just an accident," Dalton responded.
One measure to improve the safety for motorcyclists might be stronger laws especially prohibiting the use of cell phones by motorists. Dalton insisted, "When we talk about motorcycle safety we have to have people that can help us push the buttons all the way around to get the legislation changed. We deserve to be able to get out on our motorcycles and ride safe without people running over us."
Education is another important step to make motorist more aware of the motorcycles on the road since most driver education courses are now done online and not with actual driving instructors. "How are children going to learn if their mother and father have never been taught about motorcycle safety. It's a big problem, Dalton informed.
Mayor Spears said he officially declared Saturday, May 20, as "500 For Life Day" in the City of Orange. Spears promised, "I also want to recognize Mr. Van Jordan by giving him his very own day in the City of Orange with a proclamation. We will work on that so that we can bring the entire family into a council meeting to honor him and say thank you."
The "500 For Life" was sponsored by the Cowboy Harley Davidson dealership in Beaumont and the Columbanus Motor Sports center in Orange. Dennis Sparks the general manager of Columbanus said they will be shortly going to a name change of Orange Power Sports USA, but will continue to handle all the brands that are currently so popular at the dealership.
The goal is to expand "500 For Life" and actually achieve having 500 motorcyclists participating each year. This year's event was done during National Motorcycle Awareness Month but there were several other activities that coincided which prevented many local motor bikers from participating the day it was held. The date may be changed to the first weekend in May next year.
Dalton ended by encouraging all motorcyclists to come join them for next year's rally. "We are one family. I don't care what brand of motorcycle you ride. If you're on two wheels or three wheels you're family. Come go with us and be part of this thing because we want this "500 For Life" to go. We want Van Jordan's legacy to move forward," Dalton concluded.