Look Twice for Bikes – Recent Des Moines Fatality Highlights Vulnerability of Motorcyclists

Police have announced that the school bus driver who hit and killed a Des Moines motorcyclist while transporting a bus load of children to school late last month has been issued a citation in connection with the accident.

Authorities say the accident occurred just before 7 a.m. at the intersection of East 29th Street and East Douglas Avenue. The school bus driven by Marylin Pottorff was heading west on East Douglas Avenue while the motorcycle was heading south on East 29th. Police say that the school bus had a stop sign at the intersection while the motorcyclist did not. As a result, the motorcycle rider, 34-year-old Nicholas Neal, continued on through the intersection where he was struck by the oncoming bus.

The bus had 20 students on board at the time who were heading to North High School. Thankfully none of the students were physically injured in the crash, though counselors have been called in to speak to students who witnessed the tragic motorcycle accident.

Law enforcement officials say that Pottorff has been placed on administrative leave and was issued a citation for failing to yield. An investigation revealed that Pottorff failed to stop at the stop sign and drove directly into Neal's path. Neal was unable to stop in time and was ejected from his motorcycle, ultimately dying at the scene of the crash. Iowa safety officials say the accident represents the third such motorcycle fatality in Des Moines in the past 30 days, an alarmingly high number that should serve as a reminder to those driving passenger vehicles to watch out for their fellow motorcyclists.

Though many people understand that motorcycle riding can be dangerous, few realize just how vulnerable bikers actually are. According to data gathered by the National Transportation Safety Board, if a motorcycle rider is involved in an accident, the chance that he or she will suffer an injury is unbelievably high: 98 percent for those involved in multiple vehicle crashes.

One reason for such a high risk of serious injury is that motorcyclists face the ever-present danger of being thrown from their bike. While it is true that occupants of passenger vehicles can also be ejected, the risk is dramatically lower given the effectiveness of seat belts in ensuring that passengers remain inside the car or truck. Motorcycles obviously lack such restraints and, as a result, riders can find themselves easily thrown from their bikes into oncoming traffic or onto hard pavement, something that dramatically increases the severity of any injuries.

Given the clear vulnerability of motorcyclists, it is essential that other Iowa motorists remain alert while behind the wheel. In this tragic case out of Des Moines it appears clear that inattention led to a deadly accident for Nicholas Neal and tragedy for his family. Other drivers should take this tragedy as a reminder of how important it is to direct all your attention on the road in front of you. Doing so might save someone's life.  Look twice for bikes and you will save a life.

"Police cite Des Moines bus driver in fatal crash," by Regina Zilbermints, published at Press-Citizen.com.

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