Target Zero: Increased motorcycle safety patrols this weekend

More motorcycles on the road during the summer months

Law enforcement agencies across Southwest Washington will be on the lookout for dangerous riding and driving behavior, all in an effort to look out for motorcycle riders. 

Patrick Spak, a deputy with the Clark County Sheriff's Office, is a traffic detective. He is working to educate the public on safety issues concerning motorcycle riders. Photo by Paul Valencia
Patrick Spak, a deputy with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, is a traffic detective. He is working to educate the public on safety issues concerning motorcycle riders. Photo by Paul Valencia

“It’s very important that a motorcycle rider understands what their capabilities are on their specific motorcycle and rides within their ability so they don’t end up on the ground, or possibly even worse,” said Patrick Spak, a deputy with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. 

Drivers of traditional vehicles need to be aware of their surroundings, as well. Especially in the summer riding months, Spak said.

“Make sure you’re always checking twice in your blind spot. Make sure you are looking left and right before making any lane changes,” Spak said. “Look all around you for motorcycles.”

Target Zero, the campaign to have no traffic deaths on Washington roads by 2030, is emphasizing motorcycle safety awareness this month.

One of the first priorities is to educate the riding public about safety. There is a misconception, Target Zero says, that most fatalities for motorcycle riders are caused by vehicle drivers. The numbers say otherwise. Last year, 70 percent of fatal crashes involving motorcycles in Washington were caused by the riders.

Motorcycles account for 3 percent of registered vehicles in Washington, but 15 percent of the fatalities in the state are motorcycle riders.

Spak is a traffic detective, an expert in the investigation of serious or fatal crashes.

“When we look at these, it’s because of risky, illegal, and dangerous behavior,” Spak said. “Speeding. People outdriving their riding ability, specifically in curvy, winding roadways. People making unsafe, risky passes. And riding under the influence.”

Photo by Paul Valencia
Photo by Paul Valencia

Beginning Saturday, county and city law enforcement agencies will emphasize riding safety during a high visibility enforcement campaign throughout the region.

This is not directed only to riders, though.

“We’re going to be enforcing all types of unsafe, accident-causing driver behavior. That’s what we’re going to be looking out for with motorcycles and with vehicles, with the intention of decreasing motorcycle collisions and motorcycle fatalities,” Spak said.

Lately, the numbers have been going in the wrong direction, according to Target Zero. There were more than 90 riders killed in crashes in each of the past two years. Those are the highest single-year rider fatalities since 1982.

The extra patrols for this campaign are being paid for by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. There is also a website designed for rider safety, courtesy of the WTSC and in a partnership with Target Zero: https://itsafineline.com/

Spak grew up in the Seattle area. His father is retired law enforcement. His uncle is in law enforcement, as well. They all specialized in traffic enforcement.

“It’s a job I thought I would be good at, and it’s something I would enjoy,” Spak said. “It is very fulfilling and very rewarding to do something better than myself, to reach out to the community and help the community in different ways.”

It is not about issuing citations. It is about safety and education, Spak said.

“I always try to educate the rider of not just what the law is, but the why,” Spak said. “It’s not only to keep you safe but to keep other people safe, as well.”

Motorcycle safety is of particular interest to Spak. He is a rider, as well.

“Each and every time that I ride, I have to ride with awareness around me. I constantly have to anticipate what other drivers are going to do,” Spak said. “You’re on a vehicle that is smaller and people cannot see in their blind spots. The motoring public has trouble estimating a motorcycle’s speed, as well. So many factors. I have to ride in a very defensive manner in order for me not to be involved in a collision. That’s something all motorcycle riders should be doing, as well.”

For more on Target Zero, go to: https://wadrivetozero.com/

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