"Salute to Scoots," a ride to remember those we have loved and lost
TRI-CITIES, Wash. – After several motorcycle riders were killed in Washington and north-eastern Oregon this past month, families and advocates are bringing awareness to motorcycle safety.
With warmer weather, there will be more motorcycle traffic on state highways, but families who have lost a loved one on a bike say they want motorists to be cautious all year long.
"It was scary when it happened. I was very scared,” said Hanna Walters, who lost her grandfather in a motorcycle crash. “I didn't know what was going on.”
A year and a half has gone by but the heartache remains.
"She saw the wreck on the news before everybody knew about it,” her mom Kayla Walters explained. “When I got home from work, she was the one that told me about it because she saw grandpa's bike."
The Walters family lost a loving grandpa, the perfect father, and a compassionate husband in a fatal motorcycle crash in November 2016.
"Every day is a constant reminder of what we all don't have anymore," Kayla said. "It's painful, you don't want to be the person on either side.”
Doug Walters would have turned 60 years old this summer.
May is Motorcycle Awareness month, and the Walters dedicate their time to encourage both drivers and bikers to be cautious on the road.
The family wants drivers to look out for motorcyclists and they advise bikers to ride with caution and wear protective gear, like helmets and leather.
"I know in the summertime its 100 degrees, but you're not dressing for the ride, you're dressing for the fall," said Marcy Walters, Doug’s wife.
Washington law requires all riders, regardless of age or motorcycle type, to wear a DOT compliant helmet. Washington State Patrol troopers stress that helmets save lives.
Motorcycles make up only 4 percent of registered vehicles in Washington, however, they account for more than 15 percent of traffic fatalities in the state, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Over 50 percent of motorcycle fatalities in Washington involve excessive speed, according to Washington State Patrol. Troopers said this number can be reduced by simply slowing down and enjoying the ride.
A local non-profit Rumble Global promotes safety and awareness for motorcyclists and all motorist.
"One of our big topics is distracted driving because most people think that' cell phones, but it’s not just cell phones,” Sowards said. “It's a hamburger in a hand, it’s a hand. It's thinking about your next vacation, it's thinking how much money did you make on your pay check."
Rumble Global offers various motorcycle safety and awareness programs and fundraising events that support the Fallen Rider Fund, an assistance program for families in at-need situations.
The Fallen Rider Fund can assist financially if a loved one has died in a motorcycle accident.
"We also pay tribute to those who have fallen on a motorcycle and lost their lives, such as Doug Walters," said Darrel Sowards, founder of Rumble Global.
Sowards said the Walters were first family they could help and they hope by continuing to raise funds and awareness they can save and help many more.
"I just couldn't believe it this organization came to me and said if you need some help, we're here for you," Marcy said.
Sowards said he and the motorcycle community see a motorcyclist fall is heart wrenching.
“Because it really could happen to anybody at any time, for no reason or for every reason," he said. "It hits home, it makes us be more aware more cautious."
Ultimately, safety is up to both motorcyclists and drivers.
Members of the Washington State Motorcycle Safety Board stress how important training is to the safety of the rider. Even experienced riders can benefit from training to enhance their abilities. The most important thing a rider can do is learn to operate his or her vehicle safely.
Coming up on June 30th, Rumble Global is hosting a 5th annual ride called "Salute to Scoots" to remember riders they have loved and lost at Events at Sunset Gardens, located at 915 Bypass Hwy, in Richland.
Riders are $20 and passengers are $10. All the proceeds benefit the Fallen Rider Fund and will go to help families like the Walters who lose a loved unexpectedly in a crash.
For more information contact Darrel Sowards at 509-440-2522. For updates on Rumble Global's events, you can follow them on their Facebook page.
Schedule of events:
- Pancake breakfast: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
- Rider Registration 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
- Balloon Release 10:45 a.m.
- KSU: 11:00 a.m.
- Beer Garden Opens: 12:00 p.m.
- Lunch 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
- Live Music: 1:00 p.m.