As temperatures continue to rise across McHenry County, motorcyclists prepare for another season of riding. But before they take to the roads, officials are encouraging riders to use proper equipment and refresh their skills.
“The same issues we face as car drivers are going to be heightened and potentially more dangerous for motorcyclists,” said Sara Altieri, assistant coordinator of the Harper College Motorcycle Safety Training program.
The program also teaches a course at McHenry County College, which was offered over the weekend.
Altieri said motorcycle safety courses at any level can offer riders a “safety-minded perspective.”
“Completing a course like this allows a student to begin to think about how they are as car drivers and apply that to the motorcycle,” she said.
Early spring often brings about area crashes involving motorcycles, and 2017 has been no exception.
McHenry resident Lenny William Jensen III was killed in a crash April 9 when he was riding a 2010 Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Ringwood Road west of Meadowhill Lane and it left the road and struck a tree.
A Carpentersville couple also was killed in a crash April 9 at the intersection of River and Charles J. Miller roads in McHenry.
Police said a Wonder Lake woman failed to yield for the motorcycle, occupied by Dennis Edwards Spears Jr., 49, and Tanya Schaefer, 42, and the vehicles crashed in the intersection.
No citations or charges had been filed in that case as of Wednesday, authorities said.
On Saturday, friends of Schaefer and Spears Jr. hosted a motorcycle ride from Charles J. Miller and River roads on their way to the remembrance and funeral services, which were held at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Century Lodge in Carpentersville.
McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski said it’s not unusual to see a string of fatal crashes right when the weather turns warmer.
Of the 21 reported motorcycle deaths between 2010 and 2017 in McHenry County, three were wearing helmets at the time.
“Most, if not all, motorcycle deaths have a component of head trauma,” Majewski said. “If there’s any potential for protection from fatal head injuries, helmets are an answer.”
High-speed areas and riding on more rural roads also play factors in crashes throughout McHenry County.
Overall, Majewski said the county’s trends mimic those seen across the state and nation.
Most people who die in motorcycle crashes throughout the state of Illinois are not wearing helmets.
Of those who died in a 2014 motorcycle crash, 28.8 percent wore helmets, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
In 2016, there were 24 reported motor vehicle deaths in McHenry County, four of which were motorcycle deaths. That number has increased from 2010, when there were 14 motor vehicle deaths and two were motorcycle-related.
Nationally, the number of people who have died in motorcycle crashes has increased 8.3 percent, from 4,594 in 2014 to 4,976 in 2015.
Illinois law does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets, but Paul Stevens of Woodstock Harley-Davidson said the dealership requires students in its classes to wear helmets.
“As many people that ride should have helmets on,” Stevens said.
Stevens said he personally wears a helmet whenever he rides, but he also understands that it is a personal choice for riders in a state where there is no helmet law.
IDOT’s “Start Seeing Motorcycles” campaign aims to inform drivers of other vehicles, urging them to stay alert at all times and use extra caution around motorcycles.