The wreck happened in the waning hours of May 2, a Thursday, at a well-traveled intersection in Brandywine.
According to police, a blue Chrysler van traveling southbound on Route 301 at Shortcut Road failed to yield to oncoming traffic. Traveling in the northbound lanes were two motorcycles, one driven by Caleb Williams, the other by Herby Bolick, Jr. At 11:11 p.m., the motorcycles struck the side of the van. Both Williams and Bolick died at the scene. The driver of the van, Brian Kauten, was taken to a local hospital, according to a police report.
The crash was the latest of several on Prince George’s roads this year. Williams and Bolick were the third and fourth motorcycle fatalities of the year. Kauten is the latest driver involved in a deadly motorcycle accident to possibly face criminal charges.
Prince George’s County traditionally has had a serious problem with deadly motorcycle crashes, authorities said. Last year, 10 people died in motorcycle crashes. With the start of a new motorcycling season just kicking off, Prince George’s County police have initiated a program to promote motorcycle safety.
According to the department’s blog, police implemented the “Share The Road” campaign in April. The agency is partnering with Maryland State Police, the Motor Vehicle Administration and Maryland’s Highway Safety Office “in an effort to reduce fatal motorcycle crashes in the county and across the state in 2013.”
In a new report released April 24, the Governors Highway Safety Association projected that motorcycle deaths increased approximately 9 percent in 2012, to more than 5,000 lives lost.
Authorities said car drivers are at fault more than half the time when getting involved in accidents with motorcyclists.
“Drivers and riders both are responsible for sharing the road safely together by following the rules of the road, avoiding distractions and controlling their speeds,” said Maryland Motor Administrator John Kuo at a recent the "Share the Road" press event.
Motorcyclists, who fewer defenses in a crash with cars, must take the proper safety precautions when riding, officials said.
“It’s one thing to be in a four-wheel vehicle and another to be on a bike with two wheels,” said Lowell Duckett, a former D.C. police officer who once trained motorcycle officers. “You have to be more cognizant of the road conditions, the weather conditions, the traffic patterns and your surroundings. It’s always thinking two or three miles down the road.”
Duckett has been riding safely for about 30 years and has dozens of friends in his motorcycle club who have also avoided collisions. Part of what they discuss when together is staying safe, he said.
“The only things surrounding you on a bike are the jeans you have on and the safety equipment,” Duckett said. “If you’re on a busy highway and you’re traveling 90 plus miles per hour, your reaction time and reflex time are greatly impaired. And if you don’t wear the right equipment, you multiply your chances of injury tenfold.”
John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Midatlantic, said that in addition to not taking heed to safety measure, lack of skill and experience are often to blame for fatal motorcycle accidents.
“People may think they can handle it and they can’t,” Townsend said, “They don’t have enough hours of experience and they crash.”
May, June and July are the deadliest months for motorcyclist in Maryland, according to police. . Most deaths occur between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekends and the victims are usually males from 25 to 30-years-old.
"Drivers need to ensure they give their full time and attention while driving, and take extra time to look for, and give space to, motorcyclists," said Lt. William Alexander, a Prince George’s police spokesman. "Motorcyclists should also allow for additional space between themselves and other motorists, to allow additional reaction time should they need to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.
Enforcement is certainly a part of making these changes, but we hope that educating the public will help prevent these tragic accidents."