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Motorcycle ride instructor, former Las Vegas police officer shares tips to avoid crashes

Posted at 7:01 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 11:00:45-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It was a deadly week for motorcycle riders in the Las Vegas valley with three serious crashes involving motorcycles since Sunday -- two of which were deadly.

A Las Vegas instructor and former police officer tells 13 Action News they've seen an increase in people looking to ride and they share tips for how to keep riders safe.

More riders on the roads

"Harley-Davidson had a slogan that said 'Socially distancing since 1903,'" said Steve Ritchey, the ride instructor manager at Harley-Davidson and a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer.

Ritchey says riding was a way for more people to get outside. "We had a lot of people during the pandemic say, 'Hey I watched a YouTube video and now I think I want to ride a motorcycle.'”

In 2021 alone, he says Red Rock Harley-Davidson on 2260 South Rainbow Boulevard licensed 503 new riders

The DMV reports, after seeing a decrease in registrations at the beginning of the pandemic, active licenses rose from 64,496 in July 2020 to 70,309 in July 2021.

"We have more and more people that have the desire to ride and I think that’s only going to grow, especially with gas prices increasing to over $5 per gallon," Ritchey explained.

So how can you minimize risk on the road? Ritchey says there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Riding with full focus

"When I put my helmet on and I snap the strap, that’s when a light switch in my head clicks," said Steve Ritchey, Harley-Davidson ride instructor manager and a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer.

"I’m getting ready to ride a motorcycle. This is dangerous. Nothing else matters in the world," he said. "When you’re riding a motorcycle, you can’t think about anything else besides what you’re doing on this bike."

Ritchey says lack of focus, combined with speed, is the number one thing that causes a crash.

Watch your speed

"These motorcycles do one thing really well. They accelerate really fast," he said.

"To put it in perspective: at 60 mph, you’re traveling about 88 feet in one second. 88 feet is going through the intersection between Sahara [Avenue] and Rainbow [Boulevard]," he said.

"Just in that little bit of time if you take your eyes off the roadway, an accident can happen.

If you want to go fast, there is a time and place to do so. Racers Edge, for example, has race tracks.

In a controlled space like a race track, it's easier to ensure proper safety measures are in place.

Stay in your comfort zone

Another danger for riders on the road is going out of their comfort zone, he says.

"Everyone has a different skill level of riding motorcycles. Maybe you’re a newer rider and trying to keep up with friends," said Ritchey. "What we always say is ride your own ride, meaning you are responsible for our own safety on a motorcycle."

Ride responsibly: No splitting traffic

There is no room or time for irresponsible riding, he says.

You may have seen motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic. This is called splitting traffic and it is not legal in Nevada.

"It takes one second for someone to open their car door to throw out the old coffee that they had in the morning that is now cold, to have a crash," Ritchey said.

Check your motorcycle, wear proper gear

Have a plan before you start the engine.

"All the crashes I’ve seen have been interaction crashes. There is always more than one thing that causes a crash," explained Ritchey.

Make sure to check your bike over to see if everything is working properly and wear proper gear.

"You only have to go to the burn unit down at UMC Trauma [University Medical Center Trauma] one time and watch the nurses scrub an open wound," said Ritchey.

"Just once, and you will never ever ride without proper gear again."

Note to drivers: Share the road

As car drivers, it’s also important to treat motorcyclists with care and share the road.

"If we make it a priority in our life to drive well, then everybody wins in this situation," said Ritchey.

If you want to learn how to ride a motorcycle safely, Ritchey has a few more tips.

Take a class!

If you’re interested in learning how to ride, Red Rock Harley-Davidson offers weekday and weekend classes.

They even provide a bike for practice. All you need is a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation, long sleeve shirt or jacket, full-finger gloves, jeans and over the ankle boots.

Training takes about two and a half days.

After you’ve completed the course, they give you a successful completion card so you can go to the DMV and take your test.

Learn more on riders.harley-davidson.com.