Motorcycle deaths on Colorado roads hit all-time high in 2015

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DENVER -- Motorcycle fatalities in Colorado reached an all-time high last year. The Colorado Department of Transportation said Wednesday the number of deaths involving motorcycles surpassed triple digits for the first time.

One-hundred-six people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, CDOT said. That's up 11.7 percent from 2014 and 20 percent higher than 2013. The sudden spike prompted CDOT to do something about it.

"There's the thrill of speed,” longtime motorcycle rider Marc Bilker said. "An hour on the open road and a lot of every day worries seem to evaporate."

But what doesn't evaporate for Bilker, who has ridden a motorcycle for 30 years, is a healthy fear of drivers around him.

"They look for a larger, rectangular piece of steel coming down the road. I've had people look through me and not see me," he said.

He survived one accident. He knows many don't.

Last year, 106 riders never made it home in Colorado. That sad statistic includes Michael Martinez, 61, who was hit by at least three hit-and-run drivers on Interstate 25 last year.

"Even though motorcyclists are 3 percent of our roads' users, they represent 20 percent of the fatalities out there," CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said.

And CDOT said 94 percent of the deaths were men. So the agency is responding with an education campaign to include online ads and videos that support motorcycle safety training.

There will be 10 billboards statewide and posters in 70 biker bars. The state will encourage riders to wear proper protective gear, which can be a touchy subject in a state without a mandatory helmet law.

"Most fatalities involve riders not wearing helmets. Just taking one precaution would save lives," Cole said.

This campaign won't change Bilker’s opinion.

"I am not a huge personal believer in helmets," he said.

But he knows the campaign could save lives down the road.

"Everyone needs more education, everyone needs to be more aware," he said.

The campaign runs through June and focuses on motorcycle riders. But later this year, it will target drivers. Through the end of March, 10 people had died on motorcycles compared to 14 during the first three months of 2015.

That’s a slight dip, but the busy summer motorcycle season is starting to ramp up.