RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Out of the 100 counties in North Carolina, a Triangle county ranked #1 in the state for motorcycle crashes, according to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

The agency’s report said there were 271 motorcycle crashes in Wake County in 2021, ranking it the top county in the state for crashes.

That’s compared to Mecklenburg County, which came in a close second with 267 motorcycle crashes.

That year, Guilford County reported 159 motorcycle crashes, Cumberland County reported 117 and Buncombe County reported 92. Durham County reported 76.

(CBS 17)

Experts weigh in

Jim Hale and Richie Tarby, two motorcycle instructors, say safety is a major concern.

Their classes, taught at Wake Technical Community College and Durham Technical Community College, are part of the North Carolina Community College System’s Motorcycle Safety Education Program (NCMSEP). They’re open to anyone who wants to sign up, not just students.

Hale and Tarby said they have been riding motorcycles for most of their lives and that they love the sport.

“I was nine years old when I got my first motorcycle,” Tarby said.

“I’ve been riding two wheels since I was like eight years old,” Hale added.

The two of them took that love to teaching.

“You’re teaching people that have never been on a motorcycle to have a good time and it’s a blast,” Hale said.

They say safety is one of the most important things they teach.

“I think the worst thing would be to ever hear that one of your students was involved in any sort of crash,” Tarby said.

“Yeah,” Hale agreed. “But it happens.”

CBS 17 asked Jim Hale why he thought Wake County had so many motorcycle crashes last year.

“Look at the traffic in the Raleigh-Wake County area, I-40, I-540,” he said. “And, unfortunately, a lot of drivers suffer from unintentional blindness. They don’t see motorcycles. We’re small. We stress bright colors, make yourself noticeable, be seen, but sometimes that’s not enough.”

Focusing on safety

Hale and Tarby say safety is a significant part of their class curriculum.

A big part of that, according to the instructors, is what riders need to wear, including:

  • An NCDOT-approved helmet
  • Gloves
  • Long sleeves
  • Long pants
  • Boots over your ankles

“We do stress the proper gear,” Hale said. “We won’t even let them sit on the bikes if they’re not running until they have all their gear on.”

Once the students are geared up, Hale and Tarby also stress knowing how to control the bike and stop quickly.

They teach slow-speed maneuvers and control, like how to stop on a curve and do a quick stop.

“I think the quick stop is probably one of the most important lessons that people come out of the class learning,” Tarby said.

“Yeah, I agree,” Hale added. “Because it happens all the time. And it takes a split second for the car in front of you to decide, ‘I’m going to change lanes.'”

Tarby said a big part of riding a motorcycle is thinking and being aware.

“There’s certainly a lot of mechanical skills that you need to know, a lot of coordination,” he said. “But I know for myself, riding a motorcycle as opposed to being in a car, you are hyper-aware of traffic.”

For new drivers, the instructors suggest taking it slow and starting out on backroads.

They hope their lessons will prevent more crashes in years to come.

“We just want everybody to be safe and live a long life enjoying a sport that’s given us a lot,” Tarby said.

DMV data: A bigger picture

The report from the NC DMV also analyzed data from 2017 to 2021.

In that time period, Mecklenburg County had 1,365 motorcycle crashes — the most in the state.

Wake County had the second most with 1,318 motorcycle crashes, and Cumberland County had the third most with 794 motorcycle crashes.

Durham County reported 427 motorcycle crashes in that time period.

Warren County reported just 15 crashes — the least amount of motorcycle crashes in the Triangle during that time period.

Other findings

The DMV’s report also looked at data from North Carolina as a whole.

It found that 202 motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2021, which was a 14.8% increase from 2020 when 176 were killed.

Even more motorcyclists were injured in 2021 — 2,972 of them, which was a 6% increase from 2020, according to the report.

When looking at data from the whole year, the NC DMV found that most motorcycle crashes happened in May (436) and September (431) of 2021. The least amount of crashes were reported in January (90).

Fatalities from those crashes were the highest in May (31), September (24) and October (24), according to the report. January was also the lowest month for fatalities (4).

The report said injuries were the highest in September (387), May (384) and July (346), and the lowest in January (72).