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Motorcycle group tries to raise awareness

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 20:14:17-04
When Theresa Ulibarri heard about two motorcycle deaths this week, she said it made her heart break. 
 
"It makes us sad and it also makes us really angry," said Ulibarri, chairperson of Motorcycle Awareness Movement. 
 
On Thursday night, 18-year-old Tyler Woelfersheim died after his motorcycle collided with a car in Green Valley. 
 
According to deputies, Woelfersheim was heading west on Continental Road approaching Abrego drive when a driver heading east turned onto Abrego in front of Woelfersheim, who couldn't avoid the collision and hit the passenger side of the car. 
 
It's the second fatal motorcycle accident this week in Pima County after another rider died Wednesday in a wreck at First Avenue and River Road. 
 
According to Tucson Police, in that accident, a driver attempting to turn left onto River Road had inched forward into the intersection and struck a motorcycle, with 54-year-old Daniel Harrington on board. Harrington died at the hospital. 
 
"People should be standing up for us as much as they would stand up for anyone else that's being slaughtered on the streets," said Ulibarri. "That's how we feel."
 
The Motorcycle Awareness Movement began last year after a man named Noble Thorpe was killed on Harrison Road near Golf Links.
 
According to his family, a driver of a truck trying to turn left onto Harrison Road turned right in front of Thorpe on his motorcycle.
 
"He ended up cutting off my dad and making him slam on his brakes," said Zach Boyd, Thorpe's son. Boyd says he was driving behind his dad at the time and witnessed the accident.
 
He says his dad was wearing a helmet but ended up underneath the truck's tires. 
 
"He ran over my dad and it was the entire reason why he died," said Boyd.
 
A slew of recent motorcycle accidents have involved similar circumstances, where a driver turning left doesn't see a motorcycle coming.  
 
So far the year, Tucson Police have responded to an average of one motorcycle fatality a month. That's compared to only three total last year.
 
Ulibarri says she knows motorcycle riders need to take responsibility for their own safety and ride smart but she also witnesses people everyday distracted on their phones and not paying attention.
 
Drivers often comment that motorcycle riders weaving in and out of traffic cause accidents. According to the most recent inforamtion from the Arizona Department of Transportation, only about two percent of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2014 involved an unsafe lane change violation.
 
In comparison, 27 percent of fatal accidents involved riders going too fast. That was the most common violation. Right behind that, 26 percent of fatal crashes involved the riders doing nothing wrong. The rest of the accidents involved various violations. 
 
"We are mothers and fathers and professionals, we're everybody," she said. "And we just want people to pay attention."