CHEYENNE — Life keeps D.J. Sandoval busy, but he loves when he can hop on his Harley and ride the picturesque open roads of the Front Range.

“It’s the best stress reliever I’ve ever found in my life,” he said Wednesday outside High Country Motorsports in Cheyenne.

But what many people enjoy as a pastime can turn deadly in an instant.

Last year, 24 people died in motorcycle crashes on Wyoming highways — making 2015 the third-deadliest year for motorcyclists here in the past 22 years.

“Our hearts go out to their families, and we wish we could turn back the clock and change the outcome, but we cannot,” Gov. Matt Mead said. “We can only look ahead and try to prevent more tragedy.”

Mead spoke Wednesday during a motorcycle safety awareness event at High Country Motorsports.  He was joined by Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak, Wyoming Highway Patrol leader Col. Kebin Haller and Wyoming Department of Transportation Director William Panos.

Mead talked about his own experience riding motorcycles and stressed that it is everyone’s responsibility to pay attention and make sure motorcyclists “get from highway to home safely.”

“You’ve got to watch out for everybody, because I will tell you: When that accident happens, you’re not going to find any comfort in saying, ‘Well, it was somebody on a motorcycle,’” he said after the event.

“Whether it’s a motorcycle, or a car or truck, we all have a responsibility to drive defensively, and we all have a responsibility to watch out for each other.”

Mead pointed out that most drivers’ minds are trained to look out for large objects while at intersections.

“Instead, we need to look out for those motorcycles and just be generally aware that they’re out there — just take that extra moment to look right and left, at your blind spots, to take a moment at the intersection,” he said.

“And then to recognize that motorcycles react differently in terms of acceleration and braking than vehicles do, and you need to give them a little more space.”

Officials also focused on the importance of always riding motorcycles sober.

“Operating a motorcycle requires an enhanced level of focus, coordination and balance, so compromising your skills by drinking alcohol and riding can, of course, be a deadly decision,” Haller said.

Kozak, who has been a motorcycle officer for 20 years and worked full-time in Arizona as a motorcycle cop for about 10 years, said his biggest tips — other than staying sober — are to go through training and wear proper gear, such as boots, long pants, long-sleeve shirt, a helmet and sunglasses or other protective eye wear.

“Even though the law doesn’t require those things, it’s just good advice to do that,” he said.

By Sarah Zoellick

Wyoming Tribune Eagle