Early this morning a hit–and-run driver struck and killed a motorcyclist in Boyle Heights.  The victim was 54 year old Los Angels probation officer, Ken Hamilton who was returning home from work.  The Los Angeles Police Department report that Hamilton was struck by a silver four door Honda Civic DX that was changing lanes.  The vehicle’s side mirror was sheared off in the collision. And found at the scene of the crash.  Hamilton’s motorcycle struck a traffic pole which then fell on him.

Aside from being a probation officer, Hamilton was also an assistant baseball coach at Santiago High School in Corona.

It was only a few months back that another Boyle Heights motorcyclist was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in a Honda automobile.  On the evening of July 28th,  Jesse Tellez was riding his motorcycle northbound on Boyle Avenue when what is believed to have been a Honda Accord turned left directly in front of him. Tellez reportedly attempted to avoid the collision by laying his motorcycle down, but was unable to stop before colliding with the passenger side of the Accord.  Mr. Tellez was rushed to the hospital but sadly died the next day from the blunt force trauma that he suffered.

Just two nights ago, an off duty Los Angeles Police Department officer’s motorcycle collided with a car around midnight on Forest Lawn Drive near Barham Boulevard in Los Angeles. The motorcyclist was taken to USC Medical Center with a broken pelvis. The driver of the car was not injured.

Not far from that accident scene, three lanes of the westbound 134 Freeway had to be closed weeks ago, causing major traffic problems in the Burbank and Glendale areas after a fatal motorcycle crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports indicate approximately 5,000 motorcyclists die each year.  Half of these crashes involve collisions with other vehicles. Unfortunately, many motor vehicle drivers do not respect or are not aware of the motorcyclist’s rights to share the road. Numerous motorcycle accidents are the result from a motorist’s negligence or inattentiveness.  These drivers often turn directly in front of or in the path of the motorcycle. Drivers fail to yield at the intersection to the motorcyclist.  Oblivious to the oncoming motorcyclist, drivers fail to yield, run red lights and stop signs or fail to look before pulling out from a driveway, parking lot, side street or curb.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs or those not wearing needed glasses or corrective lenses pose an additional risk.

It is worth mentioning that California is the only state in the United States where “lane splitting” is legal for all two-wheeled vehicles. “Lane splitting” is where a motorcycle, scooter, bicycle or other two wheeled vehicle can move between roadway lanes of vehicles that are travelling in the same direction.  Sometimes called “lane sharing”, “whitelining” “filtering” or “stripe-riding”, it also includes overtaking slow or stopped vehicles by riding between lanes.

Often times, you will see vehicles on the road try to impede the motorcyclist ability to lane split.  Interestingly, a recent study from the Office of Traffic Safety indicates that only about half of Californians are aware that the practice is legal. In February, new traffic rules were implemented allowing motorcyclists to split lanes only as long as the motorcyclist does not exceed speeds ten miles per hour faster than the cars they are driving between, and these cars must be going less than 30 miles per hour.

Bottom line, we all need to drive defensively, share the road and look out for one another.