On Aug. 8, the first of what is planned to be an annual "Safety Awareness Day" was held at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, just across the North Carolina line on the infamous, and often deadly, stretch of road known as the Dragon. The event was put together by Ben Steinberg, the Resort's manager (and Handlebars columnist).
Exhibitors and vendors included representatives of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Blount County Sheriff's Patrol, the Blount County Rescue Squad, the North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Education group (who provide MSF Rider Courses), Swain County Sheriff's Patrol, Graham County Rescue Squad, Zeefoto, Destination Motor Sports, and Dual Sport Touring. One glaring omission: Though invited, the Tennessee Highway Patrol did not see fit to attend this event.
The exhibits were enhanced by large prints provided by Zeefoto depicting unfortunate motorcycling events captured by their staff of photographers. These served as both grisly reminders and educational tools for the exhibitors. One dramatic image parked in front of Pete Flanagan from Destination served as an ice-breaker. "I thought it was a great image to show how protective gear is needed from head to toe," Flanagan said. "It was easy to see how the rider's helmet and jacket with armor protected him, but wearing tennis shoes left his ankles vulnerable."
When asked the most common cause of an accident on "The Dragon," Blount County Motor Officer Matt Fangiano replied, " Well, I've been working up here since 2003, I would say it's a combination of speed and rider inexperience. Our statistics show most of the fatalities are older cruiser riders." What's the easiest thing a rider or driver can do to stay safe? "Riding (or driving) within your limits," Fangiano said. "Slowing down will increase your reaction time."
There were many resources available to the riders on hand. The North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Education group provided contact information and course information about the Basic Rider Course and Experienced Rider Course. The Blount County Rescue Squad made available an Action Guide to Roadside Care and information on how alcohol affects riding skills. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol was on hand to answer questions about their "Rider Skill Days" program, which includes classroom based advice and on-road ride outs. The program is given by off-duty NCHP Motor Officers.