It has been nearly 11 years since Kitimat’s Denise Lodge’s son died in a motorcycle accident but she is still advocating to prevent the same tragedy from affecting other families’ lives.
In February, Lodge made stops in Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert to deliver her message to high school students, asking them to take the story to the streets.
“At the end of the day, all we want is for you to come home safe,” Lodge said with apparent emotion.
It was 2005, she was living in Kitimat and her two boys had moved to Vancouver Island for work after they finished high school. Her oldest, Corey, was 21-years-old at the time in 2005 when he upgraded from a sport bike with a 250CC engine to a street bike with a 1000CC engine.
Less than 24 hours of receiving his learner’s motorcycle driver’s licence he took his new bike, with after-market enhancements, out on the Mallahat Highway and lost control of the bike crashing into a rock wall.
“I’ll never forget watching the news that day,” Lodge said who was on the North Coast at the time. She had no idea that he had purchased a new motorcycle. Neither did Corey’s girlfriend, who were both saving money to buy a house, and who was in the hospital for an operation when the accident happened.
Lodge’s youngest son, Jeremy, was living with his older brother in Victoria at the time. He flew home immediately to be with his family after he heard the news. He wanted to be with them when the RCMP paid that terrible visit and spoke the official words that left a permanent mark on all of their lives.
After his death, she organized the C.O.R.E.Y (Coalition of Riders Educating Youth) to bring rider and driver safety knowledge to other youth.
Lodge has also called on the B.C. government to introduce better safety regulations. A new law came into effect in June 2012 making motorcycle riders and passengers wear helmets that met specific industry standards. Skull caps and other novelty helmets would not meet the regulation code. New seating requirements were also issued with increased fines for reckless driving behaviour.
The province estimates that three per cent of insured vehicles are motorcycles, but account for 10 per cent of road fatalities. Between 2008 to 2012 there were 5,172 injured and 203 motorcycle accident related deaths.
Lodge has also pushed for graduated licensing for motorcycles that is along the same lines as the graduated licensing program for a car.
In the current system, a driver could receive their motorcycle learner’s licence and 30 days later they could have a full licence, driving on the highway on a high speed bike.
“Just because you have your driver’s licence doesn’t give you the qualifications to fly a plane, so why is a motorcycle the same,” Dodge said.
Her request for a new licensing system made its way to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond.
In 2012, Bond stated that the province intended to move forward with a graduated licencing program with power restrictions but it still hasn’t come into fruition.
“We have been waiting 11 years for the government to go forward with this and every year more people die,” she said. “I keep getting the letter that it’s one of the high priorities but that’s not saving any more lives in the time frame. That’s why we started to think we’re going to start going this route and doing presentations for the high school students.”
At the presentation Lodge first tells the story of her son then she gives the floor over to Corey Bowness from Road Safety B.C. who highlighted the added risks to being on a motorcycle. He also offers tips on the best ways for riders and passengers to protect themselves, such as wearing abrasion resistant clothing and purchasing a white helmet over a black one for higher visibility.
RCMP officers also took a turn to lay out the fines and penalties a motorcyclist could face if they break the rules and engage in dangerous activities, such as street racing.
At the end of the presentation, Lodge played a song one of Corey’s friends recorded for him.
The line: “I miss you man, I never got to say goodbye” drives her message home into the hearts of anyone listening just a little deeper.