Picture of Jay Wannamaker's motorcycle and the vehicle it collided with.

Tim Miller/Intelligencer File Photo Jay Wannamaker’s motorcycle lays in the road after a collision with an oncoming car on Cannifton Road North on Friday, July 10, 2015 in Belleville.

With still a third of the year left to go, Ontario has already seen as many motorcycle fatalities as there were in the whole of 2016 — a year known as the worst year for motorcycle-related deaths in the last decade.

While alcohol, excessive speed or losing control of the vehicle have been factors in some of the cases, another cause — the distracted driving of other motorists — is a familiar one to many motorcyclists.

Two years ago Paul Sweeney was out enjoying a ride with a friend on Flinton Road when an oncoming truck crossed the centre line into their lane.

The bike in front of him was able to hit the brakes and narrowly miss the truck but Sweeney was left with nowhere to go as the truck continued to drift into his lane.

“There was no getting past it,” recalled Sweeney. “If I kept on the brakes I knew I was going to go down and go under it (the truck). So I let off the brakes, stood up on the pegs and went up over… the side of the truck and into the ditch.”

The whole thing, captured on a GoPro video, took approximately six seconds from the time the truck came into view around a corner to Sweeney landing in the ditch.

“It happens in a second,” he said. “I don’t know if he was talking to his wife or texting, but until I actually hit him I don’t even think he knew I was there.”

Sweeney was left with multiple injuries to his hip, arm and wrist which still plague him two years later.

Unlike a motorist — who benefits from being in an enclosed vehicle with modern safety advances like crumple zones and airbags — a motorcyclist is only protected by a helmet and any gear they happen to be wearing.

Later that year Frankford’s Jay Wannamaker was travelling south through Cannifton when he was struck by a northbound vehicle.

“Just as we were about to pass each other, all of a sudden she swerved into my lane because she was texting and driving and I had nowhere to go so we hit head on,” said Wannamaker.

The impact was so powerful “I came out of my shoes,” said Wannamaker.

He was taken to hospital with a broken back and a crushed foot, while a passenger on the back of the bike sustained serious leg and head injuries.

“They pulled a piece of car out of my foot bigger than the doctor’s hand,” said Wannamaker.

Both Sweeney and Wannamaker said they’ve seen a marked increase in distracted drivers on the road in the last several years.

“People just don’t pay attention anymore,” said Wannamaker. “Driving truck for the last 20 years, we can see everything that’s going on in the car, and everybody on the 401 is on their phone.”

“I’ve been riding for 40 years and, especially in the last two to three years, it’s just like everybody out there is doing everything except paying attention to where they’re driving,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney pointed to the amount of motorcycle fatalities so far this year.

“It goes to show it’s not a matter of bruising somebody up or busting somebody up. You can end a life.”

Source: The Belleville Intelligencer