FLETCHER, N.C. (WLOS) — In just one year, almost 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents and about 88,000 were injured. That's according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The month of May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and a local motorcyclist is crediting a free class for saving his life.
Willie Pulley said he has been riding a bike for about 25 years now. "From dirt bikes to mini bikes to road bikes," he said.
Just weeks ago, Willie was involved in his first motorcycle crash. He said a driver hit him as he was sitting at a red light on Hendersonville Road, at the intersection of Sweeten Creek Road and Airport Road.
It's a rare scenario when a biker escapes a crash unscathed. In fact, the North Carolina Highway Patrol says last year in Western North Carolina, there were 426 accidents involving motorcycles and 19 of those were fatal.
His bike is out of commission for now, but Willie credits a Bike Safe NC class for saving his life.
"That's what saved my life, was some of the safety tips that they instill," he said.
Willie added that as he was being struck, he steered his motorcycle in a way that lessened the impact when he was pushed against the car in front of him. He said he learned that maneuver from local motor officers like Sgt. Scott Pruett with the Asheville Police Department's Motor Unit.
Sgt. Pruett told News 13 that Willie was one of his first students in a Bike Safe class just a few years ago. After Willie's crash, he said he went to Sgt. Pruett to thank him for helping to save his life. Testimonies like that don't come often, says Sergeant Pruett, but when they do, it assures officers that they are doing their jobs.
"It's not an instructional how-to ride a motorcycle class, it is how to hone the skills that you already have," Sgt. Pruett of the class.
The motor officer has witnessed many times how tragedy can strike in an instant on the road.
"Some of the more tragic events that I've seen as a crash investigator have involved motorcycles. More often than not, it was not the motorcycle operators fault. However, with that being said, there might have been some preventative efforts that could have been made had the rider had a little more skill set," he added.
Bike Safe NC classes go beyond the classroom, as attendees are paired with instructors for on the road ride-outs. The goal is to keep motorcyclists safe on the roads, and the classes are free.
Willie still recalls the lessons learned and memories made with the officers. "You know, most of the time you are running from them, but this time we're having lunch with them and enjoying them," he said laughing. He hopes to be back on the road within a month after his motorcycle is repaired.
If you are interested in taking a Bike Safe NC class, there are some local classes happening this month. Click here for more information on signing up.