An off-duty Mesa police officer’s legs were broken Tuesday morning in a motorcycle crash, the latest in a recent rash of East Valley collisions that have seriously injured four bikers — and killed three.
William Abbiatti, 28, was at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital after being thrown about 50 feet from his motorcycle in the 8:30 a.m. collision with a school bus near Crismon Road and Balsam Avenue, officials said. Abbiatti was about to pass the bus on Crismon when the bus driver changed lanes and the two collided. His bike ended up under the bus — against its rear tires. He was wearing a helmet. There were no children on the bus.
Less than 12 hours earlier, 18-year-old Jonathan Nadim was killed when a car pulled out in front of his motorcycle about 10:50 p.m. Monday near Elliot and Pennington roads in Chandler.
"The weather’s getting better, so everybody’s riding," said Mark Weiss, director of training for the T.E.A.M. Arizona Motorcyclist Training Center in Gilbert. "This is peak riding season."
Because of a motorcyclefriendly climate in the Valley, rising gas prices and increasing interest in the sport, motorcycle registrations in Maricopa County are steadily increasing.
But as the number of bikers increases, so do crashes and fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Also, a growing population in Arizona overall is adding more car and truck drivers to the mix as well, and more traffic means more hazards for motorcyclists, Weiss said.
"With the increasing volume of traffic in our expanding communities, it becomes ever so critical that motorcyclists be aware of their surroundings," said Maricopa County sheriff’s Lt. J.J. Tuttle.
Seven people in the East Valley have died this year in motorcycle crashes — three in the past eight days. Four others have been injured in roughly the past two weeks.
One of those severely injured is off-duty Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy Douglas Matteson. He lost a leg after his custom motorcycle was hit from behind on U.S. 60 early Saturday by a fastmoving Ford Mustang. The Mustang driver, off-duty Scottsdale police officer Kevin Baxter, faces aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an injury accident charges.
John Gusty of Gilbert said that his son, James Gusty, 32, would often say that if he was ever in a crash on his Harley Davidson, it would be because of another driver.
Gusty was riding with friend Quintin Streeter, 22, on April 27, when a Chrysler PT Cruiser made a left turn in front of them near Harrison and Oak streets in Chandler. Gusty is recovering at home with his jaw wired shut. Streeter died in the resulting crash.
"He lost a good friend," John Gusty said, adding that his son has vowed never to ride again.
"It doesn’t surprise me to hear that more of these are happening. And I think it’s going to get worse," Gusty said. "There’s road construction everywhere. People are in a hurry. It’s just inevitable."
Most recent crashes in the East Valley have similarities, Weiss said.
For example, two of the fatal crashes occurred at or before intersections, where a motorist pulled in front of the rider against their right of way. In the most recent of the three fatal crashes, the riders were not wearing helmets, and one of them may have been riding too fast to control his motorcycle.
Tyler Steimel, a sales manager at Town and Country motorcycles in Chandler recommends customers take T.E.A.M. Arizona’s safety course.
The course teaches riders to be conspicuous in traffic, to wear proper safety gear, and to learn riding skills such as fast braking, swerving and cornering.
"We hope it will make you think about (riding)," Weiss said. "We hope it instills a strong sense of personal responsibility."
Learn to ride
What: T.E.A.M. Arizona Motorcyclist Training Center
When: Classes are offered on weekdays and weekends. See www.teamarizona.com/ for complete schedule.
Where: 36 N. William Dillard Drive, Gilbert
Cost: $220, $195 for full-time students
Information: (480) 998-9888