Bangor man most recent of 17 motorcycle fatalities

Posted Sept. 05, 2008, at 8:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:17 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — Todd Penny never recovered from the injuries he suffered Thursday evening when he lost control of his motorcycle and struck a telephone pole.

Penny, 28, is the 17th person in Maine to die this year from motorcycle-related injuries and the second in the area during the last six weeks.

The Bangor man was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

“The injuries were pretty bad. He died as a result of his injuries,” Brewer police Lt. Chris Martin said Friday.

Penny was riding his 1996 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle on Pierce Road just after 6 p.m. Thursday when he apparently lost control, hit a curb and went off the roadway near the junction of Wilson Street. Penny was thrown from the bike and struck a telephone pole, suffering trauma to his head, face, chest and arm area, Martin said. He was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor where he later died. Speed may have been a factor, but it does not appear that alcohol or drugs were involved, Martin said.

“Including the one in Brewer, we have had a total of 17 [motorcycle-related deaths] so far this year,” Michelle Ward of the Bureau of Highway Safety fatal accident system analysis said Friday. “On this same date last year, we had 14, so we’re not too far ahead.”

Corinth resident Adam Lawrence, also age 28, died July 26 on Maine Avenue in Bangor when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a utility pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The results of a blood test released this week showed that Lawrence had a blood alcohol level of 0.16, twice the legal limit, Bangor police Deputy Chief Peter Arno said Friday.

“We determined early on that speed and alcohol probably were factors in the accident,” he said. “That is still our belief. There are a number of witnesses who say he was traveling at a high rate of speed, passing vehicles.”

Lawrence’s motorcycle crossed into the oncoming travel lane, left the roadway and struck a curb, throwing him into a utility pole, Bangor police Lt. Steve Hunt said at the time. Lawrence was not wearing a helmet.

Both the July 26 accident in Bangor and Thursday’s in Brewer remain under investigation by the Bangor Police Department’s accident reconstruction unit.

More people are riding motorcycles this year because they get much better gas mileage compared to cars and trucks, Ward said.

“With the gas crunch, they [residents] are going to try and use their motorcycles more to save money for as long as they can,” she said. “I think people will push it to the limit as far as weather is concerned. Desperate times mean desperate measures.”

A total of 23 people died in motorcycle-related crashes in 2007, and with 17 already on the books for this year, “it very well could be one of the deadliest years” on record, Wade said. “We’ll see what happens.”

High speeds and no helmet use are associated with many of the motorcycle-related deaths in Maine, and use of alcohol or drugs and inexperienced drivers also are big factors, Wade said.

The number of registered motorcycles in Maine has jumped by about 14,000 between 2002 and 2007, according to figures on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Web site. Figures for 2008 are not available.

In 2002, 32,037 motorcycles were registered for use in Maine, and five years later in 2007 the figure jumped to 46,033.

Wade said she expects the number to be larger for 2008.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet is not a requirement in Maine, but it is suggested for safety, Arno said.

“You stand a better chance of walking away from an accident if you’re wearing a helmet,” he said.

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