As a national study reports a spike in the number of motorcyclist deaths nationally, an Oneonta woman continues her crusade to boost the safety of riders.
“There are more and more people who are getting motorcycles,” Karen Vagliardo said Sunday. “Everybody’s life matters.”
Vagilardo founded Jason’s Run, an annual motorcycle ride, in memory of her son, who died in a crash in 2008 at the age of 22. She has distributed scores of “Check Twice — Save a Life. Motorcycles are Everywhere!!!” banners, signs and posters to urge motorists to watch for motorcyclists.
On Saturday, about 50 motorcycles and a handful of vehicles set off on the fifth annual Jason’s Run, which started at 11:15 a.m. from the American Legion Post 259 in Oneonta. The group traveled from to American Legion posts in Oneonta to Sidney and Norwich, then to Rockin’ Roadhouse in Mount Upton before returning to Oneonta at about 3:30 p.m.
As a tribute, the group rode past the intersection of state Route 205 and Pony Farm Road in the town of Oneonta where the accident occurred, Vagliardo said. The family maintains a memorial there.
Jason Vagliardo died Sept. 8, 2008, when his motorcycle struck the passenger side of a pickup truck that had turned in front of him. Jason, who had been wearing a helmet, was one of six motorcyclists who died in Otsego and Delaware counties that year.
Motorcyclist deaths have risen from 2,294 in 1998 to a projected 5,027 in 2012, said the nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association. New York reported 150 motorcyclist deaths in the first nine months of 2012, up from 145 in the same period in 2011, according to GHSA, which noted that New York was among states with enforcement or education programs that played a role in decreasing or limiting motorcyclist traffic fatalities.
“Yes, the statistics have risen,” Vagliardo said. “But so have the numbers of motorcyclists.”
Vagliardo said that while her efforts to raise awareness and teach motorcycle safety are year-round, the annual run prompts some heart-breaking moments and memories, she said.
“Each year is kind of hard — it’s hard personally for me, emotionally,” she said. “When Jason was killed, it was devastating.”
Jason was a 2004 Oneonta High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree at the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill. He worked as an information technology specialist at Wilber National Bank, which now is Community Bank.
Karen Vagliardo said she first saw the “Check Twice” signs in Cape Cod. She talked to a police captain about the signs during a visit after Jason’s death — a visit that launched Jason’s Run and her efforts toward seeing that her son’s death wouldn’t “be for nothing.”
On Saturday, Wayne Gregory, a member of the American Legion Riders in Oneonta, invited her to be a passenger during part of the run, Vagliardo said, and for the first time in the event’s history, she rode on a motorcycle instead of in a vehicle.
“It was just a very freeing feeling,” she said. “It was a very serene, beautiful ride — it was just a very calming ride.”
Jason Vagliardo was a member of Sons of the American Legion Post 259; the local post supports Jason’s Run. Saturday’s event also featured a pancake breakfast, a dinner and drawings. Vagliardo said after expenses, about $3,200 was raised. F
Vagliardo said the program has distributed more than 450 lawn signs and placed 34 banners, and thanks to American Legion Riders, materials have been distributed in several other states as well.
“Our run is our major money raiser,” she said. “I’m really hoping to reach out.”