Janklow-Scott Car-Motorcycle Crash Draws National Scrutiny

A popular politician speeds, runs a stop sign, and kills a motorcyclist. The motorcycle community wonders if political clout will supress justice and if we are second-class citizens. **By _ Art Friedman.

August 21: Randy Scott probably never thought that a short motorcycle ride on Satuday afternoon could cost him his life.

When South Dakota Congressman and former South Dakota governor Bill Janklow decided to drive 20 mph over the speed limit, he probably didn't expect to kill someone.

But that's what happened. Police reports say Janklow was going 75 mph in a 55-mph zone and that he ran a stop sign without slowing at the intersection where the accident occurred. Scott, who had no stop sign limiting him, struck the congressman's speeding Cadillac on its left side, just behind the driver's door. He was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene. Janklow suffered some head injuries himself and a hand injury. Reports say that neither driver tested positive for alcohol or drugs.

Janklow has an extensive history of speeding, has even referred to it in speeches, and has obtained numerous tickets for it. He has never been jailed or had his license suspended. At the scene, he said he swerved to avoid another car, but no such vehicle was seen by witnesses and both vehicles were in their lanes. He has previously told that same story when he got in trouble on the road.

There are many articles covering the crash on the web (search for Janklow + motorcycle). We think this UPI story is one of the better articles about the event.

For many motorcyclists, the issue is whether motorcyclists can get justice in such a situation, especially when the other party is what one report describes as "the most popular governor in South Dakota history." In previous cases elsewhere, politicians have been let off with a slap on the wrist. To many motorcyclists, this just implies that motorcyclists' lives lost are not worth a penalty. We have begun receiving emails suggesting that, if South Dakota authorities do not charge Janklow with anything serious, that motorcyclists should boycott the Sturgis Rally (South Dakota's largest tourist event and one which Janklow as governor supported) or move the event out of South Dakota. The event is credited with bringing tens of millions of dollars to the state.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) regards the accident as a classic example of other motorists negligence killing motorcyclists.

The AMA issued this statement today:


PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The tragic accident last weekend that claimed the life of a Minnesota motorcyclist is an all-too-common occurrence on the nation's highways, reports the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

On Saturday, August 16, motorcyclist Randolph Scott of Hardwick, Minn., was killed in a collision with a car driven by U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow (R-S.D.). The fatal accident took place at the intersection of two county roads in eastern South Dakota.

Police reports note that there is a stop sign on Moody County Road 13, on which Janklow was headed south, while County Road 14, on which Scott was headed west, is a through road with no stop sign. Reports released by police investigators indicate that Janklow's car, traveling at speeds estimated at 70-75 mph, did not stop at the stop sign and continued into the path of the motorcycle, giving the rider no chance to avoid the fatal collision.

AMA officials point out that this type of accident, in which a car or other vehicle violates the right of way of a motorcycle, is the greatest hazard motorcyclists face on the road. The most comprehensive study ever conducted into motorcycle accidents found that nearly 75 percent of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, and that in almost two-thirds of those crashes, the cause could be traced to the other vehicle violating the motorcyclist's right-of-way.

"We've known for a long time about the dangers of car drivers violating motorcyclists' right-of-way," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "That danger, combined with the excessive speed and failure to obey a stop sign reported in this case, produced reckless behavior that took the life of an innocent motorcyclist."

For more than a year, the AMA has been involved in a campaign called Motorcyclists Matter that focuses attention on the dangers faced by motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians, as a result of drivers who violate their right-of-way. The Association is also campaigning in Washington, D.C., for funding for a new study into the causes of motorcycle accidents -- the first in more than two decades. _

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Bill Janklow in 2002