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A tragic end for a champion of motorcycle safety

Dan Jorasz spent a lifetime teaching motorcycle riders how to survive on those suicide machines.

Dan died riding one on a late September afternoon.

He didn’t die from taking a corner too fast or drinking and driving or because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. And it wasn’t because some SUV driver didn’t see him in a blind spot.

That’s how other motorcyclists die.

Not Dan.

It was a ladder in the far left lane of U.S. Highway 95 that led to his death.

Dan was an instructor at the College of Southern Nevada. His weekends were spent teaching motorcycle enthusiasts how to survive with only a helmet and maybe a leather jacket to protect them from steaming asphalt and two-ton passenger cars.

Dan’s day job was at the Las Vegas Harley Davidson store over on Eastern Avenue. He was an instructor there, too.

Dan had trained thousands in the valley and beyond. His name is recognized by motorcycle clubs and state officials alike.

His life was motorcycles and motorcycles were his life.

Nevada Highway Patrol troopers got the call about 3:30 p.m.

Motorcycle versus car.

Just past Flamingo Road, a driver saw the ladder in her lane and swerved left into the emergency lane to avoid it, said Trooper Kevin Honea.

She tried to get back over, but turned too far, and the car spun out of control. The car crossed all four lanes turning 180 degrees until it was facing the wrong way in the far right-hand lane.

That was the lane Dan was riding north in.

It was a head-on collision.

A helicopter was called, but it was too late. Dan was gone.

“There was no indication he (Jorasz) was doing anything wrong,” Honea said.

Whether the driver will be charged with anything has yet to be determined. The investigation is ongoing.

Motorcycle fatalities have been going up for the past few years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One reason: More people are riding motorcycles.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has seen an increase of about 3,000 registered motorcycles on average for each of the past three years, bringing the total number registered statewide to over 30,000.

Over the same time period, Nevada has averaged 52 motorcycle-related deaths each year.

For three years before then, the average was 27.

Dan was one of the people who tried to keep those numbers from getting larger.

The husky-voiced 57-year-old, who stood 6-feet tall with a medium build, put people at ease, said Roger Fox, who had been teaching with Dan for 15 years.

“He was a friendly guy. He’d talk to anybody,” Fox said.

Daniel David — “Double D” to his friends — never told people they were wrong. “He’d just say, ‘Let’s try that a little differently the next time,’ ” Fox said.

A key to teaching motorcycle safety is not to scare students to death, Fox said. “You have to keep them at ease, keep them calm and their spirits high,” he said.

A scared driver isn’t a safe one.

“He would cheer people up, make it sound like fun,” Fox said.

Instructors can’t teach motorcyclists every situation they will encounter, Fox said.

Death on a motorcycle can happen even if the rider does everything right.

“It can happen to the best.” Fox paused. “Which it does.”

Dan’s funeral was Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. That’s where Dan was from.

But before going back east, local folks had a chance to say goodbye.

By all accounts mourners at Valley Funeral Home stood shoulder to shoulder, with an overflow crowd outside.

Fox lost his co-worker. Dan’s two daughters lost their father. But the valley, especially its motorcyclists, lost something more, Fox said.

“We lost a great educator.”

• • •

There will be other chances to honor Dan. Las Vegas Harley Davidson is planning a memorial ride this month.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or fmccabe@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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