Fatal Major Deegan incident added to toll of deadly motorcycle crashes on Bronx highways

stock photo of a person riding a motorcycle
A May 30 motorcycle crash that killed the driver was the 13th on a Bronx highway since 2019.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

A fatal motorcycle incident on the Major Deegan Expressway last week marked the 13th motorcyclist to die on a Bronx highway since 2019, according to information from the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).

A man was thrown off a Suzuki motorcycle after striking a barrier on the Major Deegan Expressway on Tuesday, May 30, falling off the side of the expressway and landing below onto Brook Avenue, according to a preliminary investigation.

Police responded to a call of the collision at the expressway’s Exit 2 at about 4:24 a.m. that morning, according to the NYPD. EMS pronounced the man dead on the scene. He has not yet been identified.

The expressway runs above Brook Avenue between East 134th and 135th Streets in Mott Haven, within the confines of the 40th Precinct.

The NYPD did not answer questions about the incident on Wednesday, only telling the Bronx Times the investigation is ongoing.

With this latest fatal crash, there have been 13 motorcyclist fatalities on highways in the Bronx from just January 2019 through May 2023, according to the city DOT.

Six of those fatalities took place on the Major Deegan Expressway.

Ten of the 13 motorcyclists who died on Bronx highways in recent years were wearing helmets, though just seven of them — including the man who died on May 30 — wore helmets approved by the federal transportation department, a city DOT spokesperson told the Bronx Times. USDOT-approved helmets are required to ride motorcycles in New York, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Of the 13 incidents, just six of the drivers were licensed and only five had motorcycles that were registered, the city DOT spokesperson told the Bronx Times. While most vehicles are registered for two years, motorcycle registrations last for just one, according to the DMV.

The city DOT spokesperson said that it is unknown whether the motorcyclist who died on May 30 had a license, but his bike was not registered.

The majority of motorcycle operators who are killed in New York City do not have a valid motorcycle license, according to New York City’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to end traffic deaths and serious injuries.

While operators are required to have a motorcycle license in New York state, a motorcycle license isn’t actually required to purchase a motorcycle, according to the city DOT. But that could change.

“Proper licensing is crucial because it shows that a rider has obtained the specialized training needed to safely operate a motorcycle which can prevent common fatal single-vehicle crashes,” the city DOT spokesperson said.

The city DOT is “exploring legislative changes to enhance motorcyclist safety,” such as a potential state law that would require a motorcycle license in order to purchase a motorcycle, the spokesperson told the Bronx Times. The agency is in the early stages of drafting the bill, but is interested in working on it in the coming years, the spokesperson added.

The bill is part of a Vision Zero package called The Removing Offenders and Aggressive Drivers from our Streets (ROADS) Act, which consists of various traffic safety bills.

And separate from the ROADS Act, another bill that was first introduced in the Assembly back in 2017, as well as in the state Senate in 2019, would require signs on state highways that say “Watch for Motorcycles.”

The city DOT spokesperson said the agency works with the New York City Motorcycle Advisory Council, which is a group of advocates and city agencies trying to improve motorcycle safety.

The council advocates for policies that support motorcycling, both as a hobby and as a form of transportation. The group supports “educational opportunities and efficient pathways to legality for all motorcycle riders,” according to the city DOT website.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes