Alcohol, inexperience play role in Toy Run accidents; police seek changes

Alcohol and inexperience contributed to accidents that caused multiple injuries in the 32nd annual Wichita Toy Run on Sunday, and police officials plan to meet with the event’s organizers to discuss possible changes to make the event safer.

Four people were injured in two separate accidents during the Toy Run, which went from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in downtown Wichita along Broadway north to the Kansas Pavilions off 85th Street North and I-135. None of the injuries are life-threatening, Lt. Joe Schroeder said.

But officers reported several other accidents that were not called in, he said, as well as numerous cases of riders who drank alcohol prior to participating in the event. Organizers said 2,777 motorcycles made the ride, but Schroeder said the actual number was close to or above 3,000 because numerous bikers joined the ride as it went along.

“We had some irresponsible individuals make some poor choices,” Schroeder said.

The first accident occurred in the 2600 block of North Broadway when two riders pulled out of the line to throw candy at people along the curb in the southbound lanes, Schroeder said. They collided with each other as they tried to get back into the line of bikes. A woman riding on the back of one of the bikes was hurt when the motorcycle went down, and the second motorcyclist was injured when his bike slid into a car.

“We do believe inexperience and alcohol played a significant factor in this collision,” Schroeder said.

The second accident occurred in the 7300 block of North Broadway when a full-size American flag came loose from the sidecar of a motorcycle. The rider parked legally on the southbound side of Broadway and tried to retrieve the flag on foot, Schroeder said. He was struck by a northbound motorcycle.

Police received “numerous reports” of riders consuming alcohol prior to the event, Schroeder said. Some performed “stunts” during the ride, while others rode over medians or jumped curbs, even though the route was clear of other traffic during the run.

Wichita police will meet with Park City police and representatives of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office – who each handled different segments of the route – to discuss the safety issues illuminated by this year’s event and come up with recommendations, Schroeder said. Those recommendations will then be presented to the event’s organizers.

“They have done an excellent job in doing everything they can” to keep the toy run safe, Schroeder said.

The event attracts a large number of inexperienced riders, Schroeder said, who have not learned the safe way to ride in a procession. The result is gaps opening up, which leads to the “accordion effect” which sets the stage for accidents.

“Riders participating in any kind of group run need to be trained in how to keep proper spacing,” Schroeder said. “Inexperience leads to a lot of accidents.”

Alcohol consumption prior to the ride is also a major concern, he said, so measures to report and withdraw violators should be created or strengthened.

“Consumption of alcohol has no place in that event,” Schroeder said. “They put themselves in danger, and put people around them in danger.”

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