“It’s just too painful,” she said. “I see the accident happening and I can’t deal with it emotionally.”
On March 16, 2012, Jack died as a result of the collision. The driver of the vehicle that struck Jack’s motorcycle said she had not seen the motorcycle, and this became the rallying cry of a movement Jack’s family started.
Unable to bring Jack back, his family vowed to do everything possible to make certain that this tragedy did not happen again. A month after his death, the family formed “Remember Me…John `Jack’ Santopietro,” a nonprofit organization to promote motorcycle awareness and offer a yearly scholarship to a student majoring in fire science at New Jersey City University as well as to offer campership awards to Bayonne scouts attending Boy Scouts of America summer camp.
A graduate of Lincoln Community School and Bayonne High School, Jack worked by day and attended college at night. Friends said he loved to ride his dirt bike, but also had numerous other interests, including the Boy Scouts. Although studying criminal justice at Hudson County Community College at the time of his death, Santopietro had planned to attend New Jersey City University to study fire science, a program to help people pursue careers as firefighters. He was on the Civil Service list to become a firefighter in Bayonne.
Margaret and her husband, George, had a table at this year’s National Night Out, promoting an educational program called Rider of the Clouds.
“Basically what we do is we have a motorcycle-awareness initiative called the Rider of the Clouds initiative,” Margaret said.
This involves cutouts of 21 life-size motorcycles. Each bears the name of a person who died in a motorcycle accident, and each has a story. The two on display at the Night Out event were from Bayonne.
The goal is to reduce motorcycle fatalities by making motorists more aware.
“What we do is we take the initiative to different communities around the state and educate people about motorcycle awareness,” Margaret said. “This is not so much motorcyclists we’re reaching out to but rather motorists. Motorcyclists have responsibilities, too, but one of the statements that the woman said about my son is that she didn’t see him. So we’re trying to get drivers to take a second look. We have stickers with that saying on it.”
Her group is also handing out brochures with safety tips that include such things as being alert for motorcyclists when heavy traffic can hide them from view. Motorists should also anticipate hazards, especially debris or oil slicks on the road, railroad tracks, the narrowing of roadways, and raised manhole covers.
Motorists are cautioned not to tailgate motorcycles and to give them enough room on the road.
Margaret said she is gathering fatality statistics in the area over the last 16 months. “We’re hearing that there are a lot of injuries to the motorcyclists, but fewer fatalities,” she said.
She is hoping to get the initiative in all 50 states within the next five or ten years.
“We were actually supposed to move into New York in May, but we ran into some funding issues,” she said.
The motorcycle cutouts run about $2,000 per set.
“We’re looking for funding for that,” she said. “What we’ve raised now, I would rather give back to the Boy Scouts and cover funeral expenses. So we’re looking for organizations that would be willing to fund expanding the Rider of the Clouds initiative.”
“We have accomplished a lot in 16 months,” she said.
Motorcycle clubs from Bayonne to Guttenberg in Hudson County and beyond have supported the program, Margaret said.
“We’ve been in Kearny, Guttenberg, Newark, and other towns,” she said. “We’ve been all around the state of New Jersey. We’re also trying to get into driver-education programs in high schools. Carteret is the first one that is trying to join forces with us.”
Donations can be made at P.O. Box 3129, Bayonne, N.J. 07002. Organizers said matching gifts are welcome. For more information or to get on the mailing list, visit rememberme316.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.