Joey Brush of Appling, Georgia, worked for cyclists' and motorcycle riders' rights

By Hilary Shenfeld
Updated May 10, 2015 02:30 PM
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Credit: The Augusta Chronicle/ZUMA

A former state senator from Georgia who battled to overturn the state’s helmet law for motorcyclists was killed this week after he was thrown from the Harley-Davidson he was driving and smashed into a car.

Funeral services are set for Monday for Joey Brush, 59, of Appling, Georgia, who died in the Thursday crash at an intersection near his home.

Brush was wearing a helmet, Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris tells PEOPLE.

Brush served four years in the Georgia state House in 1992-93 and 1995-96 and then was elected to the state Senate in 1996, serving eight years.

An avid motorcycle enthusiast, Brush was well-known for working on cyclists’ behalf, and he sponsored a bill that would have repealed the Georgia law that requires all riders to wear helmets. The legislation failed.

“He simply said they should have a choice,” his wife, Cheryl Brush, tells PEOPLE. “Because helmets are not as safe as what they are saying. Joey said they’re heavy, they can snap your neck, they can fly off.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries, meaning that “for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”

Even after Brush left office – he worked as a builder and developer and was a minister in a church founded by his parents – he continued to be politically active. In fact the morning of the accident, he was on his way to try to see Gov. Nathan Deal about another motorcycle bill that he championed pertaining to road rules, Cheryl Brush said.

Brush was headed east on his motorcycle about 8:30 a.m. as he approached a four-way intersection. Kimberly Crouch, 49, of nearby Grovetown, stopped at the stop sign and then pulled in front of Brush into the intersection, “failing to see oncoming traffic causing a collision between the two,” Morris said.

Brush, who was within the 55 m.p.h. speed limit and didn’t have a stop sign, jammed on his brakes and the bike fishtailed then skidded 30 feet, throwing him off and into her car, according to Morris. He hit the driver’s side front panel, and then the motorcycle smashed into him and then the car.

“Technically, he hit her,” Morris tells PEOPLE.

Brush died at the scene. Crouch, who was not injured, was charged with homicide by vehicle in the second degree and failure to yield, Morris said.

Brush, who had four children and three step-children, always knew that “it can happen,” Brush said, but “he was doing what he loved” and very much believed in the “Look Twice, Save a Life” motto of the ABATE motorcycle rights organization to which he belonged.

“If people are not paying attention, they don’t see motorcycles,” Brush said. “This is a very perfect example.”