Why do we need a month dedicated to motorcyclists’ safety?
How about some very sobering facts: Since 1997, motorcyclist deaths have nearly doubled! The NHTSA reports there were 4,957 bikers killed in traffic accidents in 2012, the most recent year data has been analyzed. If this trend continues, we are headed for well over 5,000 fatalities this year.
Motorcycles are less than 3% of registered vehicles in the US, but account for 15% of all traffic fatalities!
May brings nice weather, and thus many motorcycles back out on the road, so let’s quickly cover the basics to be motorcycle safety aware.
For Car Drivers
• Motorcycles have the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the road. They are legally there, and should be treated with the same courtesy as any driver.
• Give a motorcycle a full lane. While they are much narrower than a car or truck, they need the space for safety, and are legally allowed it.
• Keep an eye out. Motorcycles are much smaller than most vehicles, and our brains are trained to see four wheeled vehicles. Pay attention, and understand that their small size may cause you to initially misjudge how close they are.
• Motorcycles can vanish in your blind spots much more easily than a car. As a rider you should try to avoid this, and as a driver you should use your mirrors, and glance over your shoulder.
• Use your Signals. Despite what some owners think, all cars have turn signals installed from the factory. Use them to signal your intentions. Motorcycles are nimble, but only if you let the rider know.
• Allow more distance when following a motorcycle. With less weight, they have less momentum and can stop surprisingly quickly. Also, a bike can end up sliding on wet pavement, spilled diesel, leaves, or sand, that you never even notice in a car.
• Bikers should never drink and ride. The NHTSA reports that 29% of fatal motorcyclists killed in accidents had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. Just like driving a car, bikers should hand over the keys if they are drinking.
• Follow all traffic laws, including speed limits, and be properly trained and licensed. According to the NHTSA, 22% of bikers involved in accidents did not have a valid license.
• Wear a DoT and Snell approved helmet, and wear bright protective gear to be more visible. A 2008 study examined fatal motorcycle accidents and showed that full face helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69%, and the risk of death by 42%
• Know that motorcycles can vanish in the blind spots of cars and try to avoid this. Far to many riders have been knock off their bikes because they paced a car on the road in exactly the wrong spot.
• Keep you bike in good working condition, checking the brakes, tires, lights and horn periodically for wear or malfunction. Your Clymer manual can help you here.