May kicks off Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, an initiative supported by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), to encourage motorcyclists and drivers of all other kinds of vehicles to “share the road”.
The NHTSA reported that motorcyclist fatalities increased in 2011 to 4,612, accounting for 14 percent of total fatalities for the year.
Automobile drivers are reminded to be vigilant to look for motorcycles, recognizing that motorcyclists have all the same rights and privileges. However, motorcycles can be harder to see, behave differently, and are far more vulnerable to road hazards and impacts.
Riders are reminded that they are indeed at risk. They need to obey traffic laws and wear protective gear. Motorcyclists are encouraged to always wear DOT-compliant helmets. In 2011, 60 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 49 percent of fatally injured motorcycle passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,617 motorcyclists in 2011. An additional 703 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
Below are several tips for vehicle drivers to be more aware of riders and “share the road:
- Expect that you will see motorcyclists, so be on the lookout for them
- Don’t think of the rider as another vehicle, think of them as a person
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width
- Allow greater following distance behind a motorcycle
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic
- Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors & blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic & at intersections – due to its smaller size motorcycles can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot
- Show extra caution at intersections, slow down & check for other vehicles & riders
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – some are not self-canceling & riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed
There are also a number of things riders can do as well to keep safe and “share the road”:
- Avoid riding in poor weather conditions
- Wear bright colors that are easily visible to others
- Wear DOT-compliant helmets & other protective gear
- Allow more following distance – give yourself plenty of braking distance
- Use turn signals for every turn or lane change
- Use extreme caution when making left-hand turns at intersections – if you’re not sure give the bigger vehicle the right-of-way
- Watching the head movements of drivers through their windows and mirrors is an excellent way to anticipate sudden moves
- Avoid riding in a driver’s blind spot
- Never get between a vehicle and an off ramp
- When slowing down, instead of merely downshifting or throttling, tap the brake to make the vehicle behind you aware you are slowing
For more tips for riders please visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website, they have a nice selection of downloadable information and safety tips including “You and Your Motorcycle: Safety Tips”.