May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and this year, both the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration as well as state agencies across the country and private safety advocacy groups are working together to build public awareness regarding keeping motorcycle drivers and motorcycle riders safe from harm on the road.
As we’ve reported in prior posts, riding motorcycles is one of the true feelings of freedom that can be experienced today but it comes with a higher risk of injury and death. This year, the issue of motorcycle helmets and state law requirements for wearing helmets will likely heat up, since Indiana and Illinois have less stringent helmet laws than other states in the country.
Why? Not only is there a greater likelihood of fatality in motor vehicle accidents where a motorcycle is involved, the Centers for Disease Control statistics show that there is also a higher risk of permanent disability as over half (50%+) of motorcycle injuries involve either the head/neck or the leg/foot.
According to the National Institute of Health,
- Fatalities involving motorists and motorcyclists increased 131 percent between 1998 and 2008.
- The mileage death rate for motorcyclists in 2007 was 37 times greater than for passenger car occupants.
From the May 2013 press release from NHTSA, along with announcing the May Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month Campaign, comes the following safety suggestions:
- Never ride impaired or distracted.
- Obey traffic laws, wear DOT-compliant helmets and other protective gear.
- Make yourself visible by wearing bright colors and using reflective tape.
- Avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
- Use turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if you think no one will see it.
- Combine hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to yourself.
- Position yourself in the lane where you will be most visible to other drivers.
- Never drive distracted. Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
- Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Turn signals on motorcycles are not the same as those on motor vehicles – motorcycle signals are usually not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist’s intention before you proceed.
- Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
- Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.