May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a time of year designed to remind all drivers and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other.
The good news? Motorcycle deaths and injuries were down in 2014. In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a 2.3 percent drop from 2013 (4,692). Those deaths account for 14 percent of the total highway deaths that year. It also continues to break a trend over the last 17 years, which saw only one other decline in 2009. The number of injured motorcyclists also fell from 93,000 in 2013 to 88,000 in 2014.
Safe riding practices and cooperation from everyone on the road will help keep numbers going down. But it’s especially important for motorists to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them.
By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.
TIPS FOR MOTORISTS
Research and state-level data has and continues to consistently identify motorists as being at-fault in over half of all multi-vehicle motorcycle-involved collisions. NHTSA-funded research has shown that people behind the wheels of passenger vehicles are distracted more than 50 percent of the time.
- Road users should never drive, bike, or walk while distracted. It can cause deadly consequences for all on the road, including motorcyclists.
- Use your vehicle’s rear-view and side-view mirrors properly. If they aren’t properly adjusted, they can also contribute to collisions, particularly with smaller vehicles like motorcycles. Remember, roughly 40 percent of a vehicle’s outer perimeter zones are hidden by blind spots. Motorcyclists can be easily hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot.
- This is also just common sense. If you’re turning at an intersection, and your view of oncoming traffic is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction. Scan for all roadway users (pedestrians and motorcyclists included), and proceed with caution.
- Slow your decision-making process down at intersections.
- Match your speed to other vehicles in traffic. If you go too fast or too slowly it can cause problems especially in the ability to respond to a potential collision. When approaching a congested roadway, modifying your speed to match that of the cars in traffic can be a lifesaver, particularly for motorcyclists.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving. Share the road, but not the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.
- Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic. Motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles, so they can be difficult to see. Their size can also cause other drivers to misjudge their speed and distance.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle—it may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
- Allow more follow distance – three or four seconds – when following a motorcycle. This gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
Following these safety tips will help keep the roads and highways safe for everyone. Remember to always share the road.