Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a national initiative designed to encourage drivers of all other kinds of vehicles and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)reminds all motorists to safely “share the road” with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists. The NHTSA’s motorcyclists’ safety campaign also stresses the importance of riding sober. Statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads.
Motorcycle crashes are one of the most prevalent causes of death and injury on roads. Motorcyclists are about 30 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle occupants. The latest NHTSA statistics show that in 2011, 4,612 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes—an increase of 2 percent from the 4,518 motorcyclists killed in 2010. There were 81,000 motorcyclists injured during 2011, a slight decrease from 82,000 in 2010. Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 14 percent of total highway deaths for the year although motorcycle registrations represent only about 3 percent of all vehicles in the U.S.
The NHTSA offers the following tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:
- A motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle;
- Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane;
- Perform a regular visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections;
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed;
- Allow more following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle to give the motorcyclist time to maneuver around obstacles in the roadway, or stop in an emergency. Road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists and so 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;
- Never ride distracted.
Motorcyclists can increase their safety by:
- Wearing a DOT-compliant helmet;
- Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it;
- Signaling intentions by combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;
- Wearing brightly colored protective gear, and using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity;
- Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers; and
- Never riding while impaired.
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