Tips for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
May 9th, 2017 by Wapner Newman
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data published in March shows that in 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes in the United States. That’s an increase of 8 percent over the previous year, but the number of injuries from 2014 to 2013 decreased by 3 percent, to 88,000.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time for motorcyclists and other motorists to think about how to avoid crashes and accident-related injuries.
Maintain Safe Distances
Aside from having only two wheels, there are some fundamental ways in which motorcycles are unlike cars and trucks. One of the biggest differences is their relative weight. Some sport cycles may weigh as little as 250 to 300 pounds, and larger motorcycles may weigh around 700 pounds. Cars weigh roughly 4,000 pounds, and some larger pickup trucks can weigh upwards of 10,000 pounds.
Here’s why weight differences matter: In general, the heavier a vehicle is, the longer it takes to stop. So when the driver of a car or truck is following a motorcyclist too closely, and the motorcycle makes a sudden stop, the rearmost driver may crash into the motorcyclist from behind.
One of the easiest ways to prevent crashes involving motorcyclists is to give them plenty of space on the road. When following a motorcycle, use the “4-second rule” to determine a safe distance – as a motorcycle passes a fixed object, begin counting, and make sure you don’t reach that same object until at least 4 seconds later.
Be cautious when attempting to pass a motorcycle, or groups of motorcycles, as they may change lanes quickly.
Former professional BMX racer and motorcycling instructor Jack Baruth explained in a Road & Track article that drivers sometimes don’t “see” motorcycles, even when looking right at them. He explained that motorcycles take up less visual space, which may make them harder to see, but that the real reason people don’t see them is because they don’t expect to. Baruth advises drivers to actively look around while driving, and to expect motorcycles on the road.
Inattention may be a factor in drivers hitting motorcyclists, so all drivers should work on avoiding distraction.
Motorcyclists can help other drivers see them by wearing bright colors and reflective clothing and by riding with headlights on at all times.
Most drivers know to check their blind spots, but some don’t always check their blind spots before changing lanes. For that reason, motorcyclists should avoid lingering in another vehicle’s blind spot while in motion.
According to the NHTSA, in 2015, of the 4,684 motorcyclists who died in crashes, 27 percent were legally intoxicated, with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher, and 17 percent had a BAC of more than .15 percent. In Pennsylvania, 34 percent of the 170 motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2015 had a BAC of .08 percent or higher.
No matter what type of vehicle is being driven, alcohol always raises the risk of a crash. All drivers should avoid driving under the influence of alcohol.