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May Means Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

 Thursday, April 28, 2016

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May Means Motorcycle Awareness Month

Next month is officially all about motorcycles all the time with Motorcycle Awareness Month kicking off on May 1st.

We could take the saying of bikers living by their own rules and add tracking time with unique motorcycle calendars on which rallies and events replace birthdays and anniversaries. One such date on the two-wheeled calendar is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month which kicks off promptly every year on May 1st.

Organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is designed to encourage all drivers and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other, something that always seems to be on the ‘must improve’ list. Regardless of where they live, anyone who has been in the saddle recently would agree this special month raises much-needed awareness.

In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a slight decrease of 2.3 percent from 2013 which pegged the morbid number at 4,692. Those deaths account for 14 percent of the total highway fatalities that year, a number made worse when the fact motorcycles only make up 3% of road-users is considered.

Looking on the bright side, the above decrease in motorcycle fatalities broke a tragic trend over the last 17 years, which saw only one other decline in 2009. Injured motorcyclists also decreased from 93,000 in 2013 to 88,000 in 2014.

Some will call the following coincidence while others will point to them as facts, but during the period fatalities were reduced, helmet use among motorcyclists on expressways increased significantly to 81 percent, up from 64 percent in 2013. The ying to this particular yang, use of non-compliant motorcycle helmets decreased significantly to 5 percent, from 7 percent in 2014.

Further, in 2014, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 53 percent of fatally injured motorcycle passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.

Unfortunately, the improving fatality trends are in jeopardy of doing a U-turn with recent reports showing an increase in motorcycle fatalities. Warmer winters and a growing number of states relaxing mandatory helmets laws appears to be some of the main reasons for the increasing fatalities. Other reasons could be summarized as driver of vehicles with four or more wheels. Blame it on cellphones, iPads or just bad driving, NHTSA-funded research has shown that people behind the wheels of passenger vehicles are distracted more than 50 percent of the time.  

Informing drivers of bad habits found in the general driving population as well as motorcycle facts non-riders may not know are some of the goals of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. An example of this, even if drivers are paying attention, motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles simply difficult to see, easily fitting into a car’s blind spots. Their size can also cause other drivers to misjudge their speed and distance.

Posters from past Motorcycle Safety Months

But there are two sides to this special month and motorcyclists are the other half. Facts and figures from studies and statistics help riders with some bad habits and trends found in the saddle.

Beer and shot specials at the local bike night aside, motorcycles and alcohol really don’t mix. Twenty-seven percent of bikers died while riding under the influence in 2014, more that car drivers who weighed in at twenty-three percent and those driving trucks at twenty-one percent.

An even crazier number, Forty-three percent of the 2,030 motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2013 had BAC levels of .08 g/dl or higher. Sixty-four percent of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights had BACs of .08 g/dl or higher. Just to be clear, single-vehicle crashes happen when no other vehicles are at fault and it’s all basically down to rider-error.

As May rolls out Motorcycle Awareness Month and drivers are reminded bikers get to use the entire lane and other two-wheeled gems of advice, riders should take stock on how they can avoid becoming a traffic statistic.

Riding defensively and maintaining an awareness of everything happening around them are the foundations of good motorcycle skill sets. Helmet debates aside, motorcycle safety advocates recommend wearing a DOT-compliant helmet and use reflective tape and gear to be more visible. NHTSA estimates helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2014.

Other riding tips include;

  • Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
  • Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride in the middle of the lane where you will be more visible to drivers.

Bikers should never ride while impaired or distracted. It’s not worth the risk of killing or injuring yourself or someone else. Clutch and Chrome reported on a study that put a price tag on reckless riding and not surprisingly, riding while impaired can see insurance rates jump 94%. This doesn’t include the cost of dealing with a ticket for DUI. Aside from possible jail time, loss of a drivers license, some reports put DUI costs at $10,000 on average.

‘Motorcyclists will be out in force as the weather gets warmer, which is why May is the perfect month for Motorcycle Safety Awareness,’ notes a prepared statement from the NHTSA. ‘Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise, and helmet usage is on the decline. All motorists need to know how to anticipate and respond to motorcyclists to avoid fatal crashes.’

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