May is “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month”. According to NHTSA statistics, motorcycles make up only two percent of the vehicles on the road, yet they are involved in ten percent of all accidents.
Approximately 80 percent of motorcycle crashes injure or kill a motorcycle rider. Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. In light of these statistics, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has come up with reminders for motorist to be aware of to help ensure the safety of motorcyclists.
Because of a motorcycle’s small size, many times it looks further away than it actually is. And it can also be difficult to accurately judge the motorcycle’s speed. The MSF recommends when checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, assume a motorcycle is closer than it looks. The small size of a motorcycle also means it can easily be hidden in by a vehicle’s blind spots or blocked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc), making it important to take an extra moment to check for motorcycles, whether changing lanes or turning at intersections.
Drivers who have never driven a motorcycle are probably not aware that motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or rolling off the throttle, which does not activate the brake light. Drivers should allow more following distance and at intersections, always be aware that a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.
Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Another remind for drivers to allow more following distance behind a motorcycle.
Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but that doesn’t mean a motorcyclist is always able to dodge out of the way.
All drivers have a responsibility to use caution and safety. With the warm weather here, and more motorcyclists taking to the road, vehicle drivers should heed the advice of the MSF and pay extra attention for motorcycles. That three or four seconds of extra time a driver takes to check for motorcycles could save someone’s life.