Motorcyclist fatalities have steadily increased over the past decade. Nationwide, there was a 2 percent increase in fatalities from 5,174 in 2007, to 5,290 in 2008.
That’s why the Law Enforcement Action Team of Talbot County (LEAT) is joining other federal, state and local highway safety, law enforcement, and motorcycle organizations in proclaiming May as “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.” All motorists are reminded 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. All road users are reminded to never drive, walk or bicycle while distracted.
“As the weather improves, more motorcycles are hitting our roads,” said George Ball, chairman of LEAT and Chief of the Trappe Police Department. “Pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of all motor vehicles need to be extra attentive and ‘share the road.’ A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Everyone needs to aggressively look for them.”
It’s crucial that motorists always make visual checks for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections. Pedestrians should also scan for motorcyclists who might be hidden by other traffic.
“Motorcyclists have responsibilities, too,” Ball said. “They should follow the rules of the road, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet and other protective gear.”
A motorcyclist is much more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes.
Drivers can help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways by following these simple tips:
* Remember, a motorcycle has all the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
* Make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes 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 mo¬torcycle – they may not be self-canceling and riders may forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before proceeding
* Allow more following distance, 3 to 4 sec¬onds, to give a motorcyclist enough time to maneuver or stop in an emer¬gency. Don’t tailgate! In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
* Never drive while distracted or impaired
Motorcyclists can increase their safety by:
* Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions
* Wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet
* Using turn signals for every turn or lane change
* Combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves
* Using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity
* Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most the visible to others
* Never driving while impaired.
Highway safety officials are encouraging all drivers and motorcyclists to make this the first year in recent years when motorcycle fatalities do not increase. Everyone on our roadways needs to share in the responsibility and do their part by safely “sharing the road.”