Every year as we head into the summer months, the motorcycle season begins to ramp up. For that reason, May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, serving as a reminder for drivers and motorcyclists alike to use extra caution when operating or encountering motorcyclists. While motorcycles only account for around 3% of registered vehicles in the US, they still account for nearly 22 million miles traveled each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that per vehicle traveled, motorcyclists were more than 25 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash. In an attempt to combat this, this year, NHTSA is putting an emphasis on reminding drivers to use caution when passing or following a motorcycle on the roadway.
IMAGE SOURCE: FHWA SAFETY – USDOT
One of the best ways to raise awareness of motorcycles during this month is to always remember to respect a motorcyclists’ right of way. Many crashes with motorcycles occur because other motorists are not cognizant of them, are distracted themselves, or are simply more comfortable with the larger vehicles they more frequently encounter. These reasons, combined with the facts that often time drivers feel uncomfortable trying to “anticipate” a motorcycles movements, makes these situations extremely unsafe.
Motorcycle safety of course requires a two pronged approached; it is not simply enough for drivers to be more cautious around them, but motorcyclists themselves must also protect themselves from vulnerability. Below are some steps both drivers and motorcyclists can make:
- Passenger car drivers must allow greater following distance behind a motorcycle.
- Drivers also must show extra caution in intersections. Most crashes occur when a driver fails to see a motorcyclist and turns left in front of a motorcycle.
- Give full lane space to motorcycles, same as a full size car.
- Check blind spots, look twice and signal when making turns, merging with traffic, and changing lanes.
- Motorcyclists should avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
- Motorcyclists should ALWAYS wear a helmet.
- Motorcyclists should position their motorcycles to avoid a driver’s blind spot.
- Motorcyclists must use turn signals for every turn or lane change.
There has long been a common prejudice among all motorists that motorcycling is an inherently risky thing to do, and one that must be accepted as necessary. While the risks of motorcycling are true, this does not remove the responsibility of passenger car drivers to practice safe driving habits. Motorcycle safety is the responsibility of everyone on the roads; car and truck drivers, motorcyclist, and pedestrians. Contributions are necessary from both the drivers and riders to make American roads safe for motorcycles, not only during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month but year round.