Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month: Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles

by Motorcycle Accident Lawyer, Tim O’Hare

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Motorcycle crashes that involve another vehicle account for nearly half of all motorcyclist fatalities in the United States. “Share the Road” is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration campaign to reduce crashes involving motorcycles and save lives. Over the years, we have made progress, with a slight decline (about 5 percent) in motorcyclist deaths. Still, nearly 5,000 bikers are killed in crashes each year. 

Nearly every motorcycle rider who is involved in an accident is injured in some way, and at least half of those injuries are life-threatening. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the NHTSA has launched the new Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles campaign aimed at helping other motorists understand typical motorcycle driving behaviors and how to safely share the road with motorcycles. 

Take a look at these facts about the risk to bikers on our roadways:

  • With thousands of deaths each year, motorcyclists are significantly overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists accounted for nearly 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015, while motorcycles make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States.
  • In 2015, 4,976 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes – an 8 percent increase from the 4,594 killed in 2014. And more than 88,000 bikers were injured in motor vehicle crashes.
  • Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash, and 5 times more likely to be injured.
  • Even the smallest momentary lapse in a vehicle driver’s awareness can result in the death of an unseen motorcyclist.

Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles introduces motorists to the ins and outs about safely driving around motorcycles and what drivers can do to keep the roads safe for motorcyclists. We have all encountered another driver exhibiting behaviors that seem reckless, but with motorcyclists, what may appear to be reckless is actually a driving behavior intended to increase their safety. For example, when you see a biker weaving in and out of lanes, this is to avoid getting caught in the blind spot of the cars around them.

This is just one example of lessons we aren’t taught in the driving manual. As the weather warms, we can expect to see more motorcyclists on the roads. Now is the time for all drivers to review safety tips to help keep Texas roads safe. Keep in mind that whenever you are operating a motor vehicle — whether it be a motorcycle, car or truck — you are responsible to do your part to keep all motorists safe, including motorcyclists. 

While not all motorcycle accidents can be prevented due to circumstances outside of our control, a vast majority of accidents are preventable. Follow these motorcycle safety tips for all motorists:

Be aware of intersection dangers. According to the NHTSA, 42 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involving another vehicle occur when a vehicle is turning left while an oncoming motorcycle is going straight, passing or overtaking a vehicle. To avoid a collision with a motorcycle in an intersection, slow down and pay close attention to anything that may be obstructing your view of a bike nearing an intersection. 

Know your vehicle’s blind spots. Did you know that nearly half of the area around your vehicle is hidden by a blind spot? Knowing your vehicle’s specific blind spots can help reduce your odds of colliding with a motorcyclist, particularly when changing lanes. Take extra care to compensate for a lack of vision in blind spots, or line-of-sight blind spots on hills, curved roadways or where obstructions may limit reaction times. 

Stay alert and remember that motorcycles are hard to see. The profile of a motorcycle is small and narrow which not only causes it to be easily hidden in a blind spot, but a motorcycle can be masked by objects outside of a car or more difficult to see as light and weather conditions change. When you can’t see or recognize an approaching motorcycle, it can be difficult to avoid a collision. Keep an eye out for motorcycles in bright sun, fog or rain, heavy traffic or on roadways surrounded by trees or other large obstacles, and check twice before changing lanes or turning.

Leave plenty of space between you and a motorcycle. Avoid following motorcycles at close distances, as motorcyclists may not always use their brakes and instead slow their speed by downshifting or rolling off the throttle. No braking means no brake lights to signal other motorists. Allow a larger braking cushion (at least three to four seconds more than you would for another vehicle) and predict when a motorcycle in front of you may slow down. Remember that wet roads can make it more difficult for bikers and other motorists to stop quickly, so allow even more space between your vehicle and others on the road.

Be aware that a motorcyclist may often change positions in a lane. Motorcycles do not respond to road hazards, such as debris and potholes, as well as other vehicles do. Because of this, a motorcyclist might often be seen changing his or her position within a lane, to avoid potential hazards. Motorcyclists may also change positions in a lane to be seen more easily by other drivers. 

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

If you drive a motorcycle, remember these important motorcycle safety tips:

Ride ready with proper training. Riding a bike requires different skills and knowledge than driving a car. Twenty-nine percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2019 were riding with valid motorcycle licenses. Get proper training and licensing in your state before you ride. Enroll in a class that will train you on how to safely and properly operate a motorcycle. 

Practice operating your motorcycle. Before taking your motorcycle out on the roads in a variety of conditions, take time to get accustomed to the feel of the motorcycle by riding it in a controlled area.

Take time for safety before you ride. Before every ride, check your motorcycle’s tire pressure and tread depth, hand and foot breaks, headlights and signal indicators and fluid levels. Check under your bike for any signs of oil or gas leaks. Secure any cargo and balance the load on the cycle, adjusting suspension and tire pressure accordingly. 

Wear proper protection. Always wear a safety helmet meeting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s standards. Look for the DOT symbol on the outside back of the helmet. Keep arms and legs completely covered, ideally by leather or heavy denim. Wear boots or shoes high enough to cover your ankles and gloves to allow for better grip and to protect your hands. Bright colored or reflective clothing will also help make you more visible to other drivers.

Always ride responsibly. Obey traffic laws and don’t take unnecessary risks. Use extra caution when road conditions are unfavorable, such as during bad weather, on undivided highways, or on poorly maintained roads. Never ride a motorcycle if you may be impaired by alcohol or drugs (including some prescription medications), as these substances can impair judgement, coordination, balance, alertness and reaction time.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a family member in a motorcycle accident, contact the experienced Dallas – Ft. Worth motorcycle accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare. Tim O’Hare is a motorcyclist and has had his motorcycle license for many years.

Call The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare for your FREE Case Evaluation 
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