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Sharing the Road Safely with Motorcycles

Statistics show that less visual attention is given to a motorcycle than any other vehicle on the road, often with serious consequences. Motorcycle riders have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other motorist on the nation’s highways, and they must carry motorcycle insurance with the same minimum limits as automobile drivers.

As many of us who have had a surprise encounter with a motorcycle can relate to, we may not always see them in our mirrors. Whether approaching an intersection or passing between cars as we prepare to turn or change lanes, we need to be aware of motorcycles that may suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Although the weather doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect for motorcycles to be on the road, good weather during the summer months and warm fall days can double or triple the amount of recreational two-wheelers zipping along our roadways on the weekends, increasing the chance of an accident.

Unfortunately, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show a rise in motorcycle fatalities in recent years. In 2012, the number of motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes was reported at 4,927, which accounted for 15 percent of overall highway fatalities. This is despite motorcycle registrations representing only 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S. in 2012. Injuries to motorcyclists also increased from 81,000 in 2011 to a disturbing 93,000 in 2012. If broken down on a per mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 26 times more prone to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and had up to a five times greater chance of suffering an injury.

Needless to say, head injuries continue to be the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. According to the NHTSA, thanks to mandatory helmet laws in some states, an estimated 1,699 lives were saved in 2012 because of proper helmet usage. While some may argue the point, per the NHTSA, this is clear evidence that helmets do save lives when worn by motorcycle riders and their passengers.

Another major factor in motorcycle deaths is alcohol. The percentage of intoxicated motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes was 27 percent of those 4,927 killed, compared to 23 percent of intoxicated passenger car drivers involved in deadly crashes in 2012. Furthermore, motorcycle riders fatally injured in traffic crashes at night were over 3 times (3.2) more likely to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher than those killed during the day.
As a means of reducing the number of motorcyclist deaths and injuries, the NHTSA is offering these safety tips aimed at both motorcyclists and motorists:

For Motorists
•    Don’t crowd. Allow the motorcycle access to the full width of a lane at all times.
•    Always use your signals when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
•    Check all your mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles coming up on you before changing lanes or merging with traffic. Pay additional attention at intersections.
•    Don’t tailgate a motorcycle. Give them room. Always allow more following distance – three to four seconds – between your car and the motorcycle ahead of you.
•    Never drive while distracted or impaired.
•    Always make sure an approaching motorcycle is turning if their signal is on before proceeding. Because motorcycle turn signals are often non-canceling, they could have just been forgotten, and end up going straight without warning.

For Motorcyclists:
•    Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
•    Follow all traffic laws, including being properly licensed and insured.
•    Never ride while distracted or impaired.
•    For added safety, use both hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
•    For increased visibility, wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape.
•    Ride in the middle of the lane to be more visible to drivers.
•    If possible, avoid riding in poor weather conditions.

Remember – wearing a helmet on every ride is an important way for a motorcyclist to stay safe. And, if you’re a motorist, always keep an extra eye out for the next motorcycle. By staying focused, obeying road signs, and speed limits… and, sharing responsibility as well as the road…we can all do our part to save lives and keep

Watch for motorcycles and avoid accidents to keep your car insurance rates from increasing.

Have you ever had a close encounter with a motorcycle? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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