Motorcycle Safety Priority During Month-long Campaign

By Denise Johnson | May 5, 2016

As weather conditions improve, motorcyclists will soon be out in force to enjoy riding during the spring and summer months. With an estimated 8.4 million motorcycles on the road as of 2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration, safety is a primary concern.

The latest data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed there were 4586 deaths and more than 92,000 injured as a result of motorcycle crashes in 2014. In the motorcycle crashes involving fatalities, 39 percent were not wearing a helmet. Currently, 20 states have universal helmet laws, while 28 states have some type of helmet law that covers young riders.

The agency also found that older riders accounted for more than half of those killed, and of those that survived, sustained more serious injuries.

Last summer, Progressive released claims data showing four of the top 10 days with the highest claims fell in the month of June. The data also revealed that the most dangerous months for motorcycle riders are in the summer. Saturdays were found to be the worst day of the week when it came to the most motorcycle claims. Single vehicle accidents were the most common type of accident.

Certain motorcycles carry more risk, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Supersport cycle driver death rates are four times higher than standard motorcycles. The high horse power and lightweight means they can reach speeds of more than 150 miles per hour quickly.

Credit: Allstate
Credit: Allstate

May 1st officially kicked off Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, an initiative supported by the NHTSA, with several states announcing their own initiatives.

The Texas Department of Transportation launched its campaign “Share the Road…And Look Twice for Motorcycles.”

“Motorcycles can be difficult to see so it’s important for drivers to look twice, especially before turning at intersections or changing lanes,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable because they don’t have seatbelts, airbags and surrounding steel doors to protect them.”

Colorado kicked off a new Ride Wise campaign that targets new riders. With motorcycle fatalities continuing to rise in the state, motorcycle training courses are also being emphasized by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“Motorcycle operator safety training courses teach new and experienced riders the skills they need to protect themselves on the road,” said Glenn Davis, CDOT Highway Safety Manager and former training course instructor. “Navigating obstacles, quick stopping and planning escape routes are just as much a part of riding as the thrill, exhilaration and freedom of it.”

Wisconsin offers a mobile training facility, THE REF, that offers training for riders and drivers. The state requires a motorcycle endorsement on all motorcyclists’ driver’s licenses. In order to obtain the endorsement, motorcyclists have to pass a DOT administered motorcyclist driving skills test or get a waiver by completing an approved rider course.

“Too many people have been riding for years without a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license,” said David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “It’s a serious problem especially for those who have not ridden a motorcycle for several years and are beginning to ride again. Members of the motorcycling community are aging. The average age of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash increased from 30 years old in 1992 to 47 in 2015.”

The mobile training course is helpful not just to motorcyclists but also to the drivers who share the road with them.

“May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to remind motorists to share the road and watch for motorcycles, especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes,” said Pabst. “Drivers can easily misjudge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle because of its smaller dimensions. To prevent crashes, drivers should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they proceed through an intersection or make a turn.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s Research and Technology Department is conducting an ongoing Motorcycle Crash Causation Study to investigate the causes of motorcycle crashes in the U.S.

Participating states include Iowa, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

The FHA study will include information from at least 350 crash investigations conducted in Orange County, Calif., and from 700 rider interviews. The final results will be released sometime this year with the hope that the information can assist in reducing crashes and creating safety standards.

Insurers are also addressing motorcycle safety.

GEICO recently issued safety tips for riders and regional insurer Rider Insurance is running its annual month long promotion, offering daily giveaways and weekly bonus prizes, ranging from motorcycle safety apparel to motorcycle training courses. The insurer is sponsoring booths at various motorcycle and dealerships events throughout states where it offers coverage.

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