The Roundup -

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month Highlights Deadly Season - Motorists and Riders Have Responsibility to Prevent Deaths


As the season warms, the number of motorcycles on Montana roads will increase-and so will crashes. Motorcyclist deaths in Montana increased 50 percent in 2012 and more than 13 percent again last year.

"We all want to have fun and enjoy our favorite recreation, but motorists and motorcyclists need to safely share the road-see and be seen," said Jim Morrow, director of Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety (MMRS). "Motorcycle Safety Awareness in May is an opportunity to remind everyone they have a responsibility to be aware of other vehicles and prevent a tragedy from happening," said Morrow.

Approximately 80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death while the figure for automobile crashes is about 20 percent, according to motorcycle safety information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Drivers can overlook motorcyclists because they are smaller and have a lower profile. Because of the smaller size, drivers can also misjudge how close a motorcycle is, and how fast it is going, according to Morrow.

"People often see what they expect to see. If you are not thinking about motorcycles, your brain may not perceive a motorcycle," said Morrow. "The cool weather has kept riders off the roads, so drivers aren't used to them yet. Now its time to be alert for motorcycles, on all roads, all the time," he added.

Research from NHTSA shows that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash. A majority of collisions involving a motorcycle and another motor vehicle tend to occur at intersections or during a lane change. Morrow encourages motorists to actively search for an approaching motorcycle before entering or changing lanes.

"Check your mirrors and your blind spot," said Morrow.

Motorcyclists also have a responsibility to keep themselves safe. A substantial number of motorcycle fatalities are single vehicle crashes.

"Distraction, speed, not wearing a helmet, operator error-these are all elements that contribute to injuries and deaths for motorcycle riders," said Morrow. "Wear your protective gear, make sure you are visible, stay within speed limits-and always ride sober," he advised.

The right riding skills are also critical to motorcyclist safety. The purpose of the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety program is to teach riders of all levels how to improve their safety.

"More skilled is more safe," said Morrow. "Our highly trained rider coaches can help even advanced riders break bad habits and avoid common problems that cause crashes," he said.

More information about rider courses can be found at

Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety offers these tips for drivers and motorcyclists.

Drivers can help keep motorcyclists safe by their own driving habits:

Respect all other vehicles on the road.

Allow a motorcyclist the full lane width-never try to share a lane.

Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots at intersections and before entering or exiting a lane of traffic.

Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.

Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle; wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.

Allow more following distance-three or four seconds-behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Focus on driving and don't get distracted.

Never drive while impaired.

To keep themselves safer, motorcyclists should:

Avoid riding in poor weather conditions.

Wear brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet.

Use turn signals for every turn or lane change, no matter what other vehicles are around.

Combine hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves.

Use reflective tape and stickers to be more conspicuous.

Use lane position to be most visible to other drivers.

Never drive while impaired.

Continue to build safe riding skills.


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