The Roundup -


Drivers Urged To Be Alert For Motorcycles


Helena – In a year when motorcycle-riding season began as much as six weeks early, safety officials are concerned about a possible spike in rider deaths. In the last ten years in Montana, 283 motorcyclists have died and more than 1,500 have been seriously injured in motorcycle crashes. Most crashes occur during the five-month peak period of May through September.

Because it’s the start of prime riding season, May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Motorists are being reminded to watch out for motorcycles and share the road safely.

In three out of four crashes between a motorcycle and a motor vehicle, the motorcycle collision is frontal, according to facts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The majority of these crashes occur because the driver of the motor vehicle pulled in front of the motorcyclist.

“Of all the vehicles in the roadway, motorcycles are among the most vulnerable. Motorcycles are smaller, so they are harder to see. Their relative size also makes it more difficult to judge their speed accurately,” says Jim Morrow, director of Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety (MMRS). “Look twice and actively search the lanes and intersections ahead and behind for an approaching motorcycle. Use your mirrors and signals before you enter traffic or change lanes,” Morrow recommends.

Motorcycles are not only less visible than cars; they are also less stable and often have high performance capabilities. A motorcycle crash is much more likely to result in serious injury or death. NHTSA reports that per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars.

While motorists need to be alert for motorcycles, motorcyclists also have a responsibility to keep themselves safe, according to Morrow. “They can learn defensive riding and maneuvering skills and make sure they have the right protective gear,” says Morrow.

The Montana Department of Transportation and the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety Program offer the following advice for drivers and riders to share the road safely. Prevention of motorcycle crashes is critical to reaching Vision Zero, zero deaths and zero serious injuries on Montana roads.

Tips for drivers

Respect all other vehicles on the road, keep your full attention on driving and avoid distractions, 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, and always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic, allow more following distance behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

Tips for motorcycle riders

Take a motorcycle safety course (, wear brightly colored or reflective protective gear, wear a DOT-compliant helmet, strategically use your lane position to see and be seen, stay alert—and slow down when approaching left turns or intersections in anticipation of other drivers’ actions, use signals in advance when changing lanes or turning, never ride impaired, observe speed limits—a third of nationwide motorcycle fatalities in 2013 were speeding.


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