May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Written By Angelina Umstead

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and with the warmer weather finally here, more motorcycles are out on the roadways. It is important for both motorcyclists and drivers of other vehicles to be aware of motorcycle safety.

WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR

For motorcyclists, preparing for the ride can be just as important as the actual ride. Wearing a helmet, face and/or eye protection, and protective clothing are imperative. According to PennDOT’s Motorcycle Operator Manual, one out of every five motorcycle crashes result in head or neck injuries. Crash analyses reveal that head and neck injuries account for a majority of serious and fatal injuries to motorcyclists.  Statistics also show that helmeted riders are three times more likely to survive head injuries than those not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Given these facts, it seems like it goes without saying that riders and passengers should always wear a helmet.

Face and eye protection as well as protective clothing are also extremely important. Not only can a plastic shatter-resistant shield help protect the rider’s eyes and face from a crash, it can also protect against dust, dirt, wind, insects, and rocks during the ride. PennDOT also recommends that riders wear the right clothing including a jacket and pants that covers the rider’s arms and legs completely. Brightly colored clothing is also encouraged to promote the rider’s visibility to other motorists.

MAINTAIN A CUSHION OF SPACE

Once the motorcyclist is out on the road, the most important safety rule to protect against other motorists is to maintain a cushion of space around the motorcycle. By leaving distance between the motorcycle and other vehicles, there is time to react and space to maneuver in the event another motorist makes a mistake. This safety rule also applies to other drivers on the road. If you are sharing the road with a motorcycle, leave enough space between your vehicle and the motorcycle.

SEE AND BE SEEN

It is also important as a motorcyclist to avoid other drivers’ blind spots. If possible, motorcyclists should avoid riding directly next to cars or trucks. Motorcycles are obviously smaller and therefore more difficult to see, so other drivers should always pay careful attention and look for motorcycles when pulling out into an intersection or switching lanes. Motorcyclists should increase their chances of being seen at intersections by riding in a lane position that provides the best view of oncoming traffic and using their headlight.

Visibility is another key safety rule for motorcycles. In fact, motorcycles manufactured during or after 1973 are required by law to use headlights at all times. According to PennDOT, a motorcycle with its light on during the day is twice as likely to be noticed by other drivers.

DON’T DRINK AND RIDE

It should go without saying that any alcohol and drug use are strongly discouraged when operating any vehicle including and especially a motorcycle. Studies show that 40-45% of all riders killed in motorcycle crashes had been drinking, and only one-third of those riders had a blood alcohol concentration above legal limits. Riding a motorcycle is a complex and demanding task and alcohol and drugs can degrade a rider’s ability to ride safely. Judgment and the decision-making process can be affected well before the legal limits are reached so it is important to remain responsible when it comes to alcohol and drug use.

Motorcyclists and other drivers alike should be courteous and responsible on the roadways. Pennsylvania offers a free motorcycle safety program with courses conducted April through October. More information about the program can be found at www.pamsp.com.