Friday, May 1, 2009

Share The Road With Motorcycles

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office reminds all motorists to share the road with motorcycles and to be extra alert when driving to help keep motorcyclists safe.

The popularity of motorcycling has increased in the last few years with more than 9,600 registered motorcycles in Collier County. While recreational riders have boosted local motorcycle sales over the years, more recently daily commuters, pushed by climbing gas prices and a fledgling economy, have discovered that their motorcycle is a good alternative for travel to and from work.

Motorcycle riders now account for one out of every 10 U.S. road fatalities each year – with motorcyclist deaths from traffic crashes rising each of the last eight years.

That’s why the Collier County Sheriff’s Office is joining with other federal, state and local highway safety and law enforcement organizations in proclaiming May 2009 as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

“Drivers of passenger vehicles need to be extra alert,” said Cpl. Chris Thomas of CCSO’s Safety Traffic Enforcement Bureau. “Because you’re used to looking for cars – and don’t expect a motorcycle – you may not see it even with its headlight on.’’

Motorcyclists are often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot or missed in a quick look due to their smaller size.

“It’s crucial that drivers always look for motorcycles before they pull out; by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.” said Cpl. Thomas.

Cpl. Thomas said that motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than drivers of passenger vehicles in the event of a crash. He said that research shows that approximately 80 percent of motorcycle crashes injure or kill a motorcycle rider, while only 20 percent of passenger car crashes injure or kill a driver or passenger in their vehicle. Per vehicle mile traveled motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than occupants in passenger vehicles.

Cpl. Thomas offered several tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:

* Remember the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width – never try to share a lane;

* Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;

* Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;

* Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed;

* Remember that road conditions which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles pose major hazards to motorcyclists;

* Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don’t tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Cpl. Thomas said motorcyclists have responsibilities, too, by following the rules of the roadway, being alert to other drivers and always wearing protective gear.

“All too often after a crash, the drivers of other vehicles involved say they never saw the motorcyclist and were unable to respond in time,” said Cpl. Thomas. “This is no excuse. Too many lives are being lost. Our message to all drivers is: Make this the first year in recent years when motorcycle fatalities do not increase. Do your part by safely sharing the road with motorcycles.”