Fact: Compared to a car, motorcycles are small.
Therefore, they are harder to see. Most vehicles have blind spots. In the case of watching for motorcycles, even a small blind spot becomes huge. Drivers of cars and trucks need to be aware of that – at all times. So do motorcycle riders. That’s just one of the safety guidelines drivers need to keep in their minds all the time.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in North Carolina. Drivers and riders need to be aware of that – this month, and the other 11 months of the year.
Of course, spring, summer and fall are the most pleasant riding seasons of the year. But over the course of 2013 in North Carolina, nearly 3,500 people in the state were hurt in crashes involving motorcycles; 147 people were killed.
I myself have been a bit shaken at times when I realized that I did not immediately see a motorcycle on the highway when I was driving. It was not due to inattentiveness; I’m a careful driver. But the smaller vehicle on the road is just easier to miss. We all need to ramp up our watchfulness. Don’t take driving casually. It is a full-time, high-risk job, with no time for distractions (especially cell phones).
The Governor’s Highway Safety Program and other sources offer the following important safety tips to motorcyclists and other drivers:
- Always wear a helmet. It is the law in North Carolina. A motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet is five times more likely to sustain a critical head injury than a helmeted rider. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved if they’d all worn helmets.
- Be visible at all times. This includes wearing bright or reflective clothing.
- Share the road. Motorcyclists have the right to a full lane.
- Stay alert. Be aware that motorcycles can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spot; take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic when changing lanes.
- Allow more following distance — three or four seconds — following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
- Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
- Be cautious. Be aware that turn signals on a motorcycle are not self-canceling, thus some riders sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change.
BikeSafeNC also invites motorcyclists to join in a free “Rider Skills Day” class that offer an assessment of driving skills and advice to help make their biking experience safe and enjoyable. For more information, including a full schedule of classes, visit the BikeSafeNC website. (There are some available throughout the year, though most during the summer.)
It’s travel time now, especially on the beautiful scenic routes of North Carolina. For drivers and riders alike, make sure the memories are safe and joyful ones.