Motorcycle safety month

Motor Dog

Motorcyclist Mary Gregory and “Hunter” don their helmets to join TxDOT
in launching the 2011 motorcycle safety awareness campaign. Since drivers
are often at fault when a car and a motorcycle collide, the “Share the Road”
campaign reminds motorists to look twice for motorcycles. It will run through
mid-May, which is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
Photo Jody Horton

May is motorcycle safety awareness month. Link to press release. It may well be more appropriate this year than ever before with gas prices possibly on their way to $6.00 a gallon. The convergence of milder weather and higher fuel costs riding the crest of the boomer trend toward motorcycling means this year has the potential to add more new, and inexperienced, riders to the road than ever before.
The Texas Department of Transportation is launching a state wide public awareness campaign called, “Share the road.” They also kicked off the Look Learn and Live website featuring the 2nd central Texas motorcycle safety fair. They hope to impress upon the operators of larger vehicles to watch for motorcycles. They remind drivers that a motorcycle, “is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other vehicle.”
Be that as it may, a motorcycle doesn’t have the mass of any other vehicle. What may have been a minor bump between two cars can easily be a fatal incident between a motorcycle and another vehicle. And sadly, the new riders, driven to bikes by economic concerns, will have less experience in recognizing dangerous conditions, evading danger, and being prepared for an unfortunate event. The average driver will then be presented with more targets that are less capable of getting out of the way.
Texas Department of Transportation offers four bullet points for motorists.
• Do a double take. In other words, look twice and check for motorcycles.
• Be respectful. Motorcycles have a right to be on the road also.
• Give them space. Motorcycles have to avoid obstacles a car could just run over.
• Anticipate next steps. Leave the biker room to maneuver.
These are actually good practices for any driving. They just have more dire consequences for a motorcycle, when ignored.
The biggest single improvement to safety that the public can practice is to simply stop tailgating. I rarely see any car on the road that isn’t following too closely. In the larger metropolitan areas I go to, it gets absolutely ridiculous. And that is what concerns me most about the expected new wave of riders. These are likely to be people riding in metropolitan areas during rush hour traffic. This puts the most vulnerable riders in the most dangerous environment.
One statistic that may change could be the percent of alcohol involvement. Currently, TexDot says in the Drink, Ride, Lose campaign that 46% of motorcycle fatalities include some level of alcohol involvement. Although the total number of alcohol related deaths is unlikely to change, the percentage may go down as novice commuters ad to the death toll with out drinking.
Eventually, things will improve. More riders, and possibly more accidents, will increase public awareness of motorcyclists. And eventually natural selection will weed out those riders who will not, or can not ride responsibly.

- Guy Wheatley

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