May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, making it the ideal time to remind vehicle drivers and motorists that safe driving and riding practices and cooperation from all road users can help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our roadways.
In 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, an 11% increase from 2019 (5,044). In contrast, an estimated 82,528 motorcyclists were injured, a 2% decrease from 83,814 motorcyclists injured in 2019. Motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14% of the total highway fatalities that year.
Research shows that motorcyclists are significantly overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities each year. In fact, in 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were four times more likely to be injured.
In 2011 and 2020, roughly half the motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes during the weekend versus weekday. Additionally, motorcyclist fatalities on weekdays have increased by 15% from 2,402 in 2011 to 2,765 in 2020.
Here’s what other drivers can do to keep motorcycle riders safe—
•Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width.
•Size also counts against motorcycles when it comes to blind spots. Motorcyclists can be easily hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic.
•Improper use of a vehicle’s rear-view and side-view mirrors contributes to collisions, particularly with smaller vehicles like motorcycles. With roughly 40% of a vehicle’s outer perimeter zones hidden by blind spots; improper adjustment, or lack of use of one’s side-view mirrors, can have dire consequences for motorcyclists.
•Allow more follow distance—3 or 4 seconds —when following a motorcycle; this gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust their lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings and grooved pavement.
Here’s what motorcyclists can do—
•Wear a DOT-compliant helmet with a “FMVSS No. 218 Certified” label and other personal protective gear. NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017. An additional 749 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets.
•Never ride while impaired or distracted — it is not worth the risk of killing or injuring yourself or someone else.
•Always complete rider education courses and ride with a current motorcycle license. In 2020, 36% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were riding without valid motorcycle licenses.
•Obey the speed limit. Thirty-four percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, compared to 22% for passenger car drivers, 16% for light-truck drivers, and 7% for large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders 25 to 29 years old involved in fatal crashes had the highest speeding involvement at 45%.
Now that spring has arrived, its feels fabulous to venture out and explore the Tri-City area and beyond. Let’s pledge to do that safely so that everyone—whether in a vehicle, motorcycle or other means of transportation—can make it home safely.