May Declared Motorcycle Safety & Awareness Month in Tippecanoe County

With the warm weather months upon us, many of you have jumped at the chance to hit the open road on your motorcycle. While it is a great time of year to enjoy motorcycle riding, everyone must keep in mind the additional safety concerns that are associated with motorcycle use. With this in mind, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels declared the month of May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month in Tippecanoe County.

Motorcycles continue to rise in popularity as more and more motorcyclists can be spotted using the highways around Indiana. With the popularity of motorcycles seeming to be at an all-time high, now more than ever it is essential for people to be aware of motorcycle safety. The Indiana Department of Education reports an 80% chance of injury if a motorcycle is involved in a crash and that a crash involving a motorcycle with an automobile, the possibility of severe injury or death is 29 times higher for the motorcyclist compared to the driver of the automobile. The best ways to serious or fatal motorcycle accidents are: (1) responsible driving by both motorcycle drivers and automobile drivers, (2) making sure you use the necessary protective equipment, and (3) making sure you are properly trained and licensed to operate a motorcycle.

It is vital that automobile and motorcycle drivers are aware of one another on the roadways. One study showed that in two-thirds of multiple-vehicle accidents, the motorcyclist’s right-of-way was violated by the driver of the other vehicle. Most of the time these accidents are simply caused by the automobile driver’s failure to notice the motorcycle driver in traffic or failing to notice the motorcycle driver until it was too late to avoid a collision.

In most cases, automobile drivers do not see the motorcycle because it is small and less visible. However, there are many steps both automobile drivers and motorcycle drivers can take to prevent these types of accidents, including:

Automobile Drivers
o Always be searching for motorcycle drivers in traffic and pay particular attention to your blind spots and in heavy traffic
o When following a motorcycle give yourself a two-second cushion between the motorcycle and your car; increase the cushion in adverse weather conditions and at higher speeds
o Look for road conditions or hazards that a motorcycle driver might have to react to and anticipate their reactions in traffic (i.e. wet spots on the road)
o Pay special attention and look twice for motorcycles when turning left, since most crashes between motorcycles and cars occur at intersections where automobiles are turning left o Properly use your turn signals and let motorcyclists know when you are changing lanes

Motorcycle Drivers
o Be as noticeable as possible
o Wear fluorescent clothing and/or clothing with reflective strips (wear bright yellow, orange or red jackets)
o Have a bright colored helmet
o Avoid having dark colors on your protective equipment and clothing
o Some experts suggest riding with your headlights on at all times
o Communicate with the other drivers on the road, making them aware of your lane changes
o Obey the speed limit and never drive impaired
o Be especially careful at intersections where the majority of motorcycle accidents occur

Arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment a person can wear is a full-face helmet. Using the proper motorcycle gear when you ride is a major factor in preventing injuries. Unfortunately, many motorcycle drivers today choose not to wear helmets because they are not “cool” or because they are uncomfortable. Motorcycle drivers wearing helmets show significantly fewer head and neck injuries after an accident. Sadly, less than 50% of fatally injured motorcyclists are reported wearing helmets. Under Indiana law, all persons riding or operating a motorcycle under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet and protective goggles or face shields.

If possible, it is best to wear jackets, pants, gloves, and boots designed for motorcycle injury protection, preferably made of leather or cordura. Look for increased padding in the more commonly impacted during accidents, such as the knees, elbows, neck and chest. The more popular motorcycle jackets and pants have hard plastic in the highly impacted areas, which allows the driver to slide relatively easy on the pavement in the event of an accident.

Finally, it is very important that you are properly trained and licensed before you operate a motorcycle. Most motorcycle accidents involve drivers that are self-taught and have little or no formal training. Motorcycle training and experience is not only related to fewer accidents, but also to fewer injuries in the event of an accident. Be especially careful when operating a motorcycle that you are unfamiliar with, even if you are an experienced driver. The majority of motorcycle accidents occur with motorcycles that the driver had owned or operated less than 5 months.