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May is about awareness of motorcycle safety

April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Illinois and across the country. It was an appropriate month for the campaign, considering that driving tends to increase in the summer – particularly among teenagers who are out of school.

Now that May is here, we mark another seasonally appropriate campaign: Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The weather has gotten warmer and more motorcyclists will be out riding this summer. That means a much higher risk of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists are about 5 times more likely (than drivers) to be injured in a crash, and about 27 times more likely to be killed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is among the groups focused on motorcycle safety with its campaign called “Get Up To Speed on Motorcycles.” Rather than placing blame or responsibility on riders (which is all too typical), the campaign instead hopes to teach drivers how to understand common motorcycle driving behaviors and to adapt accordingly in order to reduce the risk of crashes.

Here are three basic facts that drivers should know:

  1. Because of its small size, it can be very difficult to judge how fast a motorcycle is traveling and how close it is. Therefore, you should always give more time and room for motorcyclists to cross your path or get out of your way.
  2. One of the best ways to avoid motorcycle accidents is to simply be aware of motorcyclists on the road. Too many crashes occur because drivers failed to notice or pay attention to motorcyclists.
  3. One of the most common and deadly crash scenarios is the left-turn accident, where drivers of larger vehicles turn left in front of an oncoming motorcyclist because they misjudged the biker’s distance and speed (see above). Please let motorcyclists pass by you before turning left across oncoming traffic.

Whether or not you personally think motorcycling is a good idea (and many drivers do not), it is critical to give motorcyclists the same respect and care you would give to other drivers. And as we mark motorcycle safety awareness month, please remember that safety is and must be a group activity. We are each responsible for ourselves and others with whom we share the road.

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