CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Starting in spring as temperatures begin to warm, motorcyclists are traveling West Virginia’s winding country roads and scenic highways. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and traffic safety officials with the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) are partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind motorists to Share the Road with Motorcycles.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are significantly overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 29 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and are 4 times more likely to be injured. It is essential that vehicle drivers pay complete attention on the roads. Even the smallest momentary lapse in a vehicle driver’s awareness can result in the death of an unseen motorcyclist.
In 2019, there were 5,014 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes in the U.S., a decrease from 2018 (5,038). Motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14% of the total highway fatalities nationwide that year. In West Virginia, motorcyclist deaths accounted for 11% of the total roadway fatalities in 2019.
A key way we can reduce traffic fatalities and keep our roads safe is for drivers to understand motorcycle safety challenges such as size and visibility, and riding practices like downshifting and weaving to be able to anticipate and respond to motorcyclists’ behavior. Motorcycles are among the most vulnerable vehicles on the road, putting riders at greater risk of death and serious injury in a crash.
“Motorcycles have smaller profiles, so it’s easy to misjudge their speed and distance from a vehicle,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “Intersections are danger zones for motorcycles. Watch for turning motorcycles before you turn.”
Safety on the roadways requires that everyone do their part. While driving, please follow these tips to keep motorcyclists safe:
- Always check your blind spots
- Be cautious when passing
- Remember that motorcycles react more quickly than cars
- Allow adequate following distance
- Motorcycles cannot stop as quickly as a car
- Do not tailgate a motorcycle
- Weather warning – bad weather can reduce your visibility
- Help keep riders safe in the dark by increasing your following distance and refrain from passing
- Do not high beam motorcycles at night
- Stay in your lane
- Inform motorcyclists of your intention to turn
- Take a second look at left turns and intersections
Motorcyclists need to take precautions as well, so they are as safe as possible.
“Riding a motorcycle is more complicated than people think. Some people think that if they rode a dirt bike or bicycle as a kid, they could ride a motorcycle. The truth is, operating a motorcycle requires a great deal of knowledge, skill, and practice,” said Mary Jarrell, GHSP Motorcycle Safety Training Coordinator.
“The best advice I can give motorcyclists, whether new or seasoned, would be to take a safety course,” Jarrell said.
Jarrell shared the following tips to help motorcyclists be safe on our roads:
- Take a safety course – https://wv-msp.org/
- Ride sober
- Get to know your motorcycle
- Wear proper motorcycle gear – a DOT-approved helmet is a must
- Inspect your motorcycle before each ride
- Obey traffic laws, use signals, and obey the speed limit
- Check the weather before leaving
- Be visible
- Be observant and watch for road hazards
- Stay a safe distance behind other vehicles
To learn more about motorcycle safety, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, including Motorcycle Safety Training, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.