Sharing the road with motorcyclists

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. With more people choosing motorcycles as their mode of transportation, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are embarking on a month-long endeavor to encourage all motorists to safely share the road. This month’s traffic safety campaign follows a significant increase in the number of people killed in motorcycle-involved collisions in California.

“Law enforcement and traffic safety organizations throughout the nation are working to reverse this unfortunate trend,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow of the increase in the number of people killed and injured in motorcycle-related collisions. “This month, and every month, motorists are reminded to safely share the road with motorcycles, and to be extra vigilant to help keep motorcyclists safe.”

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, there are more than 1.3 million licensed riders in the state; and with California’s nearly year-round ideal climate, you will almost always encounter a motorcyclist while on the highway.

Because they are one of the smallest vehicles on the road, motorcycles are often hidden in a car’s or truck’s blind spot. Every driver needs to diligently look for them before changing lanes or merging with traffic. Motorcyclists are reminded to follow the rules of the road and make sure they are visible to motorists. Everyone on the highway is reminded to eliminate distractions.

According to preliminary figures from the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, more than 400 people were killed and nearly 12,000 people were injured in motorcycle-involved collisions in 2011, representing a nearly 20 percent increase in the death rate in California from the previous year. Preliminary estimates from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association indicate a slight decline in motorcycle fatalities in California for the first nine months of 2012.

“After two years of dramatic declines, motorcycle deaths are heading up again,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “A training course can make a big difference for rider safety. In addition, much can be accomplished when both riders and motorists share the road safely and watch out for each other.”

The CHP administers California’s official safety training program for motorcyclists through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP). As of March 2012, more than 800,000 motorcycle riders have received training at one of the CMSP’s 134 training sites since the program began in July 1987.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), a national non-profit organization, is charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations for the CMSP. The MSF not only emphasizes the importance of training and licensing for all motorcyclists, but stresses a rider’s critical need for proper safety gear.

“Not only should motorcyclists wear protective gear, all of the time, including a helmet manufactured to the standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation; they should ride unimpaired by alcohol or drugs,” said MSF Vice President Robert Gladden. “If you follow these simple steps, lives can be saved.”

The CHP, DMV and OTS offer the following tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:

  • Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle. The person under that helmet could be a mother, brother, doctor, or friend.
  • Perform a regular visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, at intersections, and pulling out of driveways and parking lots. Always look twice before pulling out.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Allow more following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle to give the motorcyclist time to maneuver around obstacles in the roadway or stop in an emergency.

Motorcyclists, you can can increase your safety by:

  • Wearing a DOT-compliant helmet.
  • Never riding while impaired.
  • Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if you think no one will see it.
  • Signaling intentions by combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention.
  • Assuming drivers can’t see you. Wear brightly colored protective gear and use reflective tape and stickers to make sure you are seen.
  • Positioning yourself in the lane where you will be most visible to other drivers.
  • Not accelerating too quickly, since drivers turning ahead might not notice until too late.

The CHP, DMV and OTS join with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in sharing the following message: Help share in the responsibility of keeping all road users safe, and do your part by safely “sharing the road.”

(Information via press release from the California Highway Patrol.)

  5 comments for “Sharing the road with motorcyclists

  1. May 3, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Motorcyclist Fatalities Increase
    Motorcycles are the most dangerous type of motor vehicle to drive. These vehicles are involved in fatal crashes at a rate of 35.0 per 100 million miles of travel, compared with a rate of 1.7 per 100 million miles of travel for passenger cars.
    Motorcyclists were 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash in 2006, per vehicle mile traveled, and 8 times more likely to be injured.
    Although motorcycles account for only 2% of vehicles on the road, they make up more than 10% of all crashes.
    Motorcycles accounted for nearly 3% of all registered motor vehicles and 0.4% of vehicle miles traveled in 2006.
    Motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled in 10 years to 4,810 in 2006. Helmets saved the lives of 1,658 motorcyclists in 2006—and could have saved an additional 752 lives if all riders had worn helmets compliant with federal safety standards.
    Some 104,000 motorcycles were involved in crashes in 2006, including property damage-only crashes.
    Approximately 80% of motorcycle crashes injure or kill a motorcycle rider, while only 20% of passenger car crashes injure or kill a driver or passenger in their vehicle.
    In 2006, 37% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23% for passenger car drivers, 19% for light-truck drivers, and 8% for large-truck drivers.

    Ride On!

  2. Thumbs-Up
    May 2, 2013 at 11:53 am


  3. Patricia
    May 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

    stop white lining, travel at a safe distance, don’t get yourself out of the mirrors where I can see you, don’t pass me on the right when its not safe and you have to go out on the shoulder or the desert to do so, I am driving my car at a safe speed, and watching everything around me. Wait till there is another lane to pass me, Don’t take stupid chances just because your ride is capable of speeding, use common sense.

    • Nancy P
      May 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      thumbs up Patricia

    • William
      May 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      While I heartily agree with you, Patricia, I think it’s wasted on those who need to hear it the most.

      Now, having said that, what is the most effective thing to be done with motorcyclists who do what you’ve described? I don’t really know. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once and the streets and freeways seem to be a free-for-all, both for car drivers and motorcycle riders. And, in another article, jaywalking pedestrians.

      I consider it an unusual occurrence if a motorist signals well before making a lane change instead of after or during or not at all. For some reason, many people on the streets think they are in Montana or Wyoming where there is lots of space to do whatever. We live in densely populated California and if everyone obeyed the traffic rules, things would work more smoothly and efficiently.

      I notice that when I drive the 14 in the fast lane next to the carpool lane and leave an appropriate distance between my car and the car in front of me while driving the same speed as it, others will pass on the right to pull in front of me. I have to ease up slightly and after several cars do that, I’m a mile behind the car I was originally behind, in effect, going backward in ‘time and space’. Their actions overall effect is to slow traffic for everyone as they try for an advantage. I guess I could ride the bumper of the first car so I can rear end it if the driver hits the brakes.

      Maybe, in the future, all cars will have cameras like they do in police cars connected to a traffic center to cite reckless drivers by recording their license numbers and illegal maneuvers. Until then, they will keep doing what they do.

      I anticipate that people who I’m describing will rear up on their hind legs to complain about ‘freedom and privacy’ as they are wont to do.

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