The St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program joins the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee in Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in New York State this June.
The effort seeks to remind all motorists to be more aware of motorcyclists and to respect their right to safely ride on our highways.
Across the state, the numbers of motorcycle registrations have increased more than 80 percent over the past 10 years. In St. Lawrence County as of 2008, there were over 8,700 licensed motorcycle drivers and over 4,000 registered motorcycles. As these numbers rise, so do the statistics for motorcycle-related deaths and injuries over the past decade. In fact, nation-wide, there was a two percent increase in fatalities from 2007 through 2008. In St. Lawrence County, 47 people were killed or injured in motorcycle crashes in 2008, up from 43 in 2007, and substantially up from 33 in 2006.
“We’re concerned about the increase in motorcycle collisions we’re seeing locally,” said Mary Davison, Information Specialist for the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program. “And with that in mind, pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of all vehicles need to be extra attentive and make sure you ‘share the road.’ A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Everyone needs to aggressively look for them.”
Many of the collisions with motorcycles occur when a vehicle is changing lanes or turning left, and the motorist fails to properly check for motorcycles. That’s why it’s crucial that motorists and bicyclists always “look twice” at intersections, and double-check mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic. Pedestrians should also scan for motorcyclists who might be hidden by other traffic.
“Motorcyclists have responsibilities, too,” Davison said. “They should follow the rules of the road, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet and other protective gear.”
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes.
The St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program offers several common sense tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:
• Remember that the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane
• Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections
• 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 and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. 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 so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don’t tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
•Never drive while distracted.
Motorcycle riders can learn or improve safe driving skills by taking a DMV-approved motorcycle safety course. Information about the courses can be obtained on the Adirondacks and Beyond Motorcycle Safety web site at www.adkmc.com, or by calling the SUNY Canton Office of Continuing Education at 386-7102.