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Riding a motorcycle is one of the most dangerous means of highway transportation. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists account for 13% of all traffic fatalities. Riders are 25 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic accident and 5 times more likely to be injured. Yet, despite these staggering statistics, motorcycling remains an extremely popular mode of travel: in 2009, there were nearly 8 million registered motorcycles in the United States, a number that has steadily increased over the last decade. Of course, more motorcycles on the roadways leads to more Missouri and Illinois car and motorcycle accidents and crashes.

To avoid a motorcycle crash and motorcycle injury, motorcycle safety is absolutely something that bikers themselves must take seriously. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that everyone on the road has a role to play in preventing motorcycle accidents. In 2009, nearly half of all motorcycles that were involved in fatal crashes collided with another type of motor vehicle. The most common type of collision (40%) occurred when a vehicle turning left collided with a motorcycle that was going straight or passing another vehicle. The second most common type of collision (27%) occurred when both vehicles were going straight.

A major reason for these conditions is lack of motorcycle visibility. Whether it’s a crowded multi-lane highway or a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere, motorcycles have a way of seeming invisible to drivers of other vehicles. While there are measures that a biker should take to make themselves more visible and compensate for this characteristic, other drivers also need to make sure that they are looking out for motorcycles.

This is part of the reason that NHTSA has launched the “Share the Road” campaign, aimed at increasing driver awareness of motorcycles. As part of this campaign, NHTSA and local transportation agencies are reminding all drivers to follow some basic guidelines to keep motorcyclists safe:

  • Road users are reminded to never drive, bike, or walk while distracted. Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
  • A motorcycle has the same rights and privileges as any other vehicle on the roadway.
  • Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.
  • Because motorcycles are small, they can be difficult for other road users to see them, or judge their speed and distance as they approach.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals may not be self-canceling and motorcyclists sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
  • Allow more following distance — three or four seconds – when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

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