May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month: Please Drive and Ride Safely
May is Motorcycle Safety Month, which highlights the need for all drivers to be especially aware of motorcycles as well as all vehicles on the roads. With the recent beautiful weather, I’ve seen and heard more motorcycles in the last week than I have in months. Please be especially vigilant and respectful of others as you drive, whether you are on a bike, in a car, or truck.
Because we don’t see as many motorcycles during the winter months, we are not as sensitive to their presence and often simply do not “see” them. Many crashes occur when a car or truck makes a left turn in front of a bike or pulls out of a driveway or side street in front of one. Please, expect that more motorcycles will be out now and look twice or even three times before making a turn or pulling into a street. Also, be even extra careful when driving after dark as the single headlight may confuse you or look farther away than it actually is.
Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small enough to be blocked by your windshield pillars or rear view mirror. They may travel in your blind spots and be unseen and unheard by you.
Please do not rely on your hearing to warn you of an approaching motorcycle. While we may associate the sound of a bike with the presence of one, most of the sound we hear occurs after the bike has passed. Depending on its speed, a bike may “sneak” up on you from behind or from a side road. Rely more on your vision and extra effort to be sure you can make a maneuver or turn safely.
Also, we bikers must be very careful and respect all drivers on the road. Many of us have not ridden for a few months, and I recommend we all take it slow and easy during our first few decent rides of the spring. Make sure your bike is in good physical shape and do a thorough check to be certain everything is functioning properly before riding. Also, make sure to wear the proper gear. Make sure you dress warmly enough for the ride in cool air. Wear the proper helmet if you are riding in New Jersey or another state which requires one. Consider attending a rider safety refresher course if you have not had one in a while. While riding, remember that often the roads have more gravel and debris on them from spring rains so be mindful when riding on curving roads where you may not see a hazard until you are upon it. Ride at a safe speed for both the conditions and how you are feeling as well as your expertise. Always keep a safe distance from other bikes and vehicles.
All, please understand that bikers are taught to drive defensively and to assume others will not see them. Therefore, riders drive in the portion of the lane where it is most visible to other drivers. However, we riders want to be seen, we do not want to be invisible to anyone. We are not being obnoxious, rather we are practicing safe riding.
Both motorcyclists and motorists should recognize the dangers of driving at all times. By practicing a little more vigilance and looking twice, we can all stay safe on the roads.