May is “Motorcycle Awareness Month,” a campaign begun by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to promote increased care and safety among both auto drivers and motorcyclists. Whether you drive or ride, you can help improve the safety of our roads.
Every summer, the number of motorcycle collisions, personal injuries, and fatalities goes up as more riders take to the road. Volatile spring weather and riders getting back into the saddle after months of inactivity also contribute to the increased danger. 62% of motorcycle fatalities occur between May and September.
- Motorcyclists are at a 30 times higher risk of dying in a crash compared to drivers or occupants of cars.
- Motorcyclists are 5 times more likely than auto drivers or passengers to be injured in a collision.
- 88,000 motorcyclists were injured and nearly 4,700 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2013 (the last year for which complete statistics are available).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the DOT, encourages both drivers and motorcyclists to learn how to improve the safety of the roads for riders. Many accidents are a result of vehicle motorists failing to detect and recognize motorcyclists. Especially in summer, when more motorcycles (and non-motorized bicyclists) are on the road, everyone should take additional precautions to drive safely and share the road.
Improved safety awareness campaigns are making a difference in New Jersey. Although the number of registered motorcycles in the state has held steady for the last six years, hovering around 150,000, fatalities have decreased significantly. There were 50 in 2015, an 18 percent decrease from the prior year. Both riders and auto drivers play important roles in increasing road safety for motorcyclists.
What can motorcycle riders do to improve safety?
New Jersey is one of 19 states that requires motorcycle riders wear helmets. Wearing a helmet is an easy way for riders to increase their safety and reduce their injury risk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Helmets saved an estimated 1,630 lives and $2.8 billion in in economic costs in 2013.
- The United States could have saved an additional $1.1 billion in 2013 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
- Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37%.
- Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69%.
Taking a motorcycle safety class is a good way to improve your riding skills, whether you are a new rider or an experienced rider on a larger or more powerful bike. The State of New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission certifies and recommends courses, such as those offered through Central Jersey Rider Training.
The NHTSA also recommends that riders:
- Wear long pants, closed toed shoes, and protective gear.
- Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
- Use hand and turn signals for every lane change or turn.
- Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
- Keep lights on at all times.
- Ride in the middle of the lane, where you will be more visible to drivers. Avoid “lane splitting” (riding between lanes of traffic), even if legal.
- Never ride distracted or impaired.
What can auto drivers do to improve safety?
The NHTSA suggests that automobile drivers follow these safety guidelines:
- Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
- Always use turn signals when changing lanes or merging into traffic.
- If you see a motorcycle with a turn signal on, be careful: many motorcycle signals do not turn off automatically and could have been inadvertently left on.
- Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
- Always allow more following distance – three to four seconds – when you are behind a motorcycle. The extra space gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
- Never drive distracted or impaired.
You should also review the laws that govern motorcycling in New Jersey, which set forth the rights and responsibilities of drivers and riders.
If, despite your best efforts, you are injured in a motorcycle collision, the Mark Law Firm can help! Download our free guide to what to do immediately after an automobile accident -- just click the link below. You can also contact us and talk to one of the experienced personal injury lawyers in our Basking Ridge, Oradell, or Newark, New Jersey offices.