May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and with the unofficial start of travel season here, and in light of a spike in fatalities, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, and Connecticut Police Chiefs Association urge all road users to share the road and be alert.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are an estimated 29 times more likely than car riders to die in a traffic crash and four times more likely to be injured.
In Connecticut, more than 50 motorcyclists lose their lives on our roadways each year. In 2021, there were 68 motorcycle fatalities in the state, the highest number in more than 30 years.
“More people are heading out on the road and they continue to travel too fast. Crashes are up on our roadways and speed continues to be a leading factor,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said. “It’s important for drivers to recognize the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists, such as size and visibility. Stay alert, avoid distractions, allow more follow distance, and look out for motorcycles.”
Safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries. Here are important tips:
- Always check your blind spots. Motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles and can be even more difficult to spot while merging or changing lanes. Take your time before merging and devote several seconds to searching each of your car’s blind spots before proceeding with your intended maneuver.
- Be extra cautious when passing. Make sure to signal your intention to pass a motorcyclist by using your turn signal. Always make sure you are several car lengths ahead of the motorcycle before returning to your lane.
- Remember that motorcycles react more quickly than cars. Make sure that you maintain an adequate following distance behind motorcycles. Rear-ending a motorcycle can be fatal to the rider.
- Be aware of weather. Bad weather has more drastic effects on motorcycle riders than it does on automobile drivers. Also remember that weather conditions often reduce your own visibility and may cause motorcycles to be more difficult to see.
- Night-riding. Help riders stay safe after dark by increasing your following distance, ensuring that your high-beams are turned off when you notice an approaching motorcycle, and refraining from passing. If you are driving with your high beams on, you must dim them at least 500 feet from any oncoming vehicle including a motorcycle.
- Stay in your lane. Motorcycles are legally entitled to their own lane of traffic. In no situation are you allowed to drive your automobile in the same lane and in close proximity to a motorcycle. No matter how small these vehicles are or how much extra room that there appears to be, sharing a single lane with a motorcycle is a recipe for an accident and illegal.
- Inform motorcyclists of your intention to turn. Initiate your turn signal sooner than you normally would when you know there is a motorcycle driving behind you.
- Intersections are danger zones. Many vehicle accidents that involve both automobiles and motorcycles occur at intersections. Always follow the safety protocol for intersections every single time that you approach one: come to a complete halt, view and obey posted traffic signs and signals, look both ways for approaching traffic, and proceed slowly.
- Watch for turning motorcycles. Self-cancelling turn signals did not become standard on motorcycles until the late 1970s. There are still many motorcycles on the road today that do not have the self-cancelling turn signals that we are now accustomed to. If you notice that a motorcycle is driving with an activated turn signal for an abnormal distance, increase your following distance so that you have time to react whenever the rider does decide to turn.
- Take a second look at left-turns. Before you cross a lane or lanes of traffic to turn left, take a second look for approaching motorcycles. Vehicle accidents involving the collision of a left-turning car and an approaching motorcycle can be very severe.
For more information on motorcycle safety, visit nhtsa.gov.