There are many things a motorcyclist can do to protect himself on the road. Riding defensively, wearing protective gear, avoiding distractions, never drinking and riding, and keeping skills sharp by taking riding classes are some of steps a rider can take to increase his chances of arriving safely at his destination. However, despite all of these measures, riders are still vulnerable to careless and negligent drivers who fail to give them adequate space. Both Kansas and Missouri participate in the federal Share the Road program to raise awareness of motorcycles in an effort to protect them.
What Risks Do Motorcyclists Face?
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, fatality rates among motorcycle riders are on the rise. With a 10 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2014 to 2015, the total number of deaths exceeded 5,000 for the first time in six years.
Despite representing only 3 percent of all registered vehicles on the road, motorcyclists account for 14 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide. Biker fatalities in both Kansas and Missouri represent 12 percent of all traffic fatalities. Per miles driven, motorcyclists have a fatality rate 26 times that of other motorists.
Clearly, some of the reason for the increased risk is that motorcycles simply have less protection for riders than cars and trucks. However, when drivers of cars and trucks fail to see bikers or refuse to grant them the same space and respect as other vehicles, that risk is magnified.
What Can Motorists Do?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) promotes the Share the Road program to raise awareness of everyone who is less protected on the roads, including pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles. Both Kansas and Missouri participate in this program through driver awareness campaigns, traffic stops, and road signs.
NHTSA offers the following tips to help motorists share the road with motorcycles:
- Never drive distracted. An increase in driver distraction could help to explain the increase in motorcycle fatalities. Driving while distracted can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a car and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Don't share the lane.
- Always use turn signals. Motorcyclists expect that you don’t see them, so signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic allows them to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
- Check blind spots. Because of its smaller size, a motorcycle can be hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. Always scout for motorcycles by checking mirrors and looking over your shoulder before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Pay attention to motorcycle turn signals. Although a biker's turn signal may be harder to see, look for it before proceeding to pass or make a lane change in front of him. Also, understand that turn signals on motorcycles are not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist's intention before you proceed.
- Understand motorcycle hazards. Remember that road conditions which 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 potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
- Allow more following distance. Motorcycles are capable of much quicker stops than cars, so allot for three or four seconds when following a motorcycle. This also allows the motorcycle rider enough time to maneuver around a hazard.
The most important thing to remember is that motorcyclists are just like you—they've simply chosen a different way to get to their destinations. They deserve the same space and respect on the road that you regularly give to other cars and bigger trucks.We hope you'll remember and share these tips with other drivers so we can all work together to share the road in the Kansas City Area.