May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, as it ushers in warmer weather and more motorcycles on the streets. To create safer roads and save lives, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is addressing common motorcyclist behaviors and highlighting simple steps both vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders can take to increase their safety and prevent crashes.

In 2016, there were 5,286 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, a five percent increase from 2015. Those deaths accounted for 14 percent of the total highway fatalities that year. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than passenger vehicle occupants, and they are five times more likely to be injured.

While on the roads, drivers may encounter motorcyclist behaviors that seem out of sync with their own. In addition, it can be easy to overlook a motorcycle due to its smaller size. Even the smallest momentary lapse in a vehicle driver’s awareness can result in a crash with an unseen motorcyclist. NHTSA’s Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles campaign helps motorists understand standard motorcycle driving behaviors and how to drive safely near motorcycles.

Tips for Motorists

The NHTSA recommends that drivers follow these tips to prevent a crash with a motorcycle:

  • Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has the same rights of the road as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
  • Always use a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and the motorcyclist could have forgotten to turn it off. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
  • Always allow more follow distance—three to four seconds—when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.

Because vehicle drivers control a much larger machine, it is imperative that they always keep close watch for motorcyclists who may be riding nearby.

Tips for Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists must also take extra precautions to guard against drivers who may not see them. The NHTSA suggests the following tips for motorcyclists to prevent a crash with a vehicle:

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
  • Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride in the middle of the lane where you will be more visible to drivers.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

As May nears, remember to Share the Road with motorcyclists and vehicle drivers alike. For more information on motorcycle safety, visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycles.

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