Just as National Transportation Week reminds us to celebrate the many ways we have to get where we're going, for drivers it's also an opportunity to remember that not everyone on the road is in a car. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and I urge drivers across the country to Share The Road with your fellow drivers who are on two wheels.
Because of their size, it is not always easy for drivers to see motorcylces in traffic. But motorcycles are especially visible in crash statistics released by our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2011, 4,612 motorcyclists died on America's roads. Those deaths amounted to 14 percent of total U.S. highway deaths, even though motorcycles make up only about 3 percent of all registered vehicles.
On a per mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured.
In fact, while automobile fatalities have been declining to historic lows, motorcycle deaths have increased every year --except 2009-- for the past 14 years.
- Never drive distracted.
- Allow motorcyclists a full lane.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging.
- Check your mirrors and blind spots carefully before entering or leaving a lane and at intersections.
- When road conditions change --wet surfaces, grooved pavement, etc.-- give motorcyclists room to adjust.
- Allow more distance when following a motorcycle; motorcycles can stop abruptly.
These are just a few of the useful tips NHTSA has prepared; you can find more safety information on NHTSA's Motorcycle Safety website.
If motorcycles are less visible, riders can take steps to increase their visibilty with bright colors and reflective tape. They can signal their intentions clearly so automobile drivers can react safely. And they can avoid abrupt maneuvers that challenge drivers' ability to react.
And to better protect themselves in all situations, we urge all motorcyclists to wear helmets. NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,600 motorcyclists in 2011. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 703 lives could have been saved.
The ribbons of highway that connect America all feature lanes that can accommodate cars and motorcycles alike. This month and every month, we're asking drivers and riders to accommodate each other.