Stop the Dangerous Ride: Making the Road Safe for Motorcyclists
The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) and its Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program (GMSP) offers a glimpse into the challenges of cycling for riders and the motoring public. The first-time “cyclist Craig” road a dirt bike he was fourteen. Next came the tiny Honda motorcycle he was so proud of, (purchased in 1978 folks). Today, it’s his Indian or his Harley carrying him down the road.
First crash? As with many motorcyclists, Craig isn’t sure what to ‘count’ as his first crash—the first time a car didn’t see him and he had to swerve into a ditch? Or, was it the first time he drove through a red light because another driver didn’t see him waiting for the light? What Craig can tell you is this: a broken foot, a dislocated shoulder, and a bad case of road rash came with the first time another vehicle collided with him.
Motorcycles are the most unforgiving form of motorized transportation in the United States. The 2018 Safety Report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, makes this clear: “Per mile traveled, motorcycle fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more frequently than passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in traffic crashes.” DDS Commissioner Spencer R. Moore brings these numbers home: “In Georgia, 2% of registered vehicles are motorcycles, but motorcyclists account for 11% of our road fatalities.”
So why ride if it is so dangerous? Motorcyclists will tell you riding keeps them from going crazy, they love the community, and it’s just plain fantastic to do. On a more practical level, it is cost effective, there’s loads of available parking, and riding is green/er (motorcycles use less gas, or no gas–with electric bikes).
Now in his late 50s, Craig enjoys riding because it keeps him ‘young.’ The second half of life looks much different today than it did 30 years ago, and motorcycle riding is a part of that change. In 1990 only about 1 in 10 motorcyclists were over 50, today that number is 1 in 4 (Bureau of Transportation Statistics). So, despite what many non-riders believe, motorcyclists come from every walk of life. About 25% of motorcyclists have undergraduate college degrees, and another 16% have graduate degrees. Their median income is above the national average (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Motorcyclists are our kids, our parents and grandparents. They are our friends, bosses, and co-workers.
Making the highways safe is everyone’s job. When it comes to motorcycle safety, we all have some work to do. For the non-riders: check your blind spots, twice, and use your turn signals. Also, most car drivers over-estimate how much distance is between them and a motorcycle (NTSB). So be sure to leave lots of space between you and a motorcyclist. Sometimes drivers unintentionally use motorcycles as ‘targets.’ The technical term is ‘target fixation,’ that’s when we become so focused on an object that we drive straight into it (Idrivesafely.com). To avoid this try looking past the motorcycle, to the car in front of it, but visually checking in on the motorcycle often.
For the motorcyclists, remember rule one: you are invisible. Sometimes you are in a blind spot, or road glare distorts you. But often, other motorists ‘see’ the bike, but they don’t ‘notice’ it. So, making yourself visible is job one. Use those hand signals. Take every opportunity to highlight your actions to other drivers, and wear high-visibility gear, just in case.
Crashes initiated by motorcyclists have three primary causes: speeding, intoxication, and over-estimating your skill level. So, the solutions are easy: don’t speed, don’t drink, and take a class. If you’ve taken a class, take a refresher every few years. To find a class in Georgia, go to dds.georgia.gov/location.
Riding down the road on a motorcycle is one of the great joys in life, so let’s all work to make that journey safer.
Motorcycle riders are encouraged to take a safety course at one of the GMSP approved sites and to refresh skills and knowledge regularly. More information is available from the free mobile app, DDS 2 GO, available at the App Store and on Google Play.
Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program (GMSP) The Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program (GMSP) is a part of the Georgia Department of Driver Services. In addition to offering rider education and licensing programs, the GMSP also promotes motorist awareness programs, share the road campaigns, and is focused on highway safety issues affecting Georgia motorcyclists. The GMSP directly operates training sites throughout Georgia. GMSP offers low cost, professional training to assist riders in improving their skills.