Traffic enforcement officers in Los Angeles County, including the California Highway Patrol and local police departments, announced a “crackdown” on motorcycle safety during the month of May. The State of California has designated May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. It is a month in which drivers of four wheel vehicles, tractor-trailers, and motorcycles are all encouraged to “share the road.”
The Whittier Police Department will be assigning extra officers to patrol areas in which Los Angeles motorcycle accidents have frequently occurred. As they should, the officers plan to focus on both motorcyclists and car drivers. When a driver pulls into the road without noticing an oncoming motorcycle, it is inevitably the motorcycle rider who dies or suffers an injury. When a motorcyclist drives drunk, the rider risks his or her own life as well as those of pedestrians and drivers who swerve to avoid a collision. In 2012, 29% of motorcyclists killed in crashes were riding at or above the legal limit. Sharing the road means using the roads safely and soberly, whether operating a vehicle with two wheels or four.
We join law enforcement agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and Motorcycle Safety News in supporting California's campaign to reduce motorcycle accidents. The motorcycle community appreciates the efforts of law enforcement officers and government officials to make the streets and highways safer for motorcycle riders.
The tragedy of motorcycle accidents
More than 13,000 California motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle collisions during 2012. Another 475 died. Motorcycles account for only 3 percent of the registered vehicles in the United States, but motorcyclists represent 14 percent of vehicle-related fatalities. Per mile traveled, the fatality rate for motorcycles is 26 times higher for motorcyclists than for occupants of other vehicles.
There are more than 830,000 registered motorcycles in California. The state has more than 1.4 million motorcycle riders. Yet many drivers fail to notice motorcycles, in part because they are less visible than larger vehicles. Sharing the road means being aware of motorcycles and respecting their right to use the same streets and highways as other vehicles.
“Share the road” safety tips
Here are some safety tips to help drivers share the road with motorcycles:
- Always signal lane changes.
- Always check blind spots before changing lanes.
- Focus on the road, not on cell phones, GPS monitors, or crying babies.
- You won't see motorcycles unless you look for them. Check twice before you pull into traffic, merge, or enter an intersection.
- Be aware that motorcycles may be approaching at a faster speed than the speed you perceive. Wait for any oncoming motorcycle to pass through the intersection rather than turning in front of it.
- Leave ample room when following a motorcycle to avoid a collision if it needs to make an emergency stop.
- Do not assume that a motorcyclist is turning when you see a turn signal. Motorcycle turn signals do not cancel after a turn.
- Do not throw trash from your window. Road debris can be a fatal obstacle to a motorcycle rider. Cigarette butts that hit a rider in the face can cause a rider to lose control or become distracted.
Motorcyclists should be aware of these safety precautions:
- Wear a helmet and other safety gear.
- Increase your visibility by wearing bright clothing and using reflective tape.
- Ride defensively. Anticipate the failure of drivers to notice you as you approach or pass them.
- Always signal your turns.
- Avoid lane splitting unless traffic has stopped.
- If you are a new rider, understand your limits. Don't take turns faster than you know you can handle.
- Get training from the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. Different training levels are available for new and experienced riders.
Of course, no matter what vehicle you drive, you should observe traffic laws. Most importantly, never drive after drinking alcohol until you know you are under the limit.
Provided by Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorney Timothy J. Ryan.