Jackson, MS — Statistics show an alarming trend: in 2012, 4,957 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a continued increase from 2010. Those deaths accounted for 15 percent of the total highway fatalities that year. Injured motorcyclists also increased from 81,000 in 2011 to 93,000 in 2012.
During the month of May, there are several initiatives the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) will observe. In addition to National Bike Month and National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, MDOT will observe Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week May 2-10.
May’s safety messages are shared across several modes of transportation, and because of this, MDOT wants to kick this month off with a single message that applies to all users of our state’s highways and roadways to, “Prevent Two-Wheeled Tragedies.”
MDOT wants all roadway users to know that everyone has the right to use our state’s transportation system. Traffic laws are in place to protect everyone, whether you’re a motorist, bicyclist, motorcyclist, truck driver or even a roadside worker.
There are many recent discussions about which group is at fault for various incidents. Motorcyclists and bicyclists claim that cars do not give them enough room or simply drive too fast; automobile drivers say that bicyclists don’t obey traffic laws; and truck drivers complain that cars and motorcycles switch lanes too abruptly and unpredictably.
“Motorcyclists and bicyclists will be out in force as the weather gets warmer, which is why May is the perfect time for Motorcycle Safety Awareness and Bike Month,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise, and helmet usage is on the decline. We all need to be more aware of motorcyclists and bicyclists in order to save lives.”
Helmet usage continues to decline, dropping from 66 percent of motorcyclists wearing helmets in 2011 to only 60 percent in 2012. The decrease was most significant among motorcycle passengers, decreasing from 64 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 1,617 lives were saved in 2011 because of proper helmet usage, but another 701 lives could have been saved if helmets had been worn.
Wearing a helmet is an important way for a motorcyclist and bicyclist to stay safe, but we all play a part. “It’s up to all motorists, motorcyclists and bicyclists to make our roads safer,” said McGrath. “All road users need to share responsibility in keeping the roadways safe. By following road signs, obeying speed limits, and always staying focused on the road, deaths and injuries can be prevented. Our message to all drivers and riders is simple; share the responsibility of keeping our roads safe by always sharing the road.”
MDOT offers tips to drivers on how to prevent a fatal crash with a motorcycle:
Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has all the rights of the road just as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
Always 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 could have been forgotten.
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 following 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.
Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:
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.
Bicyclists can increase their safety by following these tips:
Always wear a helmet.
Wear reflective clothing at night.
Before entering a road, look to your left, right and then left.
Ride in straight, predictable lines and look over your shoulder for traffic.
Use hand signals before changing lanes.
Ride with the flow of traffic, never against it.
Remember that a bicycle is a vehicle. If you plan to drink, get a safe ride home with a sober driver.
For more information on MDOT safety programs, visit http://mdot.ms.gov/safetyeducation/.
Bike Riding Safety video (Provided by USDOT NHTSA): https://youtu.be/nf5WQXFvrkk
Rules of the Road video (Provided by USDOT NHTSA): https://youtu.be/-Jp0SSAeCiY
For more information about MDOT, visit www.GoMDOT.com; follow, like and subscribe to MississippiDOT on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For the latest travel information, call 511 or visit www.MDOTtraffic.com. For after-hours media inquiries, call 601-359-9777 or visit http://mdot.ms.gov/portal/public_affairs.aspx.