Share the road

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Over the past several months we have witnessed a trend that we believe is a direct result of high gas prices. As we drive around the area, we have noticed more and more motorcycles on the road, and sadly, we have also found ourselves reporting a higher number of car-motorcycle injury crashes on county roadways than ever before.

Exact statistics were not available at the time we are writing this editorial, but based on the recent crash reports listed on the Missouri State Highway Patrol's website, Barry County has been the scene of three crashes involving motorcycles during the last 30 days. Over the past eight days, there have been three fatalities resulting from car-motorcycle crashes. One of these fatalities involved a young driver of a sports bike and another involved a seasoned rider who friends say had logged thousands upon thousands of miles on his bike. This editorial is not being written to assign blame to anyone involved in these crashes, but to urge area drivers of both vehicles and motorcycles to pay attention and learn to share the road, especially now that gas prices are making motorcycles a more attractive mode of transportation.

With all this said, we'd like to offer our readers some helpful advice on driving more safely when motorcycle riders and vehicle drivers share the same road. This "Share the Road" information is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Advice to drivers

* Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway.

* Allow the motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem as though there is enough room in the traffic lane for an automobile and a motorcycle, remember the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.

* Approximately one-half of all motorcycle crashes involve another motor vehicle. Nearly 40 percent were caused by the other vehicle turning left in front of the motorcyclist.

* Motorcycles are small and may be difficult to see. Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than vehicles, which can make it more difficult to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle.

* Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.

* Remember that motorcyclist are often hidden in a vehicle's blind spot or missed in a quick look due to their smaller size. Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.

* Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle. Motorcycle signals usually are not self-cancelling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.

* Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to you pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcyclist may change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings and grooved pavement.

* Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Advice to riders

* Never hang out in a vehicle's blind spot. You are particularly difficult to see behind SUVs and trucks.

* Always wear a helmet, which is the only source of protection in a serious crash. It is also suggested that riders wear protective clothing such as gloves, boots and a jacket.

* Be extra cautious. As the smallest vehicle on the road, you need to pay attention to signals and brake lights and always ride with caution and drive defensively.

* Never ride in between lanes in traffic or share a lane with another vehicle.

* Watch your speed, especially in bad weather, at night or on hills and windy roads.