Monday, July 13, 2009

Share the road and be safe

By Rocky Marks
Last week, I was involved with a press conference that was held by PennDOT District 11 and the Pittsburgh Police, and hosted by Hot Metal Harley-Davidson. The goal of the meeting was to remind motorists and motorcyclists to share the road and watch out for each other.
This press conference was put together after a horrible start to July with the number of motorcycle related injuries and fatalities. Over the past five years, motorcycle fatalities represented 20% of traffic fatalities in District 11, which includes Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence Counties.
In 2008, more than 200 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes and more than 3,500 were injured in Pennsylvania. In PennDOT District 11, 24 people lost their lives and another 340 were injured in motorcycle crashes during the same time peiord. Many of these fatalities and injures could be avoided by following these safety tips for both motorcyclists as well as motorists.=

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
Riders can improve their safety on the road by following some simple safety tips:
• Wear a U.S. DOT-approved helmet, face or eye protection and protective clothing.
• Know your motorcycle and conduct a pre-ride check.
• Be seen. Wear reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your protective riding gear and motorcycle.
• Use common sense by riding sober, obeying all speed limits and allowing enough time to react to dangerous situations.
• Practice safe riding techniques and know how to handle your motorcycle in adverse road and weather conditions.
• Consider attending free training via PennDOT´s Motorcycle Safety Program
Safety Tips for Motorists Sharing the Road with Motorcycles
• Look out for motorcyclists – be aware that motorcycles are small and may be difficult to see.
• Allow more following distance – leave at least four seconds when following a motorcycle.
• Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
• Respect a motorcycle as a full-size vehicle with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width as the motorcyclist needs the room to maneuver safely in all types of road conditions.
Crashes are most likely to occur in high-risk situations such as:
• Another vehicle turning left in front of a motorcyclist.
• Motorcyclists hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot: Drivers should always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections. (a quick turn of the head isn’t a bad idea, either.)
• Hazardous road conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces that usually pose minor annoyances to automobile drivers are in fact major hazards for motorcyclists.
• Weather conditions: Braking and handling abilities may be impared by changing weather conditions.
• Strong winds: A strong gust of wind can move a motorcyclist across an entire lane if not prepared for it.
• Large vehicles can block a new motorcycle from a driver’s view and a motorcycle can suddenly appear out of nowhere.
The same rules apply for drivers that fall in both categories. Slow down. Look twice. Pay attention to the road and put away anything that will distract you from operating your vehicle.
Obviously there are many more situations that I didn’t cover in this article. There are just as many rules that I haven’t covered, but the basic thing that we can do as motorists and motorcyclist is to be aware of each other and share the road.
The writer is Operations Manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson located in West Mifflin and Host of the radio show: “On the Road with Rocky” which airs Saturdays at 7AM on WEAE 1250 AM

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