151st ARW stresses motorcycle safety

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. John Crow
  • 151 ARW/SE
In fiscal year 2008, the Air National Guard suffered five fatalities due to motorcycle mishaps. While the Utah ANG has been fortunate not to lose any members this year, it has had several close calls this summer, including an off-road motorcycle accident which caused the son of a Utah ANG member to fight for his life.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are more registered motorcycles now than 10 years ago, and the number of fatalities per motorcycle has increased. Motorcycle riders now account for one out of every 10 U.S. road fatalities each year, with motorcyclist deaths from traffic crashes rising each of the last eight years. In Utah, 33 riders have already died this year, which is already 10 more than the average of 23 deaths a year over the past decade.

"Speed, a poorly maintained motorcycle and following too closely are nearly always factors in the cause of motorcycle fatalities," said Gary Mower, a research analyst for the Utah Department of Public Safety. "In 2006, one-third of the fatalities involved cars turning left in front of motorcycle riders."

Mower also suggested that the small size of a motorcycle makes it difficult for drivers to determine how fast a motorcycle is traveling. Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than other vehicles. This can make it difficult to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle. After a crash, the drivers of other vehicles involved often say they never saw the motorcyclist and were unable to respond in time. In the event of a crash, a motorcyclist is much more vulnerable and in much greater danger physically than are other vehicle drivers.

Drivers of other passenger vehicles should always remember to follow these steps to help keep motorcyclists safe:

· Allow a motorcyclist the full lane width.
· Do not share the lane.
· Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
· Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
· Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
· Remember that road conditions which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles pose major hazards to motorcyclists.
· Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don't tailgate.

The Utah ANG's message to all Airmen is: "It's everyone responsible to help reduce motorcycle fatalities."