In a recent press release, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proclaimed the month of May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Across the state, the warm spring weather changes our climate; motorcycle riders are again taking to the road after a long winter. As the riding season continues in earnest, the governor is asking riders and drivers to share the road and maintain safe operating practices.
Vigilance by riders and drivers is important now more than ever. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reports that the number of registered motorcycles increased by 5,000 in 2010. Also, 10,000 additional motorcycle licenses were granted last year. The increase in motorcycle use is consistent with the increases in fuel prices as analysts predict that consumers may see gas at $5.00 per gallon this summer.
With motorcycle traffic on the road increasing, so does the potential for accidents and fatalities. PennDOT reported more than 4000 crashes in 2010, resulting in 223 deaths. This was up from 2009, where 3,736 accidents occurred and 204 lives were claimed in accidents.
Understand Your Motorcycle, Applicable Laws and Protect Yourself
Despite the ominous statistics, motorcyclists can take a number of steps to protect themselves on the road. First, appreciating a bike's power and capabilities is critical. Knowing how a motorcycle accelerates, handles and stops is essential in preventing accidents. Also, new riders should attend an instruction course certified by the state and be properly licensed before riding on public roads. Free safety classes for beginners and experienced riders are available through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program.
Obeying applicable traffic laws is critical; riders should avoid riding between lanes of slow or stopped traffic. Cyclists should always assume that they are invisible to motorists. Use headlights at all times and stay clear of drivers' blind spots. Most importantly, all motorcycle riders should wear helmets. State law only requires riders 20 years and under to wear them but proper headgear can prevent debilitating brain injuries during a motorcycle accident. Further, studies conducted by both the National Highway Transportation Safety Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggest that helmets do save lives.
PennDOT has also created its "Live Free Ride Alive" website so that motorcyclists across the state can share personal riding stories and take the "Be One Less" pledge in preventing future accidents. The site has garnered 140,000 visitors and 1,300 have taken the "Be One Less" pledge.
By taking safety seriously, motorcyclists throughout Pennsylvania can enjoy another season of great, safe riding.