FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 4, 2009) - The U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other state and national organizations in May to remind motorists and motorcyclists to be extra alert during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

Across the nation, motorcycle fatalities have steadily increased over the past decade. In fiscal 2008, the Army lost more Soliders in motorcycle accidents than any other previous year going back to 1986. Since the beginning of fiscal 2009, there have been 13 motorcycle-related Soldier fatalities and peak riding season is still a few weeks away.

"May is really the beginning of the traditional riding season because, with the weather improving, more and more motorcyclists are hitting the roads," said Walter Beckman, Safety Center driving task force program manager. "With that in mind, drivers of all vehicles need to be extra attentive and make sure they are sharing the road."

Beckman said motorists and motorcyclists alike have many responsibilities out on the road like making sure they follow the rules, remaining visable to all drivers and never driving while impaired.

Motorcyclists' responsibilities also include always wearing a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.

"Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than passenger vehicle occupants in the event of a crash," Beckman said. "Research shows that motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a traffic crash so remember to slow down and ride within your capability."

As the Army heads into June, last year's deadliest month for Soldier motorcycle riders, NHTSA
recommends several tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe out on the roads:

Aca,!Ac Remember the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width-never try to share a lane;

Aca,!Ac Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;

Aca,!Ac Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;

Aca,!Ac Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle-motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed;

Aca,!Ac Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when behind a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don't tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

Beckman said motorcyclists can increase their safety by:

Aca,!Ac Wearing protective clothing including long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long trousers, full-fingered gloves or mittens made from leather or other abrasion-resistant material, motorcycle jackets and pants constructed of abrasion-resistant materials and a DOT-approved helmet;

Aca,!Ac Combining hand and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;

Aca,!Ac Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers;

Aca,!Ac Not drinking and riding.

"By encouraging safe riding and cooperation between all motorists and motorcyclists, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation's highways," Beckman said. "All drivers need to slow down - life is too short not to take the time enjoy it. Enjoy this riding season and live to ride for the next one."

To learn more about motorcycle safety awareness, visit https://safety.army.mil.

Page last updated Tue May 19th, 2009 at 13:47