Summer travel season higlights cycle safety: Don’t speed, stay sober, wear a helmet – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Summer travel season higlights cycle safety: Don’t speed, stay sober, wear a helmet

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the end of May ushers in the unofficial start of the summer road travel season. Safe riding and driving practices, and cooperation from all road users, will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways.

Unfortunately, data shows that motorcyclists are often overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities each year, and that speed and alcohol are large contributing factors. Additionally, helmet use has drastically declined in the past few years, leaving motorcyclists vulnerable to injury and death. It’s everyone’s responsibility – both the motor vehicle driver and the motorcyclist – to practice safe habits on the road and, ultimately, to “Share the Road”.

According to NHTSA data, there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes in 2020. Motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14 percent of the total highway fatalities in 2020. In fact, in 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were four times more likely to be injured.

One of the primary contributing factors to motorcyclist fatalities is speeding. According to NHTSA, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved (killed or survived) in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, compared to 22 percent for passenger car drivers, 16 percent for light-truck drivers, and 7 percent for large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders 25 to 29 years old involved in fatal crashes had the highest speeding involvement at 45 percent.

Alcohol impairment also plays a significant role in motorcycle-involved crash fatalities: 41 percent of the 2,158 motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2020 were alcohol-impaired. In 2020, motorcycle riders involved (killed or survived) in fatal crashes had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than any other type of motor vehicle driver (27 percent for motorcycle riders, 23 percent for passenger car drivers, 19 percent for light-truck drivers, and 3 percent for large-truck drivers). Forty-five percent of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekends were alcohol-impaired, and those killed were almost three times more frequently found to be alcohol-impaired at night than during the day (40 percent and 14 percent, respectively).

Like seat belts, helmets are a simple and effective way to reduce the likelihood of injury or death during a crash. But helmet use has declined from 69 percent in 2020 to 64.9 percent in 2021. It’s important to understand that both motorcyclists and their passengers should always wear a helmet. Helmet use among riders with passengers continued a sharp decrease at 52.1 percent in 2021. In contrast, helmet use among passengers of riders wearing DOT-compliant helmets increased significantly from 84.5 percent in 2020 to 92.1 percent in 2021.

Safe driving and riding practices from all road users – drivers and riders alike – will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. Motor vehicle drivers and motorcyclists should keep the following tips in mind when on the road:

  • Observe all traffic laws and always obey the speed limit.
  • Drive and ride alcohol-free and drug-free.
  •  Avoid distractions that place other road users at risk.
  • Yield to motorcyclists, especially while turning at intersections.
  • Wear high-visibility protective gear and DOT-compliant helmets.

Additionally, the completion of a rider education and training course can ensure a safer riding experience. As May nears, let’s commit to safe driving and riding, and to our role in ensuring a safe motorcycle-riding environment.

Information thanks to Kansas Department of Transportation.

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