Watch out for motorcycles, scooters and mopeds

  • Published
  • By Michael Wolcott
  • 377th Air Base Wing Safety Office
According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, more than four million motorcycles are registered in the United States.

The popularity of this mode of transportation is attributed to the low initial cost, use as a pleasure vehicle and, for some models, the fuel efficiency.

Motorcycle fatalities represent about five percent of all highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles are just two percent of all registered vehicles in the United States.

One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in mishaps is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection. About 80 percent of reported motorcycle mishaps result in injury or death; for automobiles, it's about 20 percent.

An automobile has more weight and bulk than a motorcycle. It has door beams and a roof to provide some measure of protection from impact or rollover. It has cushioning and air bags to soften impact and safety belts to hold passengers in their seats.

It has windshield washers and wipers to help with visibility in rain and snow.

An automobile is more stable because it's on four wheels and is easier for other road users to see because of its size.

A motorcycle suffers in comparison, when considering vehicle characteristics that directly contribute to operator safety.

10 things car and truck drivers should know about motorcycles

-- There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle; they ignore it (usually unintentionally). Actively look for motorcycles, especially at intersections.

-- A motorcycle may look farther away than it is and it may be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed. When checking for traffic, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

-- A motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car, such as bushes, fences, bridges. Take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic, whether you're changing lanes or turning at intersections.

-- A motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is, but don't assume all motorcyclists are speed demons.

-- Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, and at intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

--Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, especially beginners, sometimes forget to turn them off. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is for real.

-- Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off, or to allow you to share the lane with them.

-- Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

-- Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle, because it can't always stop "on a dime."

-- When a motorcycle is in motion, don't think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person.