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Let riders, motorists exercise more safety with motorcycles

This is perfect motorcycle-riding weather. But both bikers and motorists need to recognize the special risks involved. The upward trend in motorcycle-related fatalities must be reversed.

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Late summer and early fall in northern Illinois offer the perfect weather for outdoor activities – including exploring the back roads on a motorcycle.

Unfortunately, there are dangers that are particular to riding motorcycles, which helps to explain why motorcycle-related deaths are on the rise in Illinois.

Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicate fatal motorcycle accidents increased statewide by 13 percent from 2010 (131 deaths) to 2012 (148 deaths). State officials say that 110 of the 145 people who died in 2011 were not wearing helmets.

Lee and Whiteside counties had two motorcycle-related deaths in both 2010 and 2011, the most recent information from the Division of Traffic Safety in the Illinois Department of Transportation. But that period saw nearly 70 local motorcycle accidents that involved injury.

Part of the rise in fatalities is caused by the simple fact that more people are riding motorcycles. In the past decade, Illinois has had a 57 percent increase in the number of registered motorcyclists.

With more motorcycle riders comes the need for awareness – from all motorcyclists and automobile drivers. Motorcycle safety in Illinois is a common-sense issue, but not a legislative issue.

For their own safety, motorcyclists must know and practice the rules of the road. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation lists on its website five key messages for riders:

n Get trained and licensed;

n Wear protective gear – all the gear, all the time – including a helmet manufactured to the standards set by the department of transportation;

n Ride unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs;

n Ride within your own skill limits;

n Be a lifelong learner by taking refresher rider courses.

Of course, all the helmets and safety classes in the world will not protect a motorcyclist from reckless automobile drivers. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has these tips for automobile drivers regarding motorcycles:

n Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections;

n Allow more following distance for motorcycles;

n 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;

n Don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

With a common-sense approach to motorcycle safety for riders and automobile drivers, we can reverse the trend of motorcycle-related fatalities in Illinois.

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