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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Victor Parr: Aware drivers are the key to fewer motorcycle accidents

Victor Parr

Hello class, my name is Mr. Parr, and today we will be talking about motorcycles. Ugh, you say! Those noisy beasts out there on the highways. For some of us motorcycle riders, this is what we consider an awareness method to show we are in the area.

We can look at some of the characteristics of motorcycles besides noise. They can be of multiple sizes and designs. Most are two wheeled, but the three wheeled (or trike) are being seen more often. In comparison, the motorcycle is smaller than a car and is more difficult to determine how fast they are traveling and how far away they are. This is disastrous, especially in intersections where it is said that 40 percent of motorcycle accidents occur.

Some statistics of motorcycle accidents provided by a 1981 HURT report and from the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority show that 75 percent of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. The motorcyclist is partially at fault 9 percent of the time, but totally at fault 25 percent of the time. You can see, we are not perfect. But, a whopping 66 percent of the time the motorist either fails to yield the right of way or is distracted.

So, now we ask ourselves, “Who rides motorcycles?” Believe it or not, it is not just a bunch of gang members or individuals out on sport bikes popping wheelies or zipping in and out of traffic. There are many professional riders out there also. Maybe one of the riders in a group is a doctor. A big plus if a medical emergency happens. Maybe another rider is a lawyer and not a benefit if involved in an accident and you are at fault. Riders are young and old, male and female, and wish to have a safe journey.

Along with the motorcyclist’s constant vigilance of the traffic around them, they are scanning the road for any type of road hazard that may be a disaster for them. These involve chuck holes, shredded tires, railroad crossings, and large or small animals. They are also watching for rocks and their smaller cousins – sand or gravel. All this is requiring a large amount of concentration. This is another reason we appreciate the driving public’s awareness of us on the highways.

As I mentioned earlier, intersections are an area of great concern to the motorcyclist. Not only are we concerned about traffic that makes a turn directly in front of us, but there are drivers who make right- or left-hand turns from a stop and either pull in front of the motorcyclist or fail to accelerate to avoid a rear-end collision.

A. Left turn across traffic

B. Right turn at intersection

C. Left turn at intersection

Many of these actions cause accidents. Most times the motorist states that they did not see the motorcyclist. Again, this could be due to the characteristics of the motorcycle. We, as motorcyclists, try to remedy this fact by having more lights on our motorcycles, bright colors of our attire and even helmets that are more easily seen.

Blind spots are a driver’s problem that is probably of least concern. These are areas that are hidden from the driver’s view even when using the vehicle’s mirrors. We take the door posts of a vehicle as an example. We also check our side mirrors, but don’t see the vehicle right next to us – unless we look over our shoulder. Maybe we have objects hanging from our rear-view mirror that blocks the view of a motorcyclist or even a pedestrian. Have you considered what dangers a pet may present? The big dog’s head grabbing air as it hangs its head out a window or a pet resting in a sedan’s rear window?

No matter how hard we try to concentrate on driving, there are so many distractions that take over our primary goal of safe driving. Although we are told that talking and/or texting are one of the major issues while driving, we are informed that a survey shows that 62 percent of distracted drivers is due to daydreaming. Lawmakers have recognized the use of phones while driving and have passed laws against that practice in many states.

We ask ourselves what we can do to help.

A. Keep multitasking to a minimum

B. Think motorcycles and actively look for them

C. Share the road – signal, check blind spots

D. Give motorcycles more space

E. Allow at least 4 seconds – bad conditions require more

F. Be especially cautious at intersections and driveways

The month of April is “distracted driving awareness” month and the month of May is designated as “motorcycle awareness” month. Coincidence? I think not. Please share the road and help us survive the ride.

Victor Parr is Motorist Awareness Coordinator of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Washington District.