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Live free, ride safe

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
May 21, 2008
— Kevin Puckett recalls the incident like it was yesterday.

He was riding his motorcycle in downtown Beloit last year when the driver of a truck turned in front of him.


The impact knocked over Puckett and his 900-pound bike, scraping the concrete for 15 feet.


“The driver either didn’t look or didn’t see me,” said Puckett, a motorcyclist of 16 years.


Puckett wasn’t hurt. His motorcycle had a broken mirror, and he found two gouges in the back of his helmet.


“Because I had all the proper gear on I wasn’t injured at all,’’ he said.


Puckett, of Roscoe, Ill., is among more than 4.2 million U.S. motorcyclists emerging this spring like May flowers.


Motorcycles continue to increase in popularity, according to the state Department of Transportation. Nearly 465,000 Wisconsin residents have motorcycle licenses or permits, and more than 322,000 motorcycles are registered in the state.


Last year, 110 motorcycle drivers and passengers were killed in Wisconsin crashes, up from 93 deaths in 2006. More than 2,600 motorcyclists were injured in crashes last year.


Motorcycles compete with other vehicles for space on the road. Last year, more than 1,000 passenger vehicles were involved in crashes with motorcycles, said Don Lyden, safety research analyst with the state Bureau of Transportation Safety.


In an effort to make that number smaller and in observance of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Puckett has advice for four-wheeled motorists:


-- Be diligent in looking for motorcycles at intersections.


“Drivers turn left in front of us because they don’t see us, even though they look both ways,’’ said Bob Rosenbaum, Edgerton, who is the motorist awareness coordinator for the local Gold Wing chapter.


-- Make sure to check your “blind spot” when changing lanes.


“We’ve been cut off too many different times,” Puckett said.


-- Avoid distractions while driving.


“Cell phone usage and other distractions cause too many accidents,’’ Puckett said.


-- Avoid tailgating.


“It’s very harrowing when you’re (riding) on two wheels and somebody comes close behind you,’’ Rosenbaum said.


“Allow a three-second interval,” Puckett said. “It allows more reaction time.”


TO LEARN MORE

Chapter A of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association was founded in 1981, making it the oldest chapter in Wisconsin.


It welcomes all motorcyclists—not just Gold Wing Honda bikers—and has 75 active members who live in Rock, Walworth and Green counties in Wisconsin and Winnebago County in Illinois.


The chapter, which meets monthly at Culver’s, Newville, provides continuing education through these courses:


-- Experienced rider skills refresher course.


-- Pulling a trailer behind your motorcycle.


-- Riding in a group.


-- Road captain leading rides.


-- Motorcycling for the mature rider.


-- Motorcycle crash scene response.


In addition, the Gold Wing Road Riders Association offers a Rider Education Program that focuses on:


-- Increasing rider knowledge and safety.


-- Accident prevention.


-- Improving the public image of motorcyclists.


MORE ONLINE

Visit www.gwrra-wia.org where you’ll find information about the Gold Wing Road Riders Association’s scenic rides, restaurant runs, picnic rides, campouts and CPR/first aid workshops.


Chapter A of the association also offers tour riding, charity runs, parades, ice cream socials and rider education seminars.


At the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, contact Ron Thompson, motorcycle safety program manager, at (608) 266-7855 or ron.thompson@dot.state.wi.us.



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