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Watch out for those motorcycles!

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Greg Peck
May 1, 2013

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and it doesn’t come a moment too soon. Motorcyclists have been out and about during the warm weather of recent days.

They’re risking life and limb on Wisconsin’s roads. Last year, accidents killed 116 motorcyclists statewide. That’s a 36 percent increase from the year before and the most deaths since the all-time high of 123 in 1979.

What’s going on? Well, motorcycles are popular, for one thing, and riders come in all ages. Safety is a constant concern, the state Department of Transportation says in a news release.

The DOT reminds “motorists to share the road and watch for motorcycles, especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes,” says Greg Patzer, manager of the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program. “Motorists often have difficulty with accurately judging the time, speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle. To prevent crashes, motorists should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they start to drive through an intersection or make a turn.”

Patzer says motorcyclists must make responsible decisions to reduce risks.

“Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride while impaired. They should always wear protective and conspicuous clothing and gear, including a helmet,” Patzer says. “...Tragically, 74 percent of the motorcyclists who died in crashes last year in Wisconsin were not wearing helmets.

“Riding a motorcycle also takes more physical skill and mental concentration than driving a car. Becoming a lifelong learner through formal training is critical to a rider’s safety.”

You can complain about motorcyclists not wearing helmets, but in Wisconsin the choice is theirs. You can also complain about motorcyclists with loud mufflers—and many area residents do howl about the noise. Many motorcyclists, however, will argue that loud mufflers help them be seen and stay safer.

I don’t ride a motorcycle. But I urge my fellow motorists to put away those cellphones and other driving distractions and focus on the task at hand. Doing so might help you avoid an accident, particularly with sometimes-hard-to-see motorcycles joining us on the roads.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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