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The Scoop

File | The Journal Gazette

Drivers urged to ‘share the road’ with motorcycles

Statement issued Thursday by the Fort Wayne Police Department:

Help keep our roadways safe by looking out for motorcyclists.

With the early onset of warmer weather, motorists may not be accustomed to the increased motorcycle traffic on our roadways. The City of Fort Wayne Police Department reminds all motorists to share the road.

Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes. Size and maneuverability have made motorcycles a popular form of transportation for many. The downside is that these features are also what make the effort to increase motorist awareness so necessary. Motorcycles are smaller and provide less protection than automobiles, making riders less visible and more susceptible to injury in the event of a collision.

Motorists can help protect the safety of motorcyclists by simply using safe driving practices and obeying traffic signs and signals. While distracted driving, tailgating, and following too closely can result in a crash for any roadway user, motorcyclists are at even greater risk. In fact, nearly 55 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes with another vehicle last year were caused by a failure to yield or following too closely.

Motorcyclists also have a responsibility to keep themselves safe on the road. The most important safety precaution a rider can take is to see and be seen. Motorcyclists should find ways to make themselves more visible. Whether holding the handlebars or the steering wheel, accidents can often be deterred just by being seen.

Motorists can safely “share the road” with motorcycles by:

• Allowing motorcyclists the full lane width—never try to share a lane;

• Always checking mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;

• Signaling your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;

• Waiting to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed. Motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off.; and

• Allowing for a greater following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. Motorcyclists need enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

In the first half of March alone (through March 15, 2012), the City of Fort Wayne Police Department has investigated:

• Three (3) automobile versus motorcycle collisions; the most recent wherein the passenger/rider of the motorcycle died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

• One (1) automobile versus moped collision;

• One (1) automobile versus bicycle collision;

• Four (4) automobile versus pedestrian collisions.

Motorists Asked to Watch Out for Pedestrians

Motorists must also take care and be observant of pedestrians crossing the street or walking along the side of the road on sidewalks. Drivers should also be mindful of children walking to and from school and bus stops in the morning and afternoon. The number of children on the streets and sidewalks is particularly high between 6 and 9 a.m. and 2:30 and 5 p.m. Again, with the warmer weather upon us, motorists should be mindful of children at play and on bicycles in residential areas and near parks.

Motorists should:

• Watch for pedestrians at all times, particularly at intersections and in crosswalks.

• Give pedestrians the right of way.

• Slow down and be alert in residential areas and near schools.

• Reduce distractions inside the car, including cell phones, and focus on the road and surroundings.

Pedestrians should also practice safe habits and watch for vehicles as they cross the street, even at controlled intersections and crosswalks.

Pedestrians should also:

• Cross at a corner when possible and make eye contact with drivers before crossing into their path.

• Watch for cars turning or backing up.

• Look left-right-left before crossing and continue to look while crossing, and continue to check for traffic in all directions, especially for vehicles turning ‘right-on-red’.

• Walk on sidewalks or paths. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.

• Wear light-colored clothing or jackets with reflective material or carry a flashlight or other reflective device.

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