It's finally getting warmer in northeast Indiana, and that means it is motorcycle season. You've undoubtedly seen the reminders not to blow grass clippings onto the road as it can make traction difficult for motorcycles – already a challenge with this month's seemingly always-wet pavements.
Now, just in time for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and Indiana University Public Policy Institute have released their annual crash fact sheet for 2018.
First, the good news: Motorcycle deaths in Indiana fell to 112 in 2018 from 147 in 2017. And the state's five-year trend for motorcycle crashes – and resulting injuries and deaths – is down. That may mean the repeated reminders to “Share the Road” are registering. But there's still plenty of progress to be made.
There are more than 230,000 registered motorcycles in Indiana and almost 416,000 drivers with a motorcycle endorsement on their license, according to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Unfortunately, data shows more than half of the motorcyclists who crashed in 2018 didn't have a driver's license or a motorcycle endorsement, said Will Wingfield, communications director for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
Ride Safe Indiana, a program of the BMV, hopes to change that by providing both entry-level and advanced-skills motorcycle training at locations around the state. There are at least five state-certified locations in Fort Wayne. Heather King, riding academy manager at Harley Davidson of Fort Wayne, says it offers the Friday night through Sunday course every weekend throughout the summer. Nine students are in this weekend's session, paying $299 for both written instruction and two days of practical exercises on a riding track.
Improving the skills of motorcyclists can save lives. More than half (55%) of Indiana motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle, and the driver of the other vehicle was at fault about 58% of the time. That means the motorcyclist was at fault almost 42% of the time.
Wingfield said common driver mistakes include unsafe backing, driving distracted or impaired, following too closely, not allowing motorcyclists the full lane width, and failing to check twice at intersections or when merging with traffic or changing lanes.
Speeding, following too closely, improper passing and disregarding signs or signals are some of the most common unsafe actions by motorcyclists, he said.
Motorcycles are involved in fewer than 2% of crashes in Indiana, the institutes found, but make up nearly 13% of the state's traffic deaths. We can do better.