COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - May is Motorcycle Awareness Month and the South Carolina Highway Patrol is urging drivers and riders alike to take a few simple steps to avoid deadly collisions.
This week begins the 2010 Cruisin' the Coast Myrtle Beach Bike Week (May 7-16) with the Atlantic Beach Bike following (May 27-31). In 2009, three motorcyclists died in collisions, according to SCDOT. As of May 3, 21 motorcyclists have died statewide compared to 31 at this time last year.
Motorists are urged to be especially cautious in and around areas where large numbers of bikers will be present, but also throughout the state where bikers will be passing through on their way to the beach. One cause for concern each year stems from bikers traveling in groups. Troopers report seeing bikers take more risks such as running red lights and speeding to keep up with their groups, often leading to collisions.
"As more motorcyclists get on the highways to enjoy the warm weather, we want to raise awareness among motorists," said Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster Jr. "It's absolutely critical that motorists make visual checks for motorcycles by monitoring mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections. Pedestrians and bicyclists should also scan for motorcyclists who might be hidden by other traffic."
During bike weeks in recent years, the majority of the collisions occurred during daytime hours and in good weather conditions. Each year, collisions usually follow a similar pattern and are typically caused by distracted driving:
- failing to yield to right of way – either on the part of the motorcyclist or vehicle driver;
- vehicle and motorcycles making improper lane change;
- motorcycles following too closely/inattention resulting in running into other vehicles and motorcycles.
The Highway Patrol strongly encourages the use of appropriate safety gear including helmets. Helmets are required for riders under 21 by South Carolina law. It's also important for riders to ensure their motorcycles are being properly maintained i.e. checking tire pressure, tread, brakes and fluid levels.
- Remember, the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane;
- Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections;
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;
- Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed;
- Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don't tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
- Never drive while distracted.
- Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions;
- Wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet;
- Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it;
- Combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;
- Using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity; and
- Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers.
- Never driving while impaired.