SEATTLE — May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month and as the temperatures increase, so do the number of motorcyclists out there on the roadways. For some, it’s been a long winter without much practice.
It can be a fine line between the destination and the danger.
Motorcycle fatalities have been on the rise an average of 10 percent a year over the last 20 years, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
And whether you’re on two wheels or four, our safety is in our hands. And experts say, oftentimes, that comes down to respect for others on the roads.
Cameron Ahern-Callahan is always watching his surroundings. And on two wheels, he’s had more close calls than he can count.
“Once every other week someone tries to sideswipe me. When I’m out on the road I just try to be aware of everything going on,” say Cameron.
While Cameron rides every day, other motorcyclists are hitting the roads after a long winter hiatus.
“Early in the season those riders are rusty and drivers aren’t used to seeing the bikes on the road and that really accounts for the early season accidents out there,” says Bret Tkacs, with Pugent Sound Safety.
Bret says the minimum requirement from Washington state is just having the endorsement test completed, which is a written test and a parking lot skills test, which just goes over basic manipulations and controls.
State Patrol Trooper Nick King says it’s all about time in the saddle.
“You need to take the time to learn safety behind riding a motorcycle,” says King.
He drives home the importance of protective and reflective clothing, along with a legal helmet.
“I know being a rider myself, when a motorcyclist goes down on the roadway involving another vehicle, it’s oftentimes serious to fatal,” says King.
So how do we all work together, sharing these roads, without driving each other mad?
Well, first and foremost, drivers must to look twice. Because of its narrow profile, a motorcycle can easily become hidden in a car’s blind spots. And because it’s smaller in size, it can often be hard to tell just how far away a motorcycle is, in relation to your vehicle.
One thing you always want to keep in mind, make sure there’s plenty of space between you and the motorcycle. You never want to tailgate a bike and the same goes for the person on the bike.
Drivers also need to get comfortable with sharing the road. Sometimes drivers just feel nervous when a motorcycle appears on the road, either next to your car or in front of your car. One good thing to keep in mind is the 4-second rule. Pick an object on the road, a tree or a house, and count the seconds between the time the motorcycle passes and you pass that object. That will give you a little bit of cushion to react to the unexpected.
“I tend to see more motorcyclists tailgating cars. If something were to happen, they may not be able to react in time," says Cameron.
Trooper King says motorcycles aren’t dangerous, but when you factor in the driver, the experience, other drivers on the roadway and even weather conditions, these outside factors can create potential for danger.
And when it comes to ensuring safety, sometimes taking the high road just boils down to respect.
“The person on that motorcycle is no different than you. It could be a mother, a father, brother or a sister. There is always room for improvement,” says Cameron.
And if you look at it that way, there’s room for all of us, whether you’re on four wheels or two.