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Law enforcement warns motorists to watch out for motorcyclists

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By Sarah Bennett

As winter turns to spring, law enforcement officials are reminding motorists to be mindful of motorcyclists who typically hit the roadways when the weather warms.

Because of a motorcycle’s size in comparison to other vehicles, they are difficult to spot. Police add it is hard to judge the speed and distance of an oncoming motorcycle.

Nearly 40 percent of motorcycle wrecks involving another vehicle are caused by a passenger car turning left in front of a biker, according to the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety.

Virgil Willoughby, spokesman for the Elizabethtown Police Department, recalled three motorcycle fatalities that have occurred in the last five years in Elizabethtown, the most recent in 2011 on North Mulberry Street.

All of those fatalities, Willoughby said, involved a passenger car turning left in front of an oncoming motorcycle.

He encouraged motorists to look twice before turning and beware of inattention, which could cause a driver not to register another vehicle in his or her path.

“If you just glance, you’re going to cause some kind of incident,” he said.

Norman Chaffins, an accident reconstructionist and spokesman for Kentucky State Police Post 4, said in a wreck involving a motorcycle and a vehicle, the cyclist stands at the greatest risk.

“If there’s a wreck involving a motorcycle, there’s usually a serious injury or a fatality,” Chaffins said.

Motorcycles cannot stop like a car can, he said, and cyclists do not wear seat belts, which means they typically are ejected upon impact.

“If they’re not wearing a helmet, their chances of survival are slim,” Chaffins said.

Of the fatal collisions Post 4 reconstructionists work, he said the majority of motorcyclists were not wearing helmets when they were killed.

Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reported there were no motorcycle fatalities in 2012 in Hardin County.

Though there were no fatalities, KSP’s Public Affairs Branch reported 69 wrecks involving motorcycles in 2012 in Hardin County. Out of those wrecks, 42 operators and passengers were injured.

Chris Jessie, spokesman for KTC District 4 in Elizabethtown, said throughout the district’s 11-county area, there were seven motorcycle collisions resulting in eight fatalities in 2012. He listed Hart, Nelson, Marion, Taylor and Washington counties as the locations for those fatal wrecks.

According to the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, 52 percent of the 76 motorcyclists killed in 2012 on Kentucky roadways were not wearing helmets.

As of March 7, two motorcyclists have been killed in 2013, according to KOHS. Of those, one was not wearing a helmet.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.