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ISSUE: Motorcycle safety
OUR VIEW: The responsibility is everyone's
In 2011, 715 people lost their lives on Kentucky roadways, according to the Kentucky Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Of those 61 were motorcyclists including 34 not wearing helmets. The previous year, national statistics show 4,502 people died in crashes involving motorcycles.
Although the market for motorcycles in the U.S. declined in 2009 because of the recession, sales numbers were back up during the first quarter of 2011 thanks, in large part, to retiring Baby Boomers. The average age of riders is inching upward, with more and more riders getting back on a bike or becoming a first-time motorcyclist in their 50s and 60s.
Soaring gasoline prices also are contributing to increased ridership. The average miles per gallon achieved on two wheels hovers around 56. Broaden the definition of “motorcycle” to include a class of Vespa-like scooters, and the average fuel economy is 85 mpg.
Any two-wheeled mode of transportation is at a higher risk in traffic with automobiles. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of all motorcycle collisions are caused when a passenger vehicle does not yield right of way to the rider. Motorcycle crashes are statistically more likely to occur on weekends or holidays and in many cases there is alcohol involved.
Kentucky’s adult motorcycle riders enjoy the freedom of not wearing a helmet, which most expect would translate into more fatalities. When comparing statistics from “helmet” law to “non-helmet” law states, the death rate are similar.
Some facts don’t change. More than 70 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes that involve two vehicles were front-end collisions. Also, 41 percent of these crashes happen when the vehicle is turning left and the motorcycle is traveling straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle. Motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to die than occupants of a motor vehicle in traffic crashes.
So what do all of these statistics really say? Everyone needs to be more aware and more responsible for each other’s safety.
Motorcyclists have the responsibility of riding defensively, not to take anything for granted, wear a helmet and pay attention when traveling through intersections or passing a vehicle.
Vehicle drivers need to remember there are more and more motorcycles on the road today and with gasoline prices continuing to rise that number will grow even larger. Motorcyclists have the same rights to the road as a car, so give them space and look for them.
If you’re a new rider, haven’t ridden in a long time or maybe you just want to minimize your risk of injury, you have options in Hardin County.
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College offers a three-day educational course. The Kentucky Driving School offers training for motorcyclists and training materials are available from the circuit clerk’s office inside the standard operator’s manual.
Road tests for motorcycle licenses become more stringent beginning May 1. A four-part test developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation soon will replace the present skills test. To acquire a license, bikers will be required to demonstrate a left turn and stop, cone weave and right turn from a stop, a quick stop and obstacle swerve.
Motorcycle safety is something that we all need to give more attention in order to make Kentucky’s roads safer.
Remember a person on a motorcycle is someone’s best friend, relative, neighbor, husband, wife or child. Most of all, the biker is someone that somebody depends on and loves.
Let’s all do our part to prove that motorcycle safety can improve.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.