Share the road and perspective

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Editorial: Oct. 14, 2011

The issue: Motorcycle safety
Our view: All drivers have responsibility to each other

Whether you drive a motorcycle or an automobile, you have a responsibility to anticipate the hazards and reactions of other drivers.

Motorcyclists on Kentucky highways must wear eye protection and, if they are younger than 21 or still learning, a safety helmet. The motorcycle must have a rearview mirror and a seat and footrests for any passenger. A list of on-highway motorcycle equipment requirements, compiled earlier this year by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, shows most other states also have these requirements.

Many states require more. For example, 24 states require motorcyclists to use daytime headlights, allowing some exceptions for older models. Sixteen have restrictions on headphones and 18 states have some turn signal requirements.

It makes sense for motorcyclists to use lights and signals.

Even a good driver, constantly scanning the surroundings, is more likely to see a bright, flashing turn signal than an outstretched arm. And daytime lights have been the solution to other visibility issues. It’s logical to conclude daytime headlights would help make motorcyclists be seen.

The Governor’s Commission on Motorcycle Education and Safety focuses on two guidelines.

Always look twice for motorcycles. Motorists aren’t used to looking for motorcycles and motorcycles are about one-third the size of another car and simply more difficult to see. Things inside and outside the car, from a passenger to a bush, can block a motorist's view of a motorcyclist, especially if it’s just a quick glance, according to the commission. Most motorcycle crashes happen at intersections where a motorist is making a left-hand turn and motorists are especially encouraged to look twice there.

The other prominent recommendation is to share the road.

Motorcyclists are entitled to a full lane. They can change their position within that lane to make themselves more easily seen and to lessen the effects of wind, road debris and passing vehicles. Position changes are for a purpose, not to showboat, the commission states.

There are more than 94,000 motorcycle registrations in Kentucky, up more than 50 percent since 2002.

The education of motorists and motorcyclists alike should continue. As the popularity of motorcycle riding increases, the importance of those at the wheel and the handlebars understanding each other will increase, too.

Yes, accidents are going to remain a part of our lives on the road. The deadly consequences of a crash were seen recently on U.S. 62 on Elizabethtown's east side.

Regardless of what that investigation turns up, Kentuckians no longer should cite carelessness or ignorance as an excuse. All vehicle operators have a responsibility to educate themselves, show some courtesy and caution on the road and use all the tools at their disposal to keep it safe.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.