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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has declared May “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month”, a national safety initiative with a focus on getting motorists and motorcyclists to “share the road” with one another. The initiative is aimed at making motorcycle safety an issue that all motorists, and not just motorcyclists, take seriously. Promoting the idea of mutual respect among all road users is aimed at continuing a trend started in 2009: the first year in over a decade that motorcycle deaths and injuries actually decreased.

NHTSA offers several guidelines that all drivers can follow in order to make our roads a safer place for motorcyclists:

  • Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle
  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane
  • Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting 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.
  • Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
  • Never drive while distracted.

Of courses, motorcyclists have responsibility for their own safety as well and can increase their safety by:

  • 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
  • Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers
  • Never driving while impaired.

States across the nation—including both Nebraska and Iowa—have signed on in support of the national safety initiative. So regardless of which side of the river you live on, we invite you to join in the effort this month and do your part to make our roads a safer place for everyone. Some state specific resources on motorcycle safety—including motorcycle operators manuals, safety statistics, and motorcycle safety course offerings—are available through the Nebraska and Iowa departments of transportation.

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