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Motorcyclists and motorists share in safety awareness

By Staff | May 26, 2012

Look twice. Save a life.

The popular catchphrase associated with motorcycling can be found on everything from bumper stickers on vehicles, to signs in yards.

With May marked as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, authorities and biking enthusiasts ask that motorists stay alert and share the road.

“It’s all about awareness out there,” Wayne Cerra, president of ABATE of Florida’s Southwest Chapter, said. “The reason it’s important is we ride.”

“We just want people to share the road,” he said.

Gov. Rick Scott, joined by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, has proclaimed May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

Cape Coral’s mayor will do the same Sunday at the local ABATE’s meeting.

“I think it’s great,” Cerra said. “We love when we can get elected officials to recognize us. We’re not the only one out there, we’ve got people backing us.”

According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 7,484 motorcycle crashes in 2010 – a 10 percent drop from the year before. Three hundred fifty motorcyclists were killed, along with 33 riders.

Of the motorcycle passengers who died, four were male – 88 percent were female. Of the motorcyclists killed, 10 were female – 97 percent were male.

Rider injuries totaled 725, while motorcyclist injuries came in at 6,686.

In Lee County, there were 11 motorcycle fatalities in 2010 – three fewer than the year before. There were 161 injuries, compared to 172 in 2009.

Lt. Greg Bueno, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, reported that the department has investigated 27 motorcycle crashes in Lee since Jan. 1. Twenty-two of those crashes, or 81 percent, occurred during the daylight.

He offered the following safety tips for motorcyclists:

n Wear bright reflective colors and appropriate gear.

n Inspect your motorcycle before each ride.

n Plan your route in advance.

n Drive alert.

n Abide all traffic laws; refrain from exhibitions of speed and acceleration.

Bueno suggested some tips for motorists, as well:

n Always allow motorcyclists a full lane width; never try to share a lane.

n Check for motorcycles in mirrors and blind spots before changing course of direction.

n Do not tailgate motorcycles; allow increased following distance.

Cerra said one of the biggest dangers that motorcyclists face is distracted driving. He urged motorists to put down their phones and not text and drive.

“They’re not paying attention,” he said. “They’re killing us, literally.”

Motorists are reminded to check at least twice for motorcycles nearby.

“Take that extra second to take another look,” Cerra said, adding that it increases the odds a motorcyclist will be seen. “Look, look and look again.”

For motorcyclists, he urged them to always obey the speed limit.

“Keep your speed down,” Cerra said.

When riding as a group, do not run red lights – stay together.

“When we’re riding together, we stay in a group and stay visible,” he said. “We don’t want cars getting in between the bikes.”

Wearing protective gear and making one’s self visible is important. Cerra suggested adding LED lights or loud pipes to a bike to create presence.

“The more lights, the better,” he said, adding that drivers can hear him coming when he rides one of his bikes. “Loud pipes do save lives.”

Wearing bright colors also helps make a rider more visible.

Protective gear includes proper footwear, gloves, pants and some form of eye protection. Flip-flops, sandals and high heels are no-nos, Cerra said.

“I wear jeans and boots when I ride,” he said. “If you’re wearing protective gear, you’re going to protect your skin.”

Cerra explained that a motorcyclist going 30 to 45 mph before crashing only needs to skid 15 to 20 feet before the skin on his or her hands is gone. A pair of gloves offers a rider protection for about 100 feet before it shreds.

Florida is one state out of 31 that is helmet-free, so it is up to the rider.

However, riders age 20 and younger and riders not covered by an insurance policy that provides for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries that result from a motorcycle crash are required by state law to wear a helmet.

The law also requires motorcycles to have foot pegs for passengers.

In an effort to promote motorcycle safety, Fort Myers Harley-Davidson is holding a free safety clinic today from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The services and motor clothes departments will provide information on a variety of topics.

“Just so we can put a focus on it (motorcycle safety),” Sheila Corbin, a spokeswoman for the dealership, said of why it is holding the event.

“It shouldn’t just be the month of May people are thinking about it,” she said.

The services department will talk about items that can be added to a motorcycle to provide additional safety, like LED lights. It also will cover inspections before each ride, checking tire pressure and other issues.

“Different things that you should look at before you ride,” Corbin said.

The motor clothes department will go over basic and high-visibility gear.

“You can protect yourself and your body by choosing to wear a helmet – choosing to wear leather,” she said.

Another safety tip Corbin offered motorists – use caution when wet.

“The roads are the most dangerous right after a rain because the oil in the road comes out,” she said.

For those driving on four wheels, never whip out in front of a bike.

“Motorists just need to aware that motorcycles don’t stop on a dime as a car would,” she said, adding that they should think of them as semitrailers.

Fort Myers Harley-Davidson is located at 2160 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.

For more information, contact the dealership at (239) 275-4647.