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Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Awareness Month: Take care

By Staff | May 11, 2017

As May marks Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Awareness Month, motorcyclists are being asked to share the road in an effort to prevent traffic accidents, injuries and deaths on Florida’s roadways.

Last year, there were 10,297 motorcycle crashes and 6,580 bicycle crashes statewide, or more than 46 motorcycle or bicycle crashes daily, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. As a result, there were a total of 501 motorcycle fatalities and 133 bicycle fatalities in 2016.

“We are almost never on the road alone – we share it with vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians,” Terry Rhodes, the DHSMV’s executive director, said in a statement. “Learn your roles and responsibilities on the road and look out for one another to ensure everyone can ‘Arrive Alive.'”

In Cape Coral, there were 15 motorcycle crashes and one fatality during the first four months of this year. According to police officials, the numbers were the same during 2016 from January to April.

In terms of bicycles in the Cape, there were eight crashes and zero fatalities from January to April of this year. Those numbers have increased slightly from 2016, which had four crashes and zero fatalities.

“Our goal is to reduce crashes and fatalities,” Sgt. Don Donakowski, with the CCPD, said.

“We don’t like responding to those types of calls,” he added. “We don’t ever want to see that.”

Donakowski offered several safety tips for motorists, motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Drivers should look multiple times before changing lanes or turning, as well as when entering a road from a side street or parking lot. He noted that motorcycles and bicycles can be difficult to spot.

“They’re smaller objects, so sometimes they’re just hard to see on first glance,” Donakowski said.

Motorists should maintain a buffer zone between themselves and a motorcyclist.

“Make sure you’re giving the 10 feet per mile per hour,” he said.

Avoid following too closely behind a motorcycle.

Donakowski noted that the perception of speed and acceleration can be different.

“That’s something that needs to be brought to people’s attention,” he said.

Increase the buffer space if you encounter bad weather or bad road conditions.

“Use more caution on the roadways during inclement weather,” Donakowski said.

As for bicyclists riding in a bike lane, motorists must give them a 3-foot clearance.

“Again, they’re a smaller object on the road,” he said.

Driver should also be rested, check warnings on medications and avoid distracted driving.

“If you’re looking down at the phone, you’re not looking ahead at the roadway,” Donakowski said.

The DHSMV reported that motorcyclists under the age of 30 accounted for almost 30 percent of all motorcycle crashes in 2016. Almost 82 percent of all motorcyclists involved in a crash were men.

“It’s suggested you ride in numbers,” he advised motorcyclists. “This way you look bigger.”

Motorcycles must have their front headlight on at all times.

“It’s the law, even if you’re driving during the day,” Donakowski said. “That’s another safety thing.”

Motorcyclists should practice defensive driving and be aware of their surroundings.

“Riders always have to be aware,” he said.

“On multi-lane roads – changing lanes is a big thing,” Donakowski added.

Eyewear is required by law at all times; however, helmets are optional.

“We always suggest to wear a helmet,” he said.

According to the DHSMV, bicyclists ages 15-19 had the highest number of crashes. However, bicyclists ages 50-59 had the highest number of fatalities, with one-third killed in a crash in 2016.

Bicyclists who ride in the road should not ride against the flow of traffic.

“When you’re on the roadway, you are another vehicle on the roadway,” Donakowski said. “You need to travel in the same direction as the vehicles are traveling.”

If there is a bicycle lane, they must use it.

He pointed out that bicyclists should always use crosswalks to cross a street.

“Do not cut through the middle of the roadway,” he said.

As for safety equipment, children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet.

“Over 16, it’s their discretion,” Donakowski said, noting that wearing one is recommended.

For information, visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles online at: www.flhsmv.gov/. The public is can report dangerous drivers by dialing *FHP (*347).