May is Motorcycle Awareness Month

Warmer temperatures, more daylight and the call of the open road after a winter hiatus. The riding season begins.

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month! It isn’t just motorcyclists who are taking more trips come this time of year. Take a few extra moments to be courteous to all the various users sharing the road.

Start Seeing Motorcyclists image from motorcycle safety campaign created by Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center
Motorcycle safety campaign created by Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center - my previous employer.

Motorcycles are small, nimble and hard to see. Bicyclists are small, slow (comparatively) and quickly change direction. Cars and trucks are large and often “win” in a crash with other road users. Motorcycle Awareness Month serves as an annual reminder to drivers to take a moment to better look for motorcyclists (and non-motored bicyclists). Notice I didn’t say motorcycles. It is the humans on the bikes that truly matter. Motorcycles can be replaced. The mothers, sisters, wives, fathers, brothers, husbands and other important people in our lives are the ones behind the handlebars. Their lives are important and we drivers need to do what we can to avoid causing injury or worse to them.

Motorcycle crash statistics

Motorcycle Awareness Month is also directed at those of us sitting behind the handlebars. We can do a lot to improve our own safety. Here are the facts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2019, the most current year with compiled statistics.

  • 5,014 people died and 84,000 injured in motorcycle crashes in the United States.
  • 42 percent of deaths were in single-vehicle crashes – i.e. no cars or trucks in crash.
  • Alcohol was a contributing factor in nearly 30 percent of motorcyclists’ deaths.
  • Fatal motorcycle crashes that occurred at night were nearly three times more likely to involve alcohol.
  • Motorcyclists equaled three percent of all registered vehicles and 14 percent of traffic deaths.
  • Motorcyclists were six times more likely to be killed while riding than driving in a car.
  • Nearly two-thirds of motorcycle crashes occur in an urban area (more intersections than in rural areas).
  • Riders 55 years of age and older comprised 28 percent of fatalities – an increase from 22 percent in 2010.
  • Follow the link above to read the full NHTSA report on 2019 Motorcycle Traffic Safety Facts.
Motorcycle crash scene image from KOMO TV in Seattle, WA

Improving motorcycle rider safety

The numbers always come across as doom and gloom. The truth is that there are some basic things that we as riders can do to increase our safety: follow speed limits, wear helmets, get training and most of all DO NOT RIDE if you drink alcohol. The odds are already stacked against us, but if we compound those odds by speeding, drinking and not wearing helmets then the result is not good.

As much as we snarl inside our helmets at other drivers, it is us as riders who are responsible for making it home safely.

Drivers: please do take an extra moment to consciously look for a single oncoming headlight. Our lights are small and always on. It is easy to mistake them as being further away than they actually are. This is what causes the response of “I didn’t see ‘em” from drivers after a crash with a motorcycle.

Motorcyclists are often depicted as rough and tough thrill seekers. Some of that may be true. We are warm-blooded, caring humans under the helmet. Please know that we are good and we aren’t out to hurt anyone.

Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the drive. Please take a moment to remember May as Motorcyclists Awareness Month and train yourself to see motorcyclists. Riders: take it easy as you begin putting miles on your bike. Find a way to improve your riding and traffic perception skills every day.

Sean McDermott is the author of this article and owner of Nomadic Products LLC
Sean McDermott is the author of this article and owner of Nomadic Products LLC.

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