Manatee County roads continue to be dangerous places for motorcycle riders.
In the past week alone, two motorcyclists were seriously injured in collisions with turning vehicles, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports.
In an incident Wednesday, a motorcyclist was struck by a driver making a U-turn on Cortez Road.
Another crash occurred around 7:30 p.m. Friday when a driver in a Chevy van made a left turn in front of a motorcyclist traveling on State Road 70.
The driver left the scene with front-end damage to the van and has yet to be tracked down.
In a similar incident in September, a driver turned left onto 53rd Avenue East directly in front of an oncoming motorcycle. The motorcyclist, 26-year-old Floyd Laycock of Bradenton, died two days later.
The recent local crashes are examples of a common traffic scenario.
“When motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right-of-way,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.
Frequent motorcyclist deaths in Manatee County also reflect a statewide trend.
Florida had the most motorcycle fatalities of any state in 2016, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and preliminary numbers from 2017 show that it will once again rank as the most deadly place for motorcyclists.
It’s a top prize that nobody wants. So, what can drivers and motorcyclists do to make the roads safer for everyone who uses them? Here are some key safety tips to remember from national safety organizations.
Safety tips for drivers
“The vast majority of vehicles on the road are not motorcycles. They’re cars and vans and trucks,” the National Safety Council says. “It’s quite possible that as a driver you rarely think about motorcycles. This is a problem.”
Here are some of the top ways that motorists can reduce the likelihood of a collision with a motorcycle, according to the NHTSA’s 2019 “Share the Road” campaign:
- “If you are turning at an intersection and your view of oncoming traffic is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, sufficiently scan for all roadway users (pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists alike), and proceed with caution,” NHTSA says. “Slow your decision-making process down at intersections.”
- In areas of congested traffic, modify your speed to match that of other vehicles.
- Allow motorcyclists to use the full width of the lane. “Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving,” NHTSA says. “Share the road, but not the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.”
- Be aware that the size of a motorcycle can cause drivers to misjudge its speed and distance.
- “Size also counts against motorcycles when it comes to blind spots,” NHTSA says. Always check for motorcycles in your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.
- Always use your turn signals. “This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position,” NHTSA says.
- “Do not be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle — it may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off,” NHTSA says. “Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.”
- Allow a follow distance of three or four seconds when following a motorcycle. “This gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency,” according to NHTSA. Motorcycles are much more susceptible to road hazards than other vehicles.
All safety organizations stress that drivers remain alert, aware and distraction-free at all times. And always follow the old bumper sticker saying: “Look twice, save a life.”
Safety tips for motorcycle riders
The most recent data on motorcycle-involved crashes reveals some common factors in fatal accidents. Here are some of the leading safety issues for motorcyclists, according to NHTSA:
- Helmet use: “NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives in 2016. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 802 lives could have been saved.”
- Lack of license: 27% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were riding their vehicles without valid motorcycle licenses at the time of the collisions.”
Impaired riding: “In 2016, there were 4,950 motorcycle riders killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,259 (25%) were alcohol-impaired.”
- Speeding: “In 2016, 33% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding.”
Other safety tips from NHTSA and the National Safety Council:
Motorcyclists should make themselves as visible as possible. Factor in lane position, ride with headlights on during the daytime and wear brightly colored, reflective and protective clothing.
- Be aware of the dangers of “supersport bikes,” which have higher driver death rates than cruisers and standard bikes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Invest in an anti-lock braking system; it will prevent skidding if a hard brake is required.
- Stay up to date on motorcycle safety and take a refresher course when needed.
- Be aware that riding with a passenger requires considerably more skill.
- Drive defensively — especially at intersections.
- Watch for hazards like potholes, manhole covers, oil slicks, puddles, debris, railroad tracks and gravel.
- Be courteous; don’t weave in and out of lanes or ride on the shoulder or between lanes.
- Wear goggles, glasses or use a face shield that is ventilated to prevent fogging, and make sure it’s clear if riding at night.
Older riders and riders getting back into motorcycling after a long break are at a particular risk. Riders 50 and older made up 36% of all motorcycle fatalities in 2017, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Young or old, motorcycle riders should commit to a lifetime of learning new skills and brushing up on the old ones when necessary, NSC says.