Drivers urged to share the road, riders urged to get licensed
More than a half million Wisconsin residents have a motorcycle license or permit, and many of them have already started this year’s riding season. As motorcycles continue to grow in popularity among men and women of all ages, safety is a constant concern. Last year, 73 motorcycle riders and passengers died in Wisconsin traffic crashes.
“May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to remind drivers to share the road and watch for motorcycles, especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes,” says Greg Patzer, manager of the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program (WMSP). “Drivers can easily misjudge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle because of its smaller dimensions. To prevent crashes, drivers should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they proceed through an intersection or make a turn.”
To protect themselves and others on the road, motorcyclists are legally required to have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license. Nearly 42 percent of motorcyclists’ fatalities in 2013 involved riders who had not completed the safety training or skills test required to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on their license.
“Too many people have been riding for years without a valid motorcycle endorsement on their driver license,” Patzer says. “It’s a serious problem especially for those who have not ridden a motorcycle for several years and are beginning to ride again. Members of the motorcycling community are aging, and the average age of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash increased from 30 years old in 1992 to 48 in 2012.”
Motorcyclists can obtain their motorcycle endorsement in two ways:
- Pass a written test and a road test at a DMV service center.
- Successfully complete an eligible rider education course that waives the requirement for the DMV road test. More information about rider education courses—from beginner to advanced—is available online at www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/motorcycle.
To help promote rider education, the WMSP is teaming up with ABATE of Wisconsin, a motorcycle riders’ advocacy group, to distribute hang-tags that dealers can display on their motorcycles in showrooms urging riders to get endorsed.
In addition, the WMSP will use radio and TV public service announcements, billboards and social media to remind motorcycle riders and drivers to share the road. Electronic message signs on major highways this riding season will urge motorists to look twice for motorcycles.
Patzer emphasizes that motorcyclists need to make responsible decisions to reduce their risks of serious or fatal injuries. “Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride while impaired. They should always wear protective and conspicuous clothing and gear, including a helmet that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. Tragically, approximately two out of three motorcyclists who died in crashes from 2009 to 2013 were not wearing helmets.
Patzer concludes, “Now more than ever, we need well-trained and responsible motorcycle riders along with motorists who share the road and look twice for motorcycles to help reach the goal of reducing the number of preventable traffic deaths to Zero In Wisconsin.”