A viral video and a tragic accident serve as safety reminders

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A television station in Austin, Texas, featured an interesting video in a recent newscast; the station has also posted the video on its website. The clip was taken by the driver of a motorcycle “lane splitting” through traffic. The driver posted the video to his Facebook page, the station reported, with the caption, “Catch me if you can.”

A few days later, on another Texas road a few hundred miles away, the driver of an SUV plowed into a motorcycle. The SUV had failed to yield the right of way to the motorcycle. The 27-year-old motorcyclist died of his injuries a few hours later.

The two incidents carry an important message: Motorcyclists and motorists share the responsibility of sharing the road.

State law is silent on lane splitting — the practice of weaving in and out of traffic, riding between lanes of cars — but safety advocates are not. Motorists complain that motorcycles come out of nowhere at high rates of speed, and motorcyclists complain that motorists simply do not look for motorcycles.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, it can never hurt to repeat a few safety tips. This is by no means a comprehensive list; we merely want to give everyone on the road something to think about and a taste of the important information they can learn in motorcycle safety classes.

Motorcycle riders should ride within their skill level. Not everyone, for example, is comfortable riding in heavy traffic. That takes practice. It’s also important that riders know their motorcycles. Riders may be surprised by how powerful their motorcycles are, and they may not be up to managing that power in certain circumstances.

Riders should wear appropriate clothing — reflective gear, heavyweight clothing that will protect the rider in a fall — and a helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some helmets are smaller and trendy, but they do not provide adequate protection from the elements or in an accident.

For their part, motorists should not talk on the phone or text while driving. They should also remember that motorcycles may fit neatly into a car’s blind spot. A driver should look over his shoulder and check his mirrors when changing lanes. And, speaking of mirrors, motorcycles really may be closer than they appear in the mirror. Their smaller size can trick a driver into thinking they are father away or moving more slowly than they really are.

Sources: 

The Press Enterprise, “PUBLIC SAFETY: Campaign revs up on motorcycle safety,” Brian Rokos, Feb. 10, 2014

My Fox Austin-KTBC, “CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Motorcyclist speeds through San Antonio traffic, then posts to Facebook,” Feb. 12, 2014

Odessa American, “Motorcyclist dies in 338 wreck,” Feb. 18, 2014 

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