Look Twice for Motorcycles

You may have noticed billboards and electronic highway signs recently that remind you to share the road and to look twice for motorcycles. As Rod Rice reports — the reason for the signs is that when a motorcycle and another vehicle collide, it is most often the driver of the other vehicle who is at fault.

Most of those collisions happen at intersections, or when changing lanes, and too many of them end up killing the motorcyclist.  In fact, TXDot says motorcyclists accounted for 14% of traffic fatalities in Texas in 2009: 434. That’s why state officials are taking a two-pronged approach to motorcycle safety.  One focuses on car and truck drives. Those are the Share the Road and Look Twice for Motorcycle signs.

John Young runs the Department of Public Safety’s Motorcycle Safety Unit.  He says the “look twice” message for drivers is vitally important because…

“Motorcycles are hard to see in traffic.  This is why most crashes that involve fatalities occur at intersections from a car pulling out in front of the motorcyclist, typically making a left turn in front of the motorcyclist.”

Young says if he had only one piece of advice for drivers it would be that there are motorcycles are very hard to see.

“If you’ll envision for a moment you’re at an intersection about to make a left turn, you’re waiting on a car and it passes and you look again and your mind tells you there’s nothing there. If you look twice, you may notice there’s a motorcycle somewhat camouflaged in the background.  So, you must look and make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles because they’re not easily seen.”

The burden for motorcycle safety also must be borne by the motorcyclist. The Motorcycle Operator Training program is the state’s second prong to safer highways. Since 2009, everyone who wants a motorcycle endorsement for their driver license must take the course.  It’s a 16 hour course over a weekend.

“We provide the motorcycles, the helmets and all the course materials.  Really all that’s asked of the student is to be properly dressed with long pants, boots or shoes that cover the ankle, long sleeves and some eye protection.”

 A third of the course is in the classroom and the rest on motorcycles.  You don’t have to know anything about riding to take the course, but research shows that completing it gives the rider the equivalent of two years riding experience compared to someone who is a self-taught rider. John Young says it is a huge safety advantage for new and experienced riders.

“What brought me into the world of motorcycle safety training and education: I rode for over 25 years with no formal training.  When I did get training I thought, ‘wow, this is so great. I have to share this with other people.’ And I was one of those who was self-taught, I didn’t want to go to any training, because my mind set was what could they teach me.”

There is an advanced course for experienced riders. It is a one day riding course. To find out where courses are offered in your area do a search for “DPS motorcycle”.

But even with motorcycle training, the vast majority of drivers on the road are not on motorcycles and DPS’s John Young says the message for them is simple.

“We have a lot of motorcycles out there and we have to look twice for them.”

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