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West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program Reminds Motorists to Look Twice, Save a Life

CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind all motorists that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The month of May brings warmer temperatures and the unofficial start of the summer road travel season with the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The GHSP reminds motorists, Look Twice, Save a Life. 
 Safe riding and driving practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. NHTSA reports that in 2020, there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, an increase from 2019 (5,044). In contrast, an estimated 82,528 motorcyclists were injured, a 2% increase from 83,814 motorcyclists injured in 2019. Motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14% of the total highway fatalities that year.
In West Virginia, there were 38 motorcyclist fatalities in 2020, up from 28 in 2019. 
Research also shows that motorcyclists are significantly overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities each year. In fact, in 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were 4 times more likely to be injured.
Drivers need to understand that a motorcycle rider has different safety challenges on the roadway because of the motorcycle’s size, visibility, and riding practices like downshifting and weaving to be able to anticipate and respond to motorcyclists’ behavior. Motorcycles are among the most vulnerable vehicles on the road, putting riders at greater risk of death and serious injury in a crash. 
“Due to a motorcycle’s smaller profile, it’s easy to misjudge their speed and distance from a vehicle,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcycles. Watch for turning motorcycles before you turn.”
Safety on the roadways requires that everyone do their part. While driving, please follow these tips to keep motorcyclists safe: Allow adequate following distance Always check your blind spotsBe cautious when passingDo not high beam motorcycles at nightDo not tailgate a motorcycleHelp keep riders safe in the dark by increasing your following distance and refrain from passingInform motorcyclists of your intention to turnMotorcycles cannot stop as quickly as a carRemember that motorcycles react more quickly than carsStay in your laneTake a second look at left turns and intersectionsWeather warning – bad weather can reduce your visibility
Motorcyclists need to take precautions as well, so they are as safe as possible. One of the primary contributing factors to motorcyclist fatalities is speeding. According to NHTSA, 34% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, compared to 22% for passenger car drivers, 16% for light-truck drivers, and 7% for large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders 25 to 29 years old involved in fatal crashes had the highest speeding involvement at 45%.
“First of all, the best advice I can give motorcyclists, whether new or experienced, would be to take a safety course,” said Mary Jarrell, GHSP Motorcycle Safety Training Coordinator. 
“Some people think that if they rode a dirt bike or bicycle as a kid, they can ride a motorcycle. Operating a motorcycle requires a great deal of knowledge, skill, and practice,” Jarrell continued. 
Jarrell shared the following tips to help motorcyclists be safe on our roads:Take a safety courseRide soberGet to know your motorcycle Wear proper motorcycle gear – a DOT-approved helmet is a mustInspect your motorcycle before each rideObey traffic laws, use signals, and obey the speed limitCheck the weather before leavingBe visible Be observant and watch for road hazardsStay a safe distance behind other vehicles
Jarrell added that grass clippings left on roadways can be especially dangerous for motorcyclists because the clippings can reduce the traction a motorcycle’s tires have on the road surface.
To learn more about motorcycle safety, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety.  For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.