Editorial: Share the road, and do it safelyFree Access

Wind therapy. Freedom of the open road. Camaraderie with friends and a connection with nature. The thrill of the ride.

These expressions are often heard among motorcycle riders and are the main reasons spring brings returning riders to the road.

May is designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month for good reason. Statistics are hard to ignore. According to the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center, 2023 showed a slight decrease in motorcycle fatalities, with 65 deaths, but even one is too many. Factors leading to these fatalities remain the same from year to year — excessive speeds, impaired and distracted driving, lack of protective gear including helmets, unendorsed riders and limited experience or lack of training. Many of these factors can be managed by the motorcyclists themselves.

To help ensure every ride is safe and enjoyable, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a few simple rules for motorcyclists:

• Get properly trained and licensed. Take an MSF RiderCourse and obtain the appropriate motorcycle license endorsement from the state.

• Wear all the gear, all the time. Always wear a transportation department-compliant helmet and eye protection, as well as over-the-ankle boots, gloves, riding jacket and pants.

• Ride unimpaired by alcohol or drugs. Riding under the influence dramatically decreases a rider’s necessary skills, especially vision and judgment.

• Ride within your own skill limits and obey traffic laws. Every rider should know his or her personal limits, and never ride faster or farther than his or her abilities can handle.

• Be a lifelong learner by taking refresher RiderCourses. Riding skills are perishable, so take an occasional refresher course. No matter how often or how long you’ve been riding, there is always room to learn something new.

Motorcyclists can do a lot to improve their safety on the road. They should inspect their motorcycle’s controls, lights, fluids and tires before each ride. Be visible to other road users by wearing bright colors or reflective gear. Stay alert and watch for changing road conditions as it relates to traffic, road surfaces and the weather.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds us that motorcycle safety is an ongoing responsibility for all road users. Drivers should follow these tips to help promote motorcycle safety:

• Start seeing motorcyclists. Expect to see them during the warmer riding seasons.

• Look twice at intersections. Because of their narrow profile, motorcycles can easily be hidden in a car’s blind spots or appear to be farther away.

• Give them space and increase your following distance. Motorcyclists like a larger space cushion that gives them more time to react in traffic and tricky road conditions.

• Communicate your intentions and be predictable. Use your blinkers and brake lights so motorcyclists can predict your path of travel and act accordingly. Try to avoid sudden movements.

• Follow the rules of the road. Don’t run red lights or try to share lanes.

• Pay attention to your driving and drive without distractions. Stay off your phone.

• See more than the motorcycle. See the person under the helmet.

It’s time to share the road. Drivers and riders share the responsibility and need to work together to keep Minnesota roads safe this summer. Commit to safety and enjoy the ride.

Jackson County Pilot

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