Watch Out for That Hog in the Road!
May is National Motorcycle Awareness Month
For over 100 years, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been referred to as “hogs.” Although you may assume that this nickname has something to do with the size or sound of their motorcycles, the true origins of the nickname are rooted in racing.
In the years leading up to World War I, Harley riders dominated the sport of motorcycle racing. They continued to come out on top, taking the checkered flag at board tracks and dirt tracks throughout the early 1920s. It was during this time that race team member Ray Weishaar acquired a pet piglet, which was quickly adopted as the team’s mascot. A tradition soon began of riding a victory lap after each win with the pig, whose name was Johnny, sitting on the gas tank of the winning race bike.
Did you also know that May is National Motorcycle Awareness Month? This week’s blog post is personal for me as I have been riding motorcycles since I was four years old. My adult son, my father, and many close friends all ride. With warmer weather, it’s time to remind everyone to be on the alert and to share the road with motorcyclists.
Distracted driving has been on the rise as we discussed during last month’s blog “Distracted Driving: A Split Second Could Change Your Life Forever.” Read that post here. Distracted driving could mean the difference between seeing a motorcyclist or not when preparing to change lanes. I can’t tell you how many times I have had cars run me into the next lane or be halfway across the line before they realized I was there.
Share the Road
It always amazes me the number of drivers I see on their cell phone and not paying attention. A very close friend of mine and his wife were on their bike several years ago riding around in the town I live in and enjoying a beautiful summer day. A driver, not paying attention, ran a light and hit them broadside. Neither of them remembered much about the wreck as they regained consciousness in the hospital. While he still rides, she does not, and both still suffer from health issues (mental and physical) related to the accident. Don’t let one text change anyone’s life forever!
According to TxDOT, of the 7,481 motorcycle crashes in Texas that occurred in 2020, 1,856 motorcyclists were seriously injured and 482 were killed. Officials say that despite less traffic on the road in 2020 and a 2% reduction in motorcycle crashes, they are alarmed by a 17% increase in Texas motorcycle fatalities compared to 2019. On average, a motorcyclist is killed in a crash on Texas roads every day, and according to TxDOT, motorcyclists account for 12% of all traffic fatalities statewide.
More than half of fatal motorcycle crashes result from collisions with other vehicles. Drivers simply don’t see the motorcycle or misjudge its distance and speed. The small size of motorcycles can make them appear farther away when they’re actually closer. The combination of congested roadways, distracted driving, and the difficulty of seeing motorcycles in traffic has led to many preventable fatalities each year. While we only talked about Texas above and statistics vary state to state, the message remains the same: Watch out for motorcycles!
I can hear some of you saying, “But those crazy people on bikes blow by me doing 100 mph! They are the unsafe ones!” Partially true yes, there are those riders out there, and all riders need to take precautions and be aware of their surroundings as well. For example, not riding in a driver’s blind spot or splitting lanes are two important practices for all riders. If you don’t know what “splitting lanes” means, that is the practice of riding a motorcycle between lanes or rows of slow moving or stopped traffic moving in the same direction. While legal in some states like California, splitting lanes is illegal in Texas.
How You Can Help Protect Motorcyclist
Let’s look at few safety tips that drivers can follow to protect motorcyclist and prevent crashes:
- Take extra care when making a left turn. It’s safest to let the motorcycle pass to avoid turning in front of the rider.
- Pay special attention at intersections. Nearly one in three motorcycle fatalities happens at a roadway intersection.
- Give driving your full attention. Even a momentary distraction, such as answering a phone call or changing the radio station, can have deadly consequences.
- Look twice when changing lanes. Check mirrors, check blind spots, and always use turn signals.
- Give motorcyclists room when passing them. Move over to the passing lane and don’t crowd the motorcyclist’s full lane.
- Stay back. If you’re behind a motorcycle, always maintain a safe following distance. When a motorcyclist downshifts instead of applying the brake to slow down, it can catch drivers off guard since there are no brake lights to signal reduced speed.
- Slow down. Obey posted speed limits and drive to conditions.
My son and I are blessed to be able to spend a lot of father/son time on our bikes and going on trips together and with friends. Remember, always check, and double check your mirrors. There is a husband, wife, father, mother, son, or daughter on that motorcycle getting some wind therapy and enjoying life.
Picture above is my son and I on a recent trip motorcycle trip to the Talimena Scenic Drive.
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