Drive smart, ride smart as warm weather brings back motorcycle season

May is Motorcycle Safety Month. The APG Installation Safety Office offers motorcycle safety classes to Team APG personnel. | APG News file photo

Every year in the state of Maryland, 70 motorcyclists are killed in traffic crashes on average. An additional 1,400 riders and passengers are injured each year on motorcycles on Maryland roads.

Almost half of motorcycle crashes don’t involve another vehicle, according to police crash reports, and failure to control speed and impaired riding by motorcyclists are often factors in fatal crashes. Riders can control their risk with knowledge, skills, gear and the right attitude.

Motor vehicle drivers also contribute to a number of fatal motorcycle crashes each year – caused when drivers are inattentive, violate the motorcyclists’ right of way or drive impaired. In a crash between a car and a motorcycle, the car driver is more likely to be at fault than the motorcyclist, according to Maryland crash data. Save a life by looking twice for motorcyclists.

Motorcycle Safety Program

Maryland’s Motorcycle Safety Program includes education and training for motorcycle riders, awareness campaigns for motorists, and the enforcement of traffic laws for all road users. The MVA works as a part of the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Coalition to promote motorcycle safety across the State, and we need your help. Whether you are a driver or a rider, you can be part of the solution.

Motorcycles are vehicles and their riders have the same rights and privileges as anyone else on the roadway. But in crashes, a motorcyclist is six times more likely to be hurt than a car driver. Motorcycles are smaller than cars and trucks, and it can be harder to judge the speed and distance of an oncoming motorcycle. Violating a motorcyclist’s right of way in a crash that causes a serious injury could cost you three points and a $1,000 fine.

  • Yield the right-of-way to an oncoming motorcycle when turning left. Violating a motorcyclist’s right of way can result in a citation with significant penalties if you cause a serious injury. Look carefully for motorcyclists at intersections.
  • Look twice before changing lanes or merging into traffic. Use your mirrors and look over your shoulder to be sure it is safe before merging or changing lanes. Motorcycles can be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot or missed in a quick look due to their smaller size.
  • Give Riders plenty of space. Traffic, weather and road conditions require the motorcyclists to react and maneuver differently. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to maneuver and enough time for you to adjust.
  • Use care when driving near a group of motorcyclists. Motorcyclists participate in organized rides which can involve many motorcycles. Driving around these groups requires communication and patience. If you need to change lanes or reach an exit, signal your intention early and wait for the riders in the group to create a gap for you. Do not merge in between groups or riders unless there is enough space to do it safely.

Tips for riders

Get trained, get licensed. To operate a motorcycle in Maryland you are required to have a motorcycle license. A great way to obtain your motorcycle license is to complete the Basic Rider Training at one of the many motorcycle safety training centers across Maryland.

Gear up before you roll out. Wearing properly-fitting motorcycle-specific protective clothing can prevent serious injury in a crash. Over the ankle boots, gloves, a protective jacket and pants and a properly-fitted helmet with face shield or protective eyewear are all part of the full gear package. Choose riding gear that increases your visibility in traffic in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. Use bright colors and retro-reflective strips or decals, especially at night.

  • Make sure your bike is ready to go. Perform an inspection before every ride. Your tires are critical to your safety, so make sure they are in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Ride so you are seen. There is no one safe place to ride within a lane. Use lane positioning to be seen. Ride with your headlight on and consider using a modulating headlight or adding LED accent lighting.
  • Give yourself space and time to react. Allow space for emergency braking or for avoiding a crash. Make your lane moves gradually. Expect the unexpected and pretend that you are invisible to motorists.
  • Signal your intentions. Signal before changing lanes. Avoid weaving between lanes. Flash your brake light when you are slowing down and before stopping.
  • Be courteous and respect other road users. Being courteous, non-aggressive and cooperative can go a long way in reducing crashes.

Editor’s Note: Motorcycle riders should note that regulations related to riding a motorcycle on post are in addition to Maryland State laws. For more information about on-post motorcycle safety, classes or regulations, call Mike Allen at 410-306-1081.

By Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration