Share the road

It seems we write about this topic every year — but with numbers like these, who can blame us? According to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than people in passenger vehicles and five times more likely to be injured, based on figures per mile traveled.

Last year in Maine, 21 motorcycle riders were killed in traffic crashes, the bureau said. While overall crashes have decreased since 2012, fatalities continue to increase. In fact, in the pages of this newspaper this week, there is a report from the National Transportation Safety Board about a motorcycle crash in Augusta last year that killed two riders. A quick search through Journal archives brings up dozens of crashes involving motorcycles that resulted in injury and death.

We have urged motorcyclists to be cautious, and other drivers, too. We have pushed for both motorcyclists and bicyclists to consider wearing helmets and other safety gear. And we have written story after story about motorcycle crashes, some with just a bike and others with larger vehicles involved.

The causes of these crashes are many. But so are the steps riders can take to protect themselves, and the steps other drivers can take to be on the lookout for more vulnerable — and often less visible — vehicles on the road.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the United Bikers of Maine to remind all motorists to share the road during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month this May.

The organizations offer the following advice:

Tips for motorists

Because vehicle drivers control a much larger machine, it is imperative that they keep close watch for motorcyclists who may be riding nearby. Following these tips might prevent a fatal crash with a motorcycle:

– Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has the same rights of the road as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.

– Always use a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.

– If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling, and the motorcyclist could have forgotten to turn it off. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.

– Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.

– Always allow more follow distance — three to four seconds — when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.

– Never drive distracted or impaired.

Tips for motorcyclists

At the same time, motorcyclists must take extra precautions to guard against drivers who may not see them. Motorcyclists should follow these tips to protect themselves and prevent a fatal crash with a larger vehicle:

– Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.

– Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.

– Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.

– Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.

– Ride in the middle of the lane where you will be more visible to drivers.

– Never ride distracted or impaired.

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit