Cycle safety promoted as riders age

More than a half million Wisconsin residents have a motorcycle license or permit. As motorcyclists return to the road for this riding season, their safety is a major concern.

Last year, 81 motorcycle riders and passengers died in Wisconsin traffic crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).

“May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which is an opportunity to remind motorists to share the road and watch for motorcycles especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety.

“Drivers can easily misjudge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle because of its smaller dimensions. To prevent crashes, drivers should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they proceed through an intersection or make a turn.”

During the 2016 riding season, WisDOT will use radio, TV and online messages along with social media to remind motorcyclists and drivers to share the road. Electronic message signs and billboards on major highways will urge drivers to look twice for motorcycles.

To reach out to riders and motorists around the state, WisDOT will hit the road again this year with its mobile training facility, called THE REF (Transportable High-End Rider Education Facility). THE REF promotes training for all riders as well as motorists’ awareness of motorcycles on the road. Last year, THE REF made visits around the state to 54 events that covered 83 days.

Because motorcyclists are legally required to have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license, one of THE REF’s goals is to get more riders endorsed and properly trained.

“Too many people have been riding for years without a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license,” Pabst says. “It’s a serious problem especially for those who have not ridden a motorcycle for several years and are beginning to ride again. Members of the motorcycling community are aging. The average age of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash increased from 30 years old in 1992 to 47 in 2015.”

Motorcyclists can obtain their endorsement in two ways:

• Passing a WisDOT administered motorcycle driving skills test conducted by appointment at DMV service centers located throughout the state.

• Obtaining a waiver for the skills test by successfully completing a WisDOT approved Basic Motorcycle Rider Course, 3-Wheel Basic Rider Course, or the Basic Rider Course 2 (for experienced riders). More information is available on the WisDOT website.

Pabst emphasizes that motorcyclists need to make responsible decisions to reduce their risks of serious or fatal injuries.

“Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride while impaired,” he says. “They should always wear clothing and gear that is protective and conspicuous, including a helmet that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. Tragically, approximately two out of three motorcyclists who died in crashes from 2010 to 2014 were not wearing helmets.”

Pabst concludes, “During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and throughout the year, we need well-trained and responsible motorcycle riders along with motorists who share the road and look twice for motorcycles to help prevent injuries and deaths.”

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