Motorcycle safety: Share the road

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds motorists and motorcyclists to "share the road" to help prevent motorcycle crashes.

Such crashes are a leading cause of death and injury on roadways. Be on the lookout for increased presence of local law enforcement throughout May to be sure motorcyclists, and drivers of all types of vehicles, are obeying state and local laws.

Motorcyclists are about 30 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle occupants, so whether driving the family sedan, an SUV, school bus, delivery van, or 18-wheeler, drivers should always look out for motorcyclists. Drivers must be aware that a motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on the road and cannot be seen in a vehicle's blind spots. Always check blind spots, use mirrors and signal before changing lanes or making turns.

This safety advice is particularly timely as motorcycle fatalities in 2011 showed a continued increase to 4,612. Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 14 percent of total highway deaths for the year despite motorcycle registrations representing only about three percent of all vehicles in the U.S.

Motorcyclists have responsibilities too. Riders should obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed, alert to other drivers, conspicuous at all times, never ride impaired or distracted, and always wear appropriate protective gear.

For AEDC riders, PPE requirements include:

· approved helmets for operators and passengers - Helmets may be ventilated as long as they meet, as a minimum, DoT standards and are properly worn and fastened. Hard hats are not an acceptable substitute for helmets.

· impact or shatter-resistant goggles or full-face shields - (unless the bike is equipped with a windshield equal in height to or above the top of the helmet of the properly upright-seated operator)

· brightly colored vest or jacket - (must be reflective at night) Ventilated jackets are available or a light-weight vest may be worn.

· full-fingered gloves or mittens - These too may be ventilated.

· long sleeves; long pants - (no shorts)

· sturdy footwear - (over-the-ankle is recommended; no sandals or cloth sneakers)