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Motorcycle safety awareness ramps up as weather warms

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be more aware on the road as motorcycle traffic increases with warmer weather.

NEWINGTON, Conn. — The weather is warming up and more motorcycles are out on the road. 

With the extra traffic, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) wants drivers to be extra cautious on the roads, especially as the number of motorcycle crash fatalities rose last year.

According to CT DOT, 68 people died in fatal motorcycle crashes in 2021 alone. That's the highest number of fatalities the state has seen in 30 years. Typically, that number averages at 50 deaths each year. 

"The biggest thing is that motorists just aren’t looking for motorcycles," said Nicholas Just, highway safety program manager for CT DOT.

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Just said speed also plays a major role in fatal crashes, and that applies to both motorists and motorcycle riders. But there are ways to stay safe. 

“If I could stress one thing – one piece of protective gear – it’s that helmet," Just said.

It's also now written into state law that all riders need to take a safety class through the state to get an endorsement. CT DOT offers those classes at their sites and other private locations. 

One thing instructors teach in the class is for riders to take the risk and responsibility of getting on a bike very seriously. 

“Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than a motorist and four times more likely to be seriously injured," Just explained. 

But, safety is just as important if you’re driving a car. 

“Give us the extra room," Just said. "Use your turn signals. It’s very important that motorists use their turn signals so that we understand what their intentions are."

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Here are more tips and tricks CT DOT is sharing with drivers:

  • Always check your blind spots. Motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles and can be even more difficult to spot while merging or changing lanes. Take your time before merging and devote several seconds to searching each of your car’s blind spots before proceeding with your intended maneuver. 
  • Be extra cautious when passing. Make sure to signal your intention to pass a motorcyclist by using your turn signal. Always make sure you are several car lengths ahead of the motorcycle before returning to your lane. 
  • Remember that motorcycles react more quickly than cars. Make sure that you maintain an adequate following distance behind motorcycles. Rear-ending a motorcycle can be fatal to the rider.
  • Be aware of weather. Bad weather has more drastic effects on motorcycle riders than it does on automobile drivers. Also remember that weather conditions often reduce your own visibility and may cause motorcycles to be more difficult to see.
  • Night-riding. Help riders stay safe after dark by increasing your following distance, ensuring that your high-beams are turned off when you notice an approaching motorcycle, and refraining from passing. If you are driving with your high beams on, you must dim them at least 500 feet from any oncoming vehicle including a motorcycle.
  • Stay in your lane. Motorcycles are legally entitled to their own lane of traffic. In no situation are you allowed to drive your automobile in the same lane and in close proximity to a motorcycle. No matter how small these vehicles are or how much extra room that there appears to be, sharing a single lane with a motorcycle is a recipe for an accident and illegal. 
  • Inform motorcyclists of your intention to turn. Initiate your turn signal sooner than you normally would when you know there is a motorcycle driving behind you. 
  • Intersections are danger zones. Many vehicle accidents that involve both automobiles and motorcycles occur at intersections. Always follow the safety protocol for intersections every single time that you approach one: come to a complete halt, view and obey posted traffic signs and signals, look both ways for approaching traffic, and proceed slowly. 
  • Watch for turning motorcycles. Self-cancelling turn signals did not become standard on motorcycles until the late 1970s. There are still many motorcycles on the road today that do not have the self-cancelling turn signals that we are now accustomed to. If you notice that a motorcycle is driving with an activated turn signal for an abnormal distance, increase your following distance so that you have time to react whenever the rider does decide to turn. 
  • Take a second look at left-turns. Before you cross a lane or lanes of traffic to turn left, take a second look for approaching motorcycles. Vehicle accidents involving the collision of a left-turning car and an approaching motorcycle can be very severe. 

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Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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