JUNEAU — May in Alaska is Motorcycle and Motor Scooter Awareness month. During this time — and, in fact, during the rest of the year — the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities would like to remind motorists and other road users to share in the responsibility of keeping all road users safe, by safely “sharing the road.”
“As the weather improves, more and more motorcyclists are hitting the roads,” Tammy Kramer, of the ADOT&PF Alaska Highway Safety Office, said. “And with that in mind, pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers of all vehicles, including SUVs, passenger cars and trucks, need to be extra attentive and make sure they ‘share the road.’ A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, often hidden in a car or truck’s blind spot. Every driver needs to aggressively look for them before changing lanes or merging with traffic.”
Changing the driving habits of motorists and motorcyclists alike will help decrease the numbers of motorcyclists killed and injured in crashes. Motorcyclists are reminded to make sure that they are visible to motorists, and that they follow the rules of the road. All road users are reminded to never drive, ride, walk or bicycle while distracted.
Motorists and bicyclists should perform visual checks for motorcyclists by checking mirrors and blind spots before they enter or exit a lane of traffic, and at intersections. Pedestrians should also get into the habit of scanning for motorcyclists who might be hidden by other traffic.
“Motorcyclists have responsibilities, too,” Kramer said. “They should obey traffic rules, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear protective gear.”
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that a motorcyclist is more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes.
The Alaska Highway Safety Office offers tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways.
Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle.
Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width — never try to share a lane.
Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle — motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
Allow more following distance — three or four seconds — when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
Never drive while distracted.
To increase safety, motorcyclists should:
• Avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
• Wear brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet.
• Use turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it.
• Combine hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves.
• Use reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity.
• Position themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers.
• Never drive while impaired.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 255 airports, 11 ferries serving 35 communities, 5,619 miles of highway and 720 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska.