by Capt. Art Wilburn, KHP
The Kansas Highway Patrol has seen a steady increase in the number of motorcyclists on Kansas roads. With this increase in riders there has also been an increase in the number of motorcycle crashes, many of which have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
For each mile traveled nationwide in 2007, motorcyclists were about 35 times more likely to die in a crash and 8 times more likely to be injured than passenger car occupants. Motorcycle operators are also more likely than other vehicles to be involved in a fatal single-vehicle collision with a fixed object than any other vehicle operators.
One of the reasons for the number of motorcycle crashes when another vehicle is involved is that passenger vehicle drivers often look for other larger vehicles, not motorcycles. If car/truck drivers increase their awareness of motorcycles, and riders make every effort to be seen by drivers, this may decrease the number of motorcycle related crashes.
Troopers have investigated far too many preventable motorcycle crashes that could have been avoided if every motorist practiced basic defensive driving techniques, slowed down, and drove more courteously.
Both drivers and riders should remain aware of blind spots, drivers should look twice after signaling appropriately to make turns or lane changes, and riders can make sure they are not riding in the car or truck driver’s blind spot. Motorists should avoid other distractions while sharing the road, such as talking or text messaging on a cell phone while driving.
Motorcyclists are encouraged to make every effort to be highly visible to other motorists by wearing an appropriate helmet with retro-reflective materials, and bright,contrasting protective clothing.
In 2008 there were 1,138 crashes involving motorcycles that injured 1,028 riders, and killed 44 riders in the state of Kansas. Of the 1,303 riders/passengers involved in motorcycle crashes, only 486 wore helmets. Motorcycle helmets provide the best protection from head injury for motorcyclists involved in traffic crashes. An un-helmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmeted motorcyclist when involved in a crash.
The Patrol strongly supports comprehensive motorcycle safety programs that include the use of motorcycle helmets and other safety equipment, rider education, motorcycle operator licensing, and responsible use of alcohol.
For more information on motorcycle safety, go to http://www.ktsro.org.
To find an approved motorcycle safety class, click http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=3512#DE.
Capt. Art Wilburn commands the Kansas Highway Patrol's Public and Governmental Affairs Unit.