Watch out for motorcyclists!

by J.L. Riedel
“These daytime running lights are so wonderful; they make my vehicle so much more visible to other motorists.”
“I just love my new car, it is so air tight and quiet; kind of makes me feel like I’m the only one on the road.”
“OMG, this thing is loaded with technology; I think my new car could practically drive itself.”
“I mean really; all I’d have to do is sit down with my cup of coffee and cell phone and let the car take care of the rest.”
If you have talked to or been around someone who has purchased a new vehicle recently, the above comments may sound familiar. And speaking from the standpoint of someone who is issued a new company car every couple of years, I’d have to agree with them. Today’s cars and trucks are superior to vehicles from years past.
Daytime running lights, although not required on vehicles in the United States, are pretty standard and do make vehicles more visible. I also like how quiet new cars are. I have a 40-year-old Pontiac that I’ve restored; and even with new weather stripping, the wind noise at highway speeds will give you a headache. And when it comes to technology, I’m not sure where to start. I mean really, there are cars out there that will park themselves. (Come on, man: if I had to learn to parallel park, shouldn’t everyone?) Ok, parking aside, we have cars that are loaded with technological features that require less and less input from the driver.
So far, so good, right? Well, not if you are a motorcyclist. Approximately 20 years before daytime running lights started to show up on vehicles in the United States, motorcycles were required to be manufactured with a “steady burning headlight and tail light” in an effort to make them more visible to the LARGER traffic in which they shared the roads. Now that these lights are commonplace, motorcyclists seem to blend in with other traffic and don’t stand out like they used to.
I like quiet. With two little kids at home quiet is something that is sparse, but quiet isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to driving. How about honking horns, the siren from an emergency vehicle, squealing tires, screeching brakes, or the sound of a motorcycle’s exhaust?
As a motorist, we gather a lot of important information about our driving environment from the sounds we hear. If our car is airtight and quiet, the radio turned up, or if we are so shut off from the world outside of our car; what are we missing, could it be a motorcyclist?
Finally, let’s talk TECHNOLOGY. No matter how technologically advanced our vehicle’s become, when it comes to safety, the driver is the most important safety feature the vehicle has. It is truly up to the driver to take an active part in the safety of the trip; whether across town, or across country.
So as a motorist and motorcyclist, I am greatly concerned when I see driver’s putting all their faith in their high-tech modern vehicles and not in their own driving skills.
Look twice, save a life, motorcycles are everywhere.

J.L. Riedel is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol 

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