May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
Motorists asked to look-twice for motorcycles; Cycle drivers urged to get properly licensed
With over 550,000 Wisconsin residents holding a motorcycle license or permit – combined with the return of warmer spring weather – motorists should expect to see more motorcyclists on roadways. May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and traffic safety officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) are asking motorcyclists and all other motorists to share the road and be safe.
“We’re reminding car and truck drivers to be alert for motorcycles especially at intersections, when making turns and lane changes,” said David Pabst, Director of WisDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Safety. “At the same time, we’re urging motorcyclists to always wear protective equipment, get properly licensed, and consider taking a motorcycle safety course appropriate for their skill level.”
Last year, 82 motorcycle riders and passengers died in Wisconsin traffic crashes. As a group, the motorcycling community is aging. The average age of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash increased from 30 years old in 1992 to 48 in 2016.
“We see far too many people riding without a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license,” Pabst said. “It’s a serious problem, and includes people who have not ridden a motorcycle for several years and start to ride again, often on a cycle that’s larger and more powerful.”
To reach out to riders and motorists around the state, WisDOT will hit the road again this year with its mobile training facility, called THE REF (Transportable High-End Rider Education Facility). THE REF promotes training for all riders as well as motorists’ awareness of motorcycles on the road. Last year, THE REF made visits around the state to 50 events that covered 70 days.
Because motorcyclists are legally required to have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license, one of THE REF’s goals is to get more riders licensed and properly trained.
Motorcyclists can obtain their endorsement in two ways:
•Pass a WisDOT-administered motorcycle driving skills test (conducted by appointment at DMV service centers located throughout the state).
•Obtain a waiver for the skills test by successfully completing a WisDOT-approved Basic Motorcycle Rider Course, 3-Wheel Basic Rider Course, or the Basic Rider Course 2 (for experienced riders). More information is available on the WisDOT website (wisconsindot.gov/gettrained)
“Safety on our roadways requires everyone to do their part,” Pabst said. “Drivers often misjudge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle because of its smaller dimensions. To prevent crashes, drivers should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they proceed through an intersection or make a turn.”
“Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride impaired,” Pabst said. “They should always wear clothing and gear that is protective and conspicuous, including a helmet that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. Tragically, about 75 percent of motorcyclists who died in crashes from 2010 to 2014 were not wearing helmets.”