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Unseasonable weather means motorcyclists are out early on Iowa highways

March 21, 2012

AMES, Iowa – March 21, 2012 – The early spring has brought motorcyclists out onto Iowa highways earlier than normal. The Iowa Department of Transportation reminds motorists that added motorcycle traffic increases the risk of crashes and fatalities involving motorcyclists.

As noted in the chart below, motorcycle fatalities were at a recent low in 2011, but Toni Kerkove, Iowa DOT motorcycle safety coordinator, says this is no time to let down your guard when sharing the road with motorcyclists. Kerkove said, “Early in the season, motorcyclists are dusting off their riding skills and other motorists are not always looking out for motorcycles on the highway. This can be a deadly combination.”

Crashes Involving Motorcycles Fatalities and Injuries for
Calendar Years 2001 through 2011
(as reported by law enforcement – 2011 numbers are preliminary)

 

Injuries

Crashes

 

Year

 

Fatalities

 

Major Injuries

 

Minor Injuries

 

Possible Injuries

 

Unknown Injuries

Property Damage
Only
Crashes

 

Total Crashes

2001

36

194

379

162

8

147

764

2002

41

189

332

193

11

148

769

2003

50

215

361

239

11

114

861

2004

36

232

403

206

16

114

846

2005

46

230

463

255

43

135

1,015

2006

49

207

418

264

29

143

964

2007

61

260

496

260

13

142

1,048

2008

53

242

532

274

8

144

1,063

2009

49

211

458

248

12

110

917

2010

60

268

505

224

15

139

1,040

2011

35

245

471

245

6

155

1,005

Total

516

2,493

4,818

2,742

1,491

10,292

With the upswing in distractions available to drivers, motorists often are paying more attention to items inside their vehicles and less attention to the task of driving safely. In crashes with motorcyclists, drivers often say they never saw the motorcycle. Even when a driver is paying attention to the task of driving, a motorcycle’s outline is much smaller than most other vehicle silhouettes and, especially early in the spring, most drivers are not looking for motorcycles.

Even if a driver sees a motorcyclist, safety is far from assured. Smaller vehicles appear farther away and seem to be traveling slower than their actual speed. The vehicle driver’s misjudgment of the motorcycle’s speed is frequently noted in these crashes. Iowa DOT State Safety Engineer Jeremey Vortherms encourages all motorcyclists to “Be a part of the solution and ride bright.”

Data shows nearly 73 percent (10-year average) of crashes with motorcycles and 60 percent of motorcycle fatalities occur in broad daylight. Riders should wear bright-colored clothing to increase the chances of being seen, because the rider’s body is half of the visible surface area of the rider-motorcycle unit. A motorcycle rider wearing a bright orange, red, yellow or green helmet, jacket or vest has been shown to increase a motorist’s ability to see the smaller vehicle. Reflective clothing or strips on the helmet and vest also increase visibility for night riding.

Motorcycle equipment can also help the rider and motorcycle be more visible to other drivers. Because many vehicles now use daytime running lights, daytime motorcycle headlamps are not as conspicuous as they once were. Now, a modulating motorcycle headlamp is a good way to help motorcycles get noticed in traffic. Other motorists are more likely to give motorcycles a second look, and better judge their speed and placement in traffic. Modulating headlamps conforming to federal regulation 43 CFR § 51.108S7.9.4 are permitted on motorcycles in all states.

There are many tools motorcyclists can use to be more visible on the road.

  • Avoid driver’s blind spots by using strategic lane positioning.
  • Use the motorcycle’s turn signal and signal your intentions with hand signals.
  • Wearing bright or reflective gloves will make hand signals more visible.
  • Alert following vehicles when slowing down or stopping by flashing the vehicle’s taillight, or install a safety taillight system that automatically flashes and then holds steady when braking.
  • Install a modulating headlight.
  • Add reflective materials to the motorcycle.

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Contact: Toni Kerkove at 641-423-1675 or toni.kerkove@dot.iowa.gov

 


Iowa highway in the evening