As spring-like weather rolls in, motorcyclists roll out to enjoy the highways and byways of the Commonwealth. To help spread a message of safety, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) launched a campaign urging motorcyclists to wear the proper gear when taking to the road and motorists to be on the lookout for the more vulnerable road users.
“Motorcyclists must do everything they can to protect themselves as they are sharing the road with vehicles that are many, many times the size of theirs,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Gearing up with the right safety equipment every time is the simplest way to do that.”
Wearing the proper gear, from head to toe, can often save a motorcyclist’s life during a crash. In 2020, 87 motorcyclists died in crashes on Virginia roadways, according to preliminary figures. More than 1,700 crashes involving motorcyclists were reported and 1,479 motorcyclists were injured; 672 of those injuries were categorized as serious.
A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment that a motorcyclist can wear. In Virginia, the law requires that motorcyclists and their passengers always wear a helmet which must meet or exceed the standards as specified by the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, Inc., or the U.S. Department of Transportation. A rider without a helmet is 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a helmeted rider.
Motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users, such as bicyclists and pedestrians, are more susceptible to serious injuries as a result of crashes because they are much smaller and lack the protections of larger vehicles on the road.
“Safety is a shared responsibility,” Commissioner Holcomb said. “Whether you are a new driver or have been on the road for 50 years, we all need a reminder of the importance of looking out for each other. Stay focused behind the wheel because people’s lives actually depend on it. Yours does as well. We all want to get home safely at the end of the day.”
The DMV offers some tips to help motorists heighten their awareness of motorcycles:
- Allow for extra following distance behind motorcycles because riders often slow down by downshifting or coasting, which means the brake lights aren’t always activated.
- Since a motorcycle’s narrow profile can cause it to be hidden in a car’s blind spot when it’s behind a car, check rear view mirrors often to be aware of motorcycles approaching or following.
- Take an extra moment to look twice for motorcycles when changing lanes, turning at intersections, pulling out of driveways or pulling into traffic because motorcycles may look farther away than they actually are, and it can be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed.
- Be mindful that a motorcycle’s turn signals aren’t always self-canceling like a car’s turn signals. Some riders, especially beginners, may forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change.
- Be aware that when motorcyclists adjust lane position within a lane, they are not being reckless or trying to show off. The adjustment is often made to improve visibility and to minimize the effects of debris, passing vehicles or wind.
For more information about motorcycle safety, visit tzdva.org.