CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind motorists to Look Twice, Save a Life.

With May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, safe driving practices are encouraged for all road users to help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.

In 2020, there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, an increase from 2019 (5,044), according to NHTSA reports. West Virginia saw 38 motorcyclist fatalities in 2020, up from 28 in 2019. 

Research states that in 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, “motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were 4 times more likely to be injured.”

“Due to a motorcycle’s smaller profile, it’s easy to misjudge their speed and distance from a vehicle,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcycles. Watch for turning motorcycles before you turn.”

Follow these tips to keep motorcyclists safe: 

  • Allow adequate following distance 
  • Always check your blind spots
  • Be cautious when passing
  • Do not high beam motorcycles at night
  • Do not tailgate a motorcycle
  • Help keep riders safe in the dark by increasing your following distance and refrain from passing
  • Inform motorcyclists of your intention to turn
  • Motorcycles cannot stop as quickly as a car
  • Remember that motorcycles react more quickly than cars
  • Stay in your lane
  • Take a second look at left turns and intersections
  • Weather warning – bad weather can reduce your visibility

Motorcyclists can also contribute to their safety on the road. According to the NHTSA, 34% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, with 25 to 29 year old riders having the highest speeding involvement at 45%.

“First of all, the best advice I can give motorcyclists, whether new or experienced, would be to take a safety course,” said Mary Jarrell, GHSP Motorcycle Safety Training Coordinator. 

“Some people think that if they rode a dirt bike or bicycle as a kid, they can ride a motorcycle. Operating a motorcycle requires a great deal of knowledge, skill, and practice,” Jarrell said. 

Jarrell shared the following tips to help motorcyclists be safe on our roads:

  • Take a safety course
  • Ride sober
  • Get to know your motorcycle 
  • Wear proper motorcycle gear – a DOT-approved helmet is a must
  • Inspect your motorcycle before each ride
  • Obey traffic laws, use signals, and obey the speed limit
  • Check the weather before leaving
  • Be visible 
  • Be observant and watch for road hazards
  • Stay a safe distance behind other vehicles

Grass clippings left on roadways can also be dangerous as they can reduce a motorcycle tire’s traction on the road.

To learn more about motorcycle safety, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety.  For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.