The feeling of freedom on the open road is not for everyone, but safety should be. May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and serves as a reminder to take precautions for motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike.
Port Allen resident and motorcycle man Jimmy Hebert recommends one of the motorcycle operator training courses offered by the Louisiana State Police. The courses are offered year-round at varying levels.
“Just about every time I get on my motorcycle I’m using something from that class,” Hebert said.
According to the latest data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015 while motorcycles make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash, and 5 times more likely to be injured.
Hebert has ridden for about 15 years. He quit riding after he and his wife Donna Hebert started a family but took it up again when the nest was empty. For Hebert, riding is in his blood. He and his two brothers followed in the footsteps of his father, who also quit riding after creating a family, but got back on later in life.
The Heberts like to take rides out of town, opting for the scenery of highways and backroads, even when traveling to South Dakota.
“We just take the backroads, there’s a lot of things you miss riding on the interstate,” Hebert said.
Motorcyclists should check tires, fluids, brakes, take note of the weather, drink plenty of water and stay visible with bright colors.
“The biggest thing is making yourself visible,” Port Allen resident and motorcycle rider Jimmy Hebert said. “No one is out there to run people off the road, but they can’t see you.”
For drivers, the NHTSA offers these tips:
- Slow down, assess your surroundings, and don’t rush when crossing intersections, entering the roadway from a parking lot or driveway, or turning left. Always give yourself enough time to thoroughly check for motorcyclists.
- When turning left, ensure there is enough time and space for the motorcyclist to clear the roadway before you initiate the left turn.
- Don’t follow motorcyclists too closely and allow sufficient braking cushion between your vehicle and the motorcycle in front of you to give your vehicle enough room to come to a complete stop without a collision. Remember, a motorcyclist’s brake lights might not always be engaged when a motorcycle decelerates.
- Always double-check your blind spots when changing lanes or starting to entering or exiting the roadways. Adjust your rear- and side-view mirrors and use them properly.
- If someone you know drives a motorcycle, tell him or her to always wear a helmet—even if the law doesn’t require it. According to NHTSA, an estimated 740 lives could have been saved in 2015 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.