As motorcyclists turn their calendars to a new month, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reminds all road users that May marks Motorcycle Awareness Month.
"Motorcyclists take to the highways in large numbers every spring, and it's the responsibility of all road users to welcome us safely and attentively," said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. "This is why many states and local governments officially promote motorcycle awareness during the month of May. Unfortunately, many road users are not always mindful of those with whom they share the road, and an annual reminder is necessary for them to acknowledge the flow of motorcycles in traffic."
Efforts by the motorcycling community to establish Motorcycle Awareness Month can be traced back to the early 1980s, shortly after the release of the landmark "Hurt Report" conducted by Motorcycle Hall of Famer Professor Hugh H. "Harry" Hurt in 1981. The report is entitled "Volume I: Technical Report, Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, January, 1981 - Final Report." The Hurt Report set the benchmark for motorcycle safety research in the United States, if not the world.
One of the leading causes of crashes, according to the Hurt Report, was this: "The automobile driver fails to detect the inconspicuous motorcycle in traffic. This is due to lack of motorcycle and rider conspicuity and lack of caution and awareness of the automobile driver."
Drivers can improve their ability to avoid a crash with a motorcyclist by respecting the motorcyclist's space on the road, not following too closely and taking extra care to watch for motorcyclists at intersections.
Indeed, the AMA recognizes that distracted or inattentive driving has become a major concern to the motorcycling community. Far too many cases have been documented of motorcyclists being injured or killed as the result of other vehicle operators being distracted or inattentive.
"If all drivers would make a conscious effort to look twice before turning left across the oncoming lane of traffic at an intersection, lives would be saved," Dingman said.
For motorcyclists, the AMA strongly encourages the use of personal protective equipment -- including gloves, sturdy footwear and a properly fitted motorcycle helmet certified by its manufacturer to meet the U.S. Department of Transportation standard -- as part of a comprehensive motorcycle safety program to help reduce injuries and fatalities in the event of a motorcycle crash.
Although statistics reported by the Governors Highway Safety Association indicate that in recent years motorcycle fatalities are down, by 2 percent in 2010 and 16 percent in 2009, any death of a motorcyclist in a crash is one too many. That's why the AMA has long encouraged local and state governments to maintain or increase funding for motorcycle rider education and motorist awareness programs - two highly effective strategies to reduce the likelihood of motorcycle crashes.
It's also why the AMA lobbied for a new comprehensive study on all aspects of motorcycle crashes.
"In the decades since the Hurt Report, the traffic environment has changed enormously, which prompted the AMA to begin campaigning for a new study several years ago," Dingman said. "We need real, hard answers to identify the reasons behind both the long-term increase in motorcyclists' deaths and the short-term decline. This issue is too important to simply speculate."
The Federal Highway Administration has undertaken a comprehensive study at the Oklahoma Transportation Center, an independent and well-respected transportation research facility at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., under the direction of Dr. Samir Ahmed. The study is expected to conclude in 2013.