Motorcyclists have rights to the road as well

While snow still is a possibility in the Upper Peninsula even in May, it’s likely safe to finally have that motorcycle taken out of storage or the garage. Perhaps it’s already been out on the road for a ride in 2019.

Which means other motorists need to be aware — and respect the rights — of these vehicles

May is designated as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. That has Wisconsin and Michigan reminding motorcyclists and other motorists alike to share the road and be alert to stay safe.

Unless in groups, motorcycles often can be overlooked among other traffic, officials said.

“Motorcycle crashes often occur when a car or truck driver changes lanes, turns left or pulls out in front of a motorcycle,” Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Ryan Chaffee said. “Because of their smaller profile, it’s easy to misjudge a motorcycle’s speed and distance. That’s why we’re reminding motorists to always look twice at approaching motorcycles.”

Under Wisconsin law, failure to yield the right of way to another vehicle can result in a $175 citation, with much more severe penalties if someone gets injured or killed. In 2018, Wisconsin recorded 2,074 motorcycle crashes, with 1,678 motorcyclists injured and 81 killed.

Michigan has more than 503,000 licensed motorcycle operators. And the beauty of the North Woods region draws many out-of-state motorcyclists to cruise the highways in both states.

Motorcyclists can do their part by getting properly licensed, wearing visible and protective equipment, and carefully scanning ahead for potential hazards such as gravel, debris or wildlife in the roadway.

Motorcyclists also need to recognize their limitations. The average age of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash in 1992 was 30. By 2018, it was 46.

Safety tips offered for motorcyclists by WisDOT and the Michigan State Police include:

— Wear all the gear, all the time, including visible and protective equipment, bright-colored, reflective clothing and protective eyewear;

— Keep headlights on at all times;

— Operate in a defensive manner and within the rules of the road, being prepared to take evasive action if necessary;

— Pay attention to the road ahead — gravel or other debris on roadways present special challenges for motorcyclists;

— Watch for animals in your path, especially at night — and especially in the North Woods, where not just deer but bear and moose can be a hazard, much less the sluggish porcupine that still can be a sizeable speed bump for a motorcycle;

— Get properly licensed for operating;

— Continue education and training on safe motorcycle operation. “One trend we see is middle-aged people who drove a motorcycle many years ago, then resume riding on a cycle that’s larger and more powerful,” a Wisconsin Department of Transportation official noted. “A safety refresher course would be a wise investment, and what you learn could save your life.”

For more information about motorcycle safety, go online to https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety.

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