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Share the road with motorcycles

Summer has arrived, bringing motorcycles onto roadways.

A recent proclamation from the state of Michigan urges all drivers to “look twice” for motorcycles. Most motorists are unaware that the majority of motorcycle crashes with another motor vehicle take place on local roads with speed limits between 35 and 55 mph.

The Wisconsin State Patrol’s June Law of the Month reminds drivers and motorcyclists to share the road and stay alert to reduce injuries and fatalities.

Motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than other motorists and four times more likely to be injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Motorcycles are smaller than the average vehicle, so they can be harder to see on the roads and it’s easy to misjudge their speed and distance. Drivers are encouraged by the Wisconsin State Patrol to:

— Look twice for motorcycles; many crashes happen when drivers pull out from a stop sign, turn left or change lanes.

— Keep a safe following distance from a motorcycle; they have a shorter stopping distance so if a motorcycle needs to stop suddenly, you need more room to avoid a collision.

Sharing the road is a two-way street, so motorcyclists need to do their part to be visible and follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles. Safe riding practices help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on the roads. Riders should consider the following:

— Ride defensively and don’t take risks.

— Scan the road ahead carefully, especially on curves, looking for gravel and sand.

— Do not share a lane with another vehicle; staggered riding is suggested for multiple motorcycles.

— Protective, high-visibility clothing and safety gear is recommended.

— Headlamps should be on at all times.

— Helmets are strongly encouraged for all riders and required by Wisconsin state law for those under 18. Michigan generally requires that both rider and passengers under the age of 21 wear a helmet. If certain licensing and insurance requirements are met, operators and riders in Michigan who are 21 years of age or older are not required to wear a crash helmet.

The following are safe driving and riding practices recommended by Wisconsin State Patrol for all road users — vehicle drivers and motorcyclists alike:

— Observe all traffic laws and obey speed limits.

— Share the road; according to state law, all vehicles, including motorcycles, are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and no vehicle may deprive another of a lane.

— Drive sober.

— Avoid distractions.

— Put your phone down.

Training and education are key to preventing motorcycle crashes and injuries. According to Wisconsin law, you must be properly licensed with a Class M license or Class M Instruction Permit to legally operate a motorcycle on Wisconsin roads. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s partners provide rider courses to help motorcyclists earn their motorcycle license and improve rider skills.

In Michigan, half of all motorcycle fatalities involve riders who are not properly licensed. Michigan law requires a motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license to legally ride a motorcycle on the state’s roadways. More information is available at https://www.michigan.gov/msp/divisions/ohsp/safety-programs/motorcyclist-safety.

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