Last year, in Ohio alone, there were 3,317 traffic crashes involving motorcycles according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. One person was injured or died in at least 77 percent of these accidents.
Vehicle drivers are encouraged to look out for motorcycles. Motorcyclists also learn to look out for themselves on the road to prevent accidents and use safety practices to protect themselves.
Lee Hale, the owner of Hale’s Harley-Davidson in Mansfield and longtime motorcyclist himself, explained some of the things motorcyclists must be completely aware of at all times that drivers of vehicles may disregard.
Hale has been riding motorcycles since his teenage years. “I got my motorcycle permit before I even drove a car,” he laughed.
He explained the concept of “defensive driving” while operating a motorcycle.
“In a car, you can cruise along, not worrying too much about other drivers or little bumps on the road,” Hale said. “If you hit a small pothole or a piece of tire on the road, it’s annoying, but you don’t think more than a couple seconds about it. In a motorcycle, everything is different. You have to watch the road for every little thing, and watch every car for every movement at all times. You never know if they’re looking out for you, so you have to be on the defensive, always.”
He explained and showed how motorcycle headlights are automatically always on for the motorcycle’s visibility to larger vehicles. He also explained some of the safety features of helmets, jackets, boots, gloves and other riding essentials.
“Motorcyclists should always wear protective gear, even if they’re just going for a quick trip,” he advised. Hale’s sells protective gear that is made for summer weather, such as jackets with multiple cooling vents, so that riders can be safe without overheating in the summer months.
Hale talked about how only about 10 percent of his customers at Hale’s Harley-Davidson used motorcycles for their daily transportation, but that the overwhelming 90 percent of his customers owned motorcycles as a second vehicle for enjoyment.
That enjoyment is difficult, however, when motorcyclists must practice defensive driving to protect themselves from other cars.
“I always watch cars when they pull up to stop signs,” said Hale. “Intersections with stop signs are one of the most dangerous places to be on a motorcycle. If cars don’t come to a complete stop and don’t look around fully, they may not see a motorcycle.”
Hale also stressed the importance of taking a motorcycle safety class for anyone new to operating a motorcycle. He recommends the class Motorcycle Ohio available every weekend at North Central State College.
“They take people who have never operated a motorcycle and teach them everything they need to know about motorcycle safety,” he said.
The class is required for motorcyclists under 18, but is elective for adults. Hale repeatedly recommended this class to any beginner and to riders that have ridden passenger but want to start driving.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol also strongly recommended Motorcycle Ohio as a way for motorcyclists to be safer on the road. Staff Lieutenant Craig S. Cvetan, Ohio State Highway Patrol Public Affairs Commander, said “taking a training class, wearing safety equipment and riding with proper endorsements can help you protect yourself and others.”
As far as what cars can do, Hale’s advice is simply to watch out for motorcycles.
“Distracted driving is huge nowadays, and because motorcycles are less visible than cars, car drivers just need to be paying attention,” Hale said.