Warm weather time to watch out for motorcycles

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One of the jokes told by one of the comedians at Saturday night's comedy show at the Fox Theatre would have been more funny if it wasn't so true.

We won't stigmatize him by naming him specifically -- he was the one from Colorado -- but besides his observation that Nebraska drivers prefer the one-finger wave (that's the index finger), was his conclusion that Cornhuskers didn't know what the little lever on the left side of the steering column was for.

We would second his observation, with the addition that even a blinking light can't be trusted; too many drivers stay on the street for block after block, oblivious to the blinking light on their dashboard and clicking noise indicating they at some time intended to turn.

Warm weather and climbing gas prices have conspired to make the situation even less laughable and more dangerous. That's because the weather and fuel prices have added an increasing number of motorcycles to the traffic flow.

AAA Nebraska pointed out that motorcycle registration in the state has climbed to levels not seen in nearly three decades, with 53,200 bikes registered this year. Last year, 20 riders died in crashes on Nebraska roadways.

Tragically, statistics indicate that alcohol is as much or more a factor in motorcycle fatalities as it is in fatalities in conventional vehicles.

But even when both drivers are stone sober, precautions need to be taken to avoid a collision with motorcycles, AAA points out.

Specifically, before you attempt to make a turn or change lanes, check and look carefully to make sure there are no motorcycles in the traffic mix, AAA said. Be aware that sun glare in the early morning or before sunset makes it especially difficult to see approaching motorcycles.

For the safety of riders -- and other motorists in general -- always communicate your intentions to turn or change lanes by using your turn signal.

State statistics show that failing to yield the right-of-way or making a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle are the two most frequent causes of car/bike collisions.

Getting in the habit of looking for motorcycles while driving in traffic, and giving them the space they need to safely maneuver their vehicle, will help to prevent potential crashes, AAA reminds.

Motorcyclists have a special responsibility to know how to operate their vehicles safely and avoid collisions with other vehicles on the road. But the nature of motorcycles puts them at a disadvantage that drivers of four-wheelers need to appreciate.

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