Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Ride Smart campaign aim to decrease motorcycle accidents, fatalities.

    Motorcycles thundered through Dover April 25 to remind their four-wheeled friends to share the road.
    More than 100 motorcycles took part in the event, which included a parade, display of motorcycles and information on the state’s motorcycle safety program outside Legislative Hall.
    “We’re hoping this will help draw more attention to motorcycles and motorcycle safety,” said Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-14th district). “It’s been a pretty impressive show of motorcycles.”
    Ennis has been a longtime champion of motorcycle safety and helped broker Delaware’s motorcycle helmet law, which requires drivers 18 and younger and motorcycle passengers to wear helmets. Helmet use is encouraged, but optional for motorcyclists. Delaware is one of 26 states with a partial helmet law. Ennis and State Rep. Dan Short (R-Seaford) are co-chairmen of the state’s Motorcycle Safety Advisory Committee.
    “There are a lot more motorcycles on the road today than there has been before,” Ennis said. “We’re holding this to promote motorcycle awareness for other motorists and cyclists. We’re also promoting motorcycle safety for cyclists.”
    That’s important as the number of motorcycles in Delaware has been steadily increasing in recent years. Registration numbers have gone from 9,789 in 1998 to 24,581 in 2008.
    As the numbers have grown, so have accidents involving motorcycles. For example in 1997, data from the state’s Office of Highway Safety showed there were 198 crashes, eight of which were fatal. Last year, there were 368 crashes including 16 fatal accidents. However, the numbers are down from 2007, which saw 426 crashes, including 17 fatals in the First State. Those numbers mirror national statistics that show a steady rise in both motorcycle crashes and fatalities.
    Gary Hilderbrand, one of the event’s organizers, said a great many of those accidents are cause by car and truck drivers who cut off motorcyclists, try to crowd them off the road or just don’t see them at intersections.
    “We’re the little guys out there,” he said. “We’re hard to notice. In fact, if you’re sitting at a stop sign, from some angles, the post can obscure the motorcycle. If an 18-wheeler’s coming they see it, but a motorcyclist, you don’t and that can cause real problems. People need to take an extra second checking intersections for motorcycles.”
    Dover Police Cpl. David Minor represented his department’s motorcycle unit in the parade and was watching over the motorcycle show and safety demonstration outside Legislative Hall. He said he hopes events, like this will get other drivers thinking about motorcycles. Dover’s motorcycle unit operates all year and Minor said he’s had more than his fair share of close calls with cars on duty and off work, where he enjoys recreational motorcycling.
    “It lets people be aware of motorcycles,” he said. “They need to just realize that bikes are a little smaller and a little harder to see. They need to take a second look, instead of doing that California stop that some people like to do, to look for motorcycles.”
    While last year’s gas crisis had more riders using their bikes as primary transportation, the financial crisis slowed sales from 2007’s record setting pace of about $10.7 billion in overall business. In Delaware, that number was estimated at about $23 million. Although prices have come down, Hilderbrand said he expects bike to maintain a strong presence on the road.

Ride Smart Campaign
    Just in time for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety is launching its Ride Smart Motorcycle Safety campaign.
    The Ride Smart campaign, which began April 27 and runs through October, is a combination of enforcement and awareness activities. Police agencies throughout the state will conduct patrols on high crash roadways and will cite violators of the state’s motorcycle safety laws. They will pay particular attention to speeding and impaired motorcyclists.
    Public awareness efforts though are aimed at reaching not only motorcyclists, but also the drivers of passenger vehicles.
    Now that the weather is warming up, motorists should actively look out for motorcyclists, who are easy to miss in a vehicle’s blind spot. Since Jan 1, one motorcyclist has been killed in a traffic crash, when according to police reports, the driver of the other vehicle pulled into the path of the motorcycle operator then fled the scene.
    OHS has formed partnerships with motorcycle groups, the Delaware’s Motorcycle Rider Education Advisory Committee, of which OHS is a member, the Delaware Division of Motorcycles, the Dover Air Force Base and motorcycle businesses.
    Motorcycle enthusiasts are invited to participate in a police-escorted memorial ride for the Delaware Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, Saturday May 9, at 10 a.m. The event starts in two locations – the Seaford Harley-Davidson and Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson of New Castle. Registration is $25 and starts at 9 a.m. The two groups will meet up at the Little Creek Fire Hall and then ride as one parade to Legislative Hall for food, entertainment and a reading of the names of fallen officers.