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Sharp rise in motorcyclist deaths has TxDOT asking drivers to ‘Share the Road’

Motorcyclist deaths on Texas roads increased 17 percent in 2020 over the previous year, even as motorcycle crashes fell by 2 percent. The sharp rise in fatalities has alarmed safety officials. The Texas Department of Transportation is reminding motorists to “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” in May, which is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

Last year, 482 motorcyclists were killed and 1,856 were seriously injured in 7,481 crashes reported on state roads. Motorcyclists account for 12 percent of all traffic fatalities statewide. 

“May through October is an especially dangerous period for motorcyclists in Texas,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Of all the motorcyclist deaths in Texas during 2020, more than 61 percent happened in that period. It’s so important to remember that these motorcyclists don’t have the same protections that drivers in vehicles have, and that’s why we’re urging all motorists to stay watchful and alert when traveling alongside motorcycles so everyone can reach their destination safely.”

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute reported that fatal crashes between motorcyclists and drivers often occur when drivers misjudge a motorcycle’s distance and speed and make left turns in front of it. Last year, almost one-third of Texas motorcycle fatalities occurred in an intersection or were intersection-related. 

TTI also points to driver inattention as a contributing factor in motorcycle crashes.

TxDOT has these safety tips for drivers to protect motorcyclists and prevent crashes:

  • Take extra care when making a left turn. It’s safest to let the motorcycle pass to avoid turning in front of the rider.
  • Pay special attention at intersections. Nearly one in three motorcycle fatalities happens at a roadway intersection.
  • Give driving your full attention. Even a momentary distraction, such as answering a phone call or changing the radio station, can have deadly consequences.
  • Look twice when changing lanes. Check mirrors and blind spots and always use turn signals.
  • Give motorcyclists room when passing them. Move over to the passing lane and don’t crowd the motorcyclist’s full lane.
  • Stay back. If you’re behind a motorcycle, always maintain a safe following distance. When a motorcyclist downshifts instead of applying the brake to slow down, it can catch drivers off guard since there are no brake lights to signal reduced speed.
  • Slow down. Obey posted speed limits and drive to conditions.

The “Share the Road” safety campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media effort that encourages all Texas drivers to make safer choices behind the wheel. Nov. 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.

editor@thepicayune.com