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The Texas Department of Transportation observes Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May and is reminding motorists to be aware of their two-wheel counterparts on the roads. This year’s campaign is “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles.”

As the rider of a vehicle that’s one-fifth the size of a pickup truck, motorcyclist Vance Fields of Marble Falls understands much of his well-being relies on him. That’s why he takes to heart his own advice.

“I have a mandate for myself that’s, basically, ride like you’re invisible,” he said. 

With more than 40 years of riding under his belt, including long trips across the United States and Canada, Fields has a lot of practice staying safe on his Harley-Davidson. 

In 2021, state officials reported that 519 motorcyclists died in motor vehicle crashes, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year. And even though motorcycles make up less than 2 percent of vehicles in Texas, they accounted for 12 percent of the 2021 fatalities.

“On average, at least one motorcycle rider dies every day in a crash on our streets and highways,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams in a media release. “Each of these riders is a husband or wife, someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister or mother or father. As more and more motorcyclists take to the road to enjoy the beautiful Texas scenery and warmer weather, it’s crucial that drivers remain alert and look out for people riding motorcycles.”

The Highland Lakes area is a popular spot for motorcyclists, especially during the spring and summer. Drivers should anticipate more motorcycles on the roads during these months, particularly on weekends and holidays.

While Fields hasn’t been involved in any accidents, he remembers a close call several years ago while driving on FM 2147 in Horseshoe Bay. The driver of an oncoming car was distracted, possibly looking down for something, when her vehicle drifted into Fields’ lane.

“I thought I was going to have to go into the ditch, but, fortunately, she looked up and got back in her lane,” Fields said. “Nowadays, there’s so many distractions when you drive (an automobile), like texting, checking the phone, changing the radio. It doesn’t take but a second while you’re not looking at the road for something to go wrong.”

Fields is also aware that it’s sometimes the motorcyclists who need to amend their driving behavior. He’s seen motorcyclists, particularly in cities, zip in and out of traffic and take unnecessary chances.

Some things motorcyclists can do to help themselves, he said, is to wear brighter colors, though Fields admitted that Harley riders like himself tend not to do that. He also said to be aware of where you are in relation to other vehicles, always assume the other motorists can’t or don’t see you, and drive defensively.

TxDOT offers these tips for protecting motorcyclists and preventing crashes:

  • Take extra care when making a left turn. Drivers should always assume motorcycles are closer than they appear and avoid turning in front of an oncoming motorcycle.
  • Pay special attention at intersections. A third of motorcycle fatalities happen at roadway intersections.
  • Give driving your full attention.
  • 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 a 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.

Fields added that drivers should also check their blind spots when they are at an intersection because a motorcycle can slip into these areas without the motorist realizing it. He also advised motorcyclists to avoid those blind spots.

Visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s website for more information on keeping the roads safe for motorcycles. 

daniel@thepicayune.com