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Our View: Motorcycle deaths on the rise

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Late summer and early fall in northern Illinois offer the perfect weather for outdoor activities – including exploring the back roads on a motorcycle.

Unfortunately, there are dangers that are particular to riding motorcycles, which helps to explain why motorcycle-related deaths are on the rise in Illinois.

Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicate fatal motorcycle accidents increased statewide by 13 percent from 2010 (131 deaths) to 2012 (148 deaths). State officials say that 110 of the 145 people who died in 2011 were not wearing helmets.

DeKalb County has been fortunate in that there has not been a fatal accident involving a motorcycle since 2010, when three people were killed, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety. But if the number of fatalities continue to rise, it will be only a matter of time.

Part of the rise in fatalities is caused by the simple fact that more people are riding motorcycles. In the past decade, Illinois has had a 57 percent increase in the number of registered motorcyclists.

With more motorcycle riders comes the need for awareness – from all motorcyclists and automobile drivers. Motorcycle safety in Illinois is a common-sense issue, but not a legislative issue.

For their own safety, motorcyclists must know and practice the rules of the road. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation lists on its website five key messages for riders:

• Get trained and licensed;

• Wear protective gear – all the gear, all the time – including a helmet manufactured to the standards set by the department of transportation;

• Ride unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs;

• Ride within your own skill limits;

• Be a lifelong learner by taking refresher rider courses.

Of course, all the helmets and safety classes in the world will not protect a motorcyclist from reckless automobile drivers. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has these tips for automobile drivers regarding motorcycles:

• Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections;

• Allow more following distance for motorcycles;

• Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them;

• Don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

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