Motorcycles are a divisive contraption. People who own them are almost fanatical in their enthusiasm. People who don’t often have a list of annoyances they will eagerly voice.
What almost everyone knows is that the danger of motorcycle accidents increases substantially in the summer, when sunny skies and mild temperatures bring more riders out.
But with the rise in use comes a corresponding increase in danger. The Press-Republican has already reported on five motorcycle crashes this May and June, including one on May 3 in which an AuSable Forks man was killed.
A study cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said almost half of all motorcyclist fatalities in 1999 resulted from crashes in just seven states, New York among them. The others were California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
And at that time, more motorcyclists were killed on rural roads than urban, reversing a trend from previous years.
The North Country has many roads that are inviting to motorcycle riders — broad stretches without many stop lights or much traffic.
The New York State Motorcycle Safety Program has a campaign under way to remind drivers that motorcycles are on the roads — and that they can be hard to see.
A perfunctory glance in the rear-view mirror isn’t a good idea at any time, but it is definitely inadequate to catch sight of a slim, two-wheeled vehicle, as opposed to a car.
But the cause of motorcycle crashes can’t all be linked to other drivers not seeing them. The Traffic Safety Administration noted that 41 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes that year were speeding, which was about twice the rate for drivers of passenger cars or light trucks.
And the percentage of alcohol involvement was more than 50 percent higher. No one needs to explain how incredibly hazardous it would be to drive a motorcycle while drinking.
New York has tough helmet requirements. It is one of 26 states that require all riders of motorcycles, no matter their age, to wear helmets. Some states actually allow children to ride on motorcycles without helmets — the very thought should send shudders through any sensible person.
We don’t intend to address the noise issue with motorcycles. The sounds of a revving motorcycle are grating to most everyone but the riders — and you have to wonder how they themselves can stand to be directly on top of the racket. But some studies have shown that louder motorcycles decrease the danger for riders because car drivers are more likely to hear them coming even if they don’t see them.
The most basic safety advice is also common sense: Wear a helmet and don’t speed or drink alcohol if you will be riding a motorcycle.
And drivers of other vehicles should heed the national motorcycle-safety slogan: “Look twice; save a life.”