May 5, 2016
Motorcycle safety efforts revved up
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bill Novak enjoys a ride on his motorcycle on Interstate 81 northbound between Polkville and Cortland in this file photo.
With winter in the past and the hint of summer-like temperatures resonating in the air, covers are being pulled off stored motorcycles and bikes are being fired up for the first time this year.
While motorcycles provide a sense of freedom and excitement for those who ride them, that enjoyment also comes with a sense of danger.
In 2014, there were 4,586 peo-ple killed in motorcycle crashes, down 2.3 percent from the previous year, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the number of people injured in a motorcycle crash increasedby 4.5 percent from 2013 (88,000 people) to 2014 (92,000 people).
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month, intended to encourage motorcyclists and motorists to be more alert and aware of each other.
Mistakes that lead to motorcycle accidents tend to be made by other motorists, Cortland City Police Lt. David Guerrera said. Accidents occur most when car drivers aren’t paying attention — texting, looking in the mirror, etc. But Guerrera said one problem for motorists is that motorcycles are harder to see at times because of their smaller size.
“Motorcycles tend to appear to be going slower than normal when you see them in your mirror,” Guerrera said.
From May 4, 2013, to May 4, 2014, there were five motorcycle accidents in the city of Cortland, two with injuries. From 2014 to 2015, there were four accidents with one injury. And from 2015 to 2016, there were two accidents with, again, one injury, Guerrera said.
Guerrera wasn’t sure why the number of accidents declined, but said this year’s first motorcycle accident happened last week.
On April 30, a rider was going about 85 to 90 mph, doing wheelies and lost control of the bike and crashed. He suffered a broken wrist, broken leg and severe skin burns from sliding along the road. Guerrera said that as of Tuesdau, the man was still recovering in the hospital.
Motorcycle season usually lasts from April to September and Guerrera said during that time drivers need to be more cognizant of the bikes and motorcyclists should ride defensively and with common sense.
Tim Law, manager at CNY Power Sports in Cortlandville, shares similar advice with first-time motorcycle buyers and also encourages them to be thorough with their safety measures.
“Experienced riders are going to buy what they want, but we try and encourage new riders to buy a bright colored bike for safety,” Law said. “Black bikes can blend in with the pavement and make it harder for drivers to see.”
The type of gear riders wear is another contributor to motorcycle safety. Full face helmets may not allow for the amount of openness a half-face helmet provides, but they are safer in the event of a crash because they shield the entire face and head. Law said a lot people like to wear dark colored jackets or black leather jackets and black helmets, but the best option is to go with bright-colored gear.
“You might not want to wear a bright, green jacket, but it’ll help you stand out and be more visible to drivers,” Law said.
Corey Maxson, a salesman at K&H Motor Sports in Little York, said riders should wear motorcycle specific jackets because unlike a regular jacket, motorcycle jackets have protective padding and are more resistant to abrasion.
“We had one customer come in, who was in an accident. His (motorcycle) jacket was torn up, but because of the protection, he didn’t suffer any skin burns,” Maxson said. “He was bruised up and had a couple injuries, but he would have been worse off if he wasn’t wearing a motorcycle jacket.”
Law’s biggest recommendation for bikers is to always keep up with motorcycle maintenance. Make sure the battery is charged. Make sure the lights are working. Have the bike regularly safety inspected. And pay attention to the tire pressure. It can make a big difference in the way the motorcycle handles, Law said.
CNY Power Sports sells about 100 motorcycles every year and that number may go up this year, as Law said sales began in March, much earlier than usual due to a mild winter. For someone looking to buy a motorcycle for the first time, it is important to buy one that is comfortable to the rider and not bigger than they can handle.
For first-time riders, Maxson recommended they take a motorcycle safety course when getting their license.
Guerrera said an important thing for everyone to do is be alert and pay attention.
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