Motorcycle safety awareness: Motorcyclist fatalities up in 2020

The Department of Transportation says the number of motorcyclists killed jumped by nearly 40 percent between 2019 and 2020.
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 7:10 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - May marks national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials are urging drivers to share the road with motorcyclists. Between 2019 and 2020, data from the DOT shows the number of motorcyclists killed rose by 36.6 percent.

Motorcyclist Jason Herheim said he is used to distracted drivers on the road.

“As an automobile driver daily, I see us doing all kinds of nonsense,” he said, advising, “For my motorcyclist friends, watch out for yourself first.”

Herheim is also the director of Madison College’s motorcycle safety program. He shared some simple steps riders can take to be safer before getting on the road.

“It’s like insurance, it doesn’t matter until it matters and you can’t go back,” he said.

Herheim said it is important to get motorcycle-specific gear, including the right type of helmet and jacket.

“It’s the construction, it’s the padding, it’s the safety, it’s also the visibility,” he explained.

Once on the road, it is important motorcyclists stay alert to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

“We want to take care of the low-hanging fruit to make motorcyclists safe, which includes things like riding unimpaired, riding with proper gear and being visible, making sure that your motorcycle is ready,” Herheim described.

Sergeant Jonathan Luck is the statewide coordinator for the Wisconsin State Patrol motorcycle unit. Luck said motorcycle crashes happen most often when other cars are changing lanes.

“[Drivers] don’t do the double check of their blind spot,” he said, explaining, “[Drivers] just may not see [motorcyclists] right away just due to their size and not doing that double take.”

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Luck said those incidents can carry a $175 fine, but consequences can escalate.

“The penalties can be much more severe if someone is injured or killed,” he said.

The message to drivers is to keep motorcyclists in mind. Sharing the road keeps everyone safe.

“We need you to look and look again,” Luck said.

Hersheim added, “We’re out there, there’s people’s brothers, families, moms and dads that are out riding.”

Motorcycle safety is even more important now. With more people getting outdoors during the pandemic, some shops have seen motorcycle sales go up. Staff at Harley-Davidson of Madison said there have been times in the last year they almost ran out of bikes on the floor.

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