Look twice, save a life 

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

LANSING — The annual Blessing of the Bikes in Baldwin in May marks the unofficial start of motorcycle season in West Michigan. May also marks National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

As the weather becomes warmer and motorcyclists take to the road, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson encourages drivers to exercise extra caution.

"All drivers should take extra care to prevent crashes every time they get behind the wheel," Benson said in a news release. "The simple act of taking a second look before making a turn or double-checking your blind spots can prevent crashes and save lives."

According to the release, the smaller profile of a motorcycle and its rider makes it harder for drivers of larger vehicles to see them. As a result, drivers could overlook them or not immediately recognize them as part of traffic flow.

"Though it is commonly thought that motorcyclist crashes occur most often on highways, 84% of motorcycle-vehicle crashes actually happen on city streets," release stated.

To promote motorcycle awareness, safety and education for motorists, the Secretary of State's "Look Twice, Save a Life" program offers tips to drivers:

• Always be aware of motorcyclists: Motorists are urged to remain aware of motorcyclists at all times, and especially in high-risk situations, including when changing lanes or making a left turn.

• Assume they are closer than they appear: Motorcycles’ smaller size can cause motorists to believe they are farther away than they actually are, making their speed and distance difficult to judge. The safe decision is to wait for the motorcyclist to pass before pulling out or turning.

• Double-check your blind spots: It’s probably no surprise that motorcyclists can get lost in a vehicle’s blind spot. Be extra cautious when merging or changing lanes.

• Don’t rely on just your ears: Many drivers count on hearing motorcycles to be alerted of their presence. You can’t always hear motorcycles, and using your eyes is more effective. So, practice remaining alert at all times.

• Keep your distance: Allow motorcyclists extra space, especially on busy city streets. Motorcyclists can slow by downshifting, which won’t activate the brake light, and may change positions within their lane, actions that may be unfamiliar to some drivers

• Know their signals: Some motorcyclists may use hand signals or the signals on their motorcycle to indicate their intentions on the road. When using hand signals, a right turn is indicated by a left arm raised, a left turn by the left arm straight out to the side and a stop by the left arm pointed downward.

• Avoid distractions: Keep all devices out of reach while driving so you won’t be tempted to look at them, even when you’re stopped at intersections. Other distractions that can take your eyes off the road include GPS devices, eating, drinking and reaching for an object.

For more information and safety tips, visit Michigan.gov/LookTwice.