The sun is out. The temperatures are rising and summer is right around the corner.
With summer and nicer weather coming shortly, more motorcycles will be out on area roads which should be a call for caution from both riders as well as other motorists.
Many choose motorcycles over traditional four-wheel vehicles due to the economical gas mileage and how fun they are to operate, according to Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace.
OBSERVER file photo
Statistics have shown in 70 to 80 percent of motorcycle accidents the riders have received no formalized training.
"There's more (motorcycles) because they are fun and economical," Gerace said.
With more than 10 fatalities this year already in Western New York, including two in Chautauqua County, safety is top priority. Most motorcycle accidents are speed-related but some can be animal-related. Hitting an animal with a motorcycle is much different than hitting one with a vehicle.
From 2008-2010 (the last year with data available) there have been 166 motorcycle accidents in the county, one of which was a fatal accident. Of those accidents, 105 have been involved a single motorcycle and 23 have involved speed as a factor.
May is motorcycle safety month and with the appearance of more motorcycles on the road, local law enforcement officials offered their tips for safety. Fredonia Police Chief Bradley Meyers said motorists and riders need to be attentive.
"The motorcyclist has to be in a constant defensive driving mode. Don't assume you will be seen and the public will respond. Motorists need to be more aware. Don't have the mindset you are looking for a car... look for motorcycles and smaller motorized vehicles," Meyers said.
Gerace agreed saying motorists have to be aware of motorcycles and ensure they are not invisible. Gerace also warned motorists to give riders a buffer zone.
"It's hard to judge the speed when it's a motorcycle. Give them (the rider) the benefit of the doubt," he said.
Gerace also gave other safety tips for riding. Riders should have the proper gear for riding including proper clothing. Most riders will often wear shorts and short sleeves.
"That's devastating (to the rider) if they come in contact with the ground," Gerace said.
Riders also are required to wear an approved helmet and eye protection by law. Gerace also urged riders to not operate a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Another option motorcyclists have is to take an approved ridership course. Riders who successfully complete the course with a permit will have the road test waived. New York state Trooper Tim Kachelmeyer has rode as part of the motorcycle detail for the state police since 2000 and has been an approved Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructor for three years. He teaches for the Ride with Pride program, a 15 hour course that teaches safety for beginning riders. The program teaches basic ridership which covers the basic skills needed to ride. Statistics have shown in 70 to 80 percent of motorcycle accidents the riders have received no formalized training.
"In the course, we teach that motorcycle safety is the responsibility of everybody around. The responsibility of the rider, the responsibility of the general motoring public and the responsibility of law enforcement to make sure people are riding motorcycles safely," Kachelmeyer said.
The course teaches the ladder of risk which tells riders the more risks you take the higher the possibility of something going wrong.
"There's not just one cause of a motorcycle accident. There's usually several causes," Kachelmeyer said. "To alleviate collisions, break the chain and take one of the factors out."
Kachelmeyer teaches his students that they need to ask themselves three questions before riding which include: are you ready to ride, is your motorcycle ready and is your gear ready. Knowing how to handle your motorcycle and not having a more powerful bike than you are used to, not being impaired by any intoxicants and being emotionally ready are important factors to consider prior to riding. Making sure a motorcycle is ready is checking to make sure the bike is in working order and everything is correct and having proper gear such as appropriate clothing, helmet and eyewear.
Kachelmeyer stated that most accidents that occur are the fault of the motorcycle driver who's not properly trained.
"Most of these accidents that are occurring now are rider error. ... You're having people who aren't well trained or operating at a high rate of speed.
"When riding a motorcycle, you don't have four walls around you. You don't have airbags. You don't have seat belts. You have two tires instead of four. It takes more coordination to operate a motorcycle than a car," Kachelmeyer said.
The majority of accidents recently in Western New York have involved one motorcycle and not any other vehicle. Speed and operator error has also played a factor.
"A lot of people want to blame motorcycles in general and that's not the place to start. The place to start is that we have more and more people getting on motorcycles who do not have the proper training," Kachelmeyer said.
Fifty percent of people who ride do not have a license to ride. Many riders also have a motorcycle too big for them. Having a bike that is too powerful for you is having too powerful of an engine for your skill level.
"Know your abilities and pick something that falls within your riding abilities so you can operate that motorcycle safely," Kachelmeyer said.
Kachelmeyer even said he worked his way up from a sportster to a bigger bike as a "normal progression."
"Buy something that is going to be safer for you that you can polish your skills up before you go bigger and faster," he said.
The Ride with Pride program also offers programs for intermediate and advanced riders. Kachelmeyer suggests riders should continually learn and hone their skill.
"A good motorcyclist is someone who constantly wants to improve their skills," Kachelmeyer said. "There's always room for learning and improvement. Just because you get your license, doesn't mean it stops there. You have to constantly educate yourself."
Those who have taken the course have all benefited from it, Kachelmeyer said. The Ride with Pride program provides motorcycles and safety equipment for those taking the beginning course. Students will have five hours in the classroom and then 10 hours riding.
If you observe a motorcycle being operated unsafely, contact your local police agency, Gerace said. For more information on Ride with Pride, visit www.ridewpride.com. For more information on MSF, visit online2.msf-usa.org/msf/Default.aspx.
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