RALEIGH, N.C. — On a warm weekend like this past one, many people like to take a ride with the top down, or on a motorcycle.
Do you feel more exposed to danger when driving a motorcycle than you do when driving a car? Yes No No Opinion
But with at least five bike crashes in 48 hours, the weekend was a hazardous one for motorcyclists on Wake County roads.
Bikers can take precautions. But many times, the biggest safety factor is just being seen. Riders say "near misses" happen all the time.
On the first weekend of spring, bikers have come out of hibernation.
"It's a beautiful day," cyclist Matthew Donaldson said. "There's nothing better than having the wind blowing in your face going down the road."
Said fellow cyclist Matt Comstock: "I love it. Nothing is better than riding a bike in this weather. It's gorgeous."
It also can be dangerous as the remains of Clyde Hedgepeth's motorcyle attest.
Police say the driver of a car pulled out onto Wake Forest Road in front of Hedgepeth, who was thrown from his motorcycle and rushed to the hospital with serious injuries.
Over on Atlantic Avenue, emergency flares mark the spot of another weekend accident involving a motorcycle. The rider, Scott Mussler, was in critical condition Sunday night.
According to police, Mussler was riding his motorcycle with three other motorcyclists about 10 p.m. Saturday and crossed the center line when approaching a curve at Six Forks. Mussler ran head on into a car.
There was at least one other close call for a motorcyclist Sunday. A motorcycle turned left on a green arrow near the scene of the Atlantic Avenue accident, while a car ran a red light and just missed the bike.
"People cut you off," Donaldson said. "They change lanes without looking, pull out in front of you.
"You always have to be more defensive on a motorcycle than any other vehicle you drive."
Riders are more likely to be injured in a collision with a fixed object like a tree or telephone pole than with another moving vehicle. Nevertheless, Donaldson does his best to be seen. He has four headlights, which are on every time he rides.
In 2002, more than 3,000 motorcycle riders died in accidents; 65,000 were injured. North Carolina ranked seventh in motorcycle deaths with 123.
Donaldson said bikers have to ride responsibly to protect themselves, but motorists in cars can help by keeping an eye out for the two-wheelers.
"There's a saying in carpentry: 'measure twice, cut once,'" he said. "Drivers, look twice and save a life."