Local News

Motorcycle riders aim to spread awareness this month

Posted May 12, 2009 11:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2009 9:10 a.m. EDT

— May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and riders are urging motorists to share the road. And for good reason. North Carolina's motorcycle death rate is the eighth highest in the nation, according to AAA Carolinas.

Motorcycles represent 2 percent of registered vehicles but are involved in 12 percent of fatal traffic deaths. The death toll rose from 97 in 2003 to 190 in 2007.

A month ago, Siim Eiland became a Harley-Davidson motorcycle owner. He said the higher crash and fatality rates didn't curb his desire to ride.

"I've wanted a motorcycle for years," he said.

However, the 23-year-old says his parents were against it.

"Particularly, my mom, she hated the idea of a motorcycle. But then I got older and I no longer listen to mom so much," Eiland said.

A wreck involving a motorcycle tied up traffic during rush hour Tuesday on Interstate 40 at Harrison Avenue in Cary.  The unidentified rider was injured. The state Highway Patrol has not yet said why the motorcycle, a vehicle and a tractor-trailer collided.

Motorcycle riders are often the injured person in collisions with vehicles, as they have no protection, except for a helmet.

"In this business, it's not uncommon you come in Monday morning and you hear about one of your customers that was in an accident," said Scott Northrup, general manager of Ray Price Harley-Davidson.

Northrup said he believes the responsibility of motorcycle safety is shared equally between riders and drivers.

"Be careful and pay attention to the cars, and the cars pay attention to motorcycles. We're here and we're not going anywhere," Northrup said.

Northrup also said he believes before anyone is licensed to ride, they should be required to take a motorcycle safety course. But state law does not require a road test or safety course to obtain a learners' permit to drive a motorcycle.

"Safety is number one. It's very important to us," Northrup said.

Safety tools and defensive driving techniques he said are crucial to avoiding a crash. Having taken a safety course, Eiland agreed.

"There's no daydreaming on a motorcycle. You daydream, bad things happen," Eiland said.

Being alert and smart, Eiland said the feeling he experiences on his motorcycle makes it worth the risk.

"I can not describe the feeling because it's amazing," Eiland said. "You got to live one day at a time and enjoy it."

Safety experts say it is important for both riders and drivers to be keenly aware of a vehicle's blind spot. They also suggest drivers take a second look when a motorcycle is approaching because it is sometimes difficult to judge how far away it is and how fast it is going.