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Remember to share the road with motorcyclists

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, aimed at getting motorists and motorcyclists to "share the road" with each other.

Motorcycles have the same rights and privileges as any motor vehicle on the roadway. This means they share equally the responsibility of road safety and motorcycle/motor vehicle crashes.

By the end of 2010, the numbers of licensed motorcycle operators and the numbers of registered motorcycles in Minnesota had reached their highest levels in history, according to the Department of Public Safety.

As a result, the numbers of overall motorcyclist crashes, fatalities and injuries had been increasing for many years.

The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts reports about half of all motorcycle crashes involve a collision with another vehicle. In many crashes, the driver never saw the motorcyclist, or didn't see the rider until it was too late.

In 2010 (final 2011 crash data has not yet been released), there were 1,377 crashes that involved at least one motorcycle. Of these crashes, 45 motorcyclists were killed.

There are many reasons why motor vehicle drivers do not see motorcyclists. Most drivers aren't familiar with motorcycles and don't look for them in traffic.

Motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, so they are more difficult to spot in traffic and can be hidden by other vehicles or roadside features.

The smaller size and single headlight on the motorcycle make it more difficult for other drivers to judge a rider's speed and distance.

The Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center encourages everyone, drivers and motorcyclists, to practice these techniques to make our roadways safer for everyone:

When turning left. Most crashes between vehicles and motorcycles involve turning left at an intersection. If crossing traffic or turning left, look twice for motorcycles before turning.

Blind spots. Motorcycles are easily hidden in traffic. Always take a second look over your shoulder, don't rely solely on your mirrors.

Weather. Rain and sun glare can make a motorcycle "invisible." Take an extra moment to make sure the way is clear.

Signals. Use turn signals. This allows the rider to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.

Larger vehicles. Cars and trucks can conceal a motorcycle traveling behind it. Take an extra moment after a larger vehicle passes before beginning a turn.

Eye contact. Motorcyclists make eye contact often to feel confident that other drivers see them. Give a nod back to acknowledge them.

Distance. Motorcyclists prefer to use a large space cushion, allowing them more time to react. Do not cut in front of a motorcycle and eliminate the safe following distance.

Signals. Most motorcycle turn signals do not cancel automatically. If a cycle is coming, and the signal is flashing, wait a moment for the cycle to pass.

Changing the driving habits of motorists and motorcyclists alike will help decrease the numbers of motorcyclists killed and injured in crashes.

Help to share in the responsibility of keeping all road users safe, and do your part by safely "sharing the road."