Known for its great weather and windy back roads, the Okanagan is the home of a large and ever-growing motorcycle community. May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, and the Kelowna & District Safety Council is encouraging drivers and riders to do everything they can to ensure that everyone arrives home safely.
“Now that spring seems to have finally arrived, we’ll be seeing more and more riders on the road,” says Tania Meyer, executive director of The Kelowna & District Safety Council.
“We’ve already had some local fatalities this year and what many people refer to as ‘accidents’ are actually preventable traffic collisions. We’re hoping that by creating awareness of traffic safety issues and by reminding people to make good decisions, we can reduce or avoid any more injuries.
“Crashes are overwhelmingly the result of human error,” Meyer said, “when people pass illegally or don’t scan before entering intersections, when new riders override their skills and experience, when drivers or riders drive distracted or impaired, or when speeding is involved.
“We want everyone to think twice and stay safe.”
To help bring motorcycle awareness, KDSC has a supply of free LOOK motorcycle bumper stickers for giveaway at the office (395 Hartman Road, across from the YMCA in Rutland). KDSC also offers the following advice for drivers and for riders alike:
· Be on the lookout for motorcyclists. Motorcycles are small and can easily slip into a driver’s blind spot. Use your turn signals, check your mirrors, and always shoulder check before changing lanes or overtaking other vehicles.
· Stay off your cell phones. Talking or texting on a handheld while operating a vehicle is not only illegal but the distraction it causes is extremely hazardous to other road users and especially to motorcyclists.
· Use caution and scan well when entering an intersection. Nearly 80 per cent of urban intersection two-vehicle motorcycle collisions occur at signalized intersections. In 75 per cent of these crashes the motorcycle had the right of way.
· Don’t tailgate. Motorcycles have better braking abilities than cars, so leave a greater space cushion between you and the rider in front of you than you would for a driver. Motorcyclists should:
· Think ahead, ride defensively, and assume you are invisible to other road users. Remember, motorists have been used to not seeing motorcyclists for at least five months, and they may well not see what they are not expecting to see.
· After months of not riding, recognize that your skills are not as sharp as they were at the end of last season, so keep your riding at a moderate pace until the rust wears off.
· Practice your slow speed control and sudden stops in an open area free from traffic.
· Consider taking a rider refresher from a professional school. Riding is a lifelong sport, and riders should continue to improve their skills in order to stay on top of their game.
· Wear “all the gear all the time.” By dressing for the crash and not for the weather, riders will be best protected. This includes a DOT approved helmet, motorcycle jacket, gloves, sturdy leather boots, and jeans or riding pants. Consider high-vis gear or a safety vest.
· Ensure your bike is properly prepared and ready for riding this season after winter’s storage: tires (adequate tread depth, no cracks on sidewalls, properly inflated to manufacturers’ recommendations); replenish oil and filter if not done prior to storage; check brake pads for wear; ensure all fasteners are tight.
· Use turn signals every time you change lanes and be sure to perform an inside shoulder check with every lane change.
· Dominate your lane so that you will be most visible to other road users.
· Scan 12 seconds ahead of you and check your mirrors every 5 – 8 seconds.
· Ride Smart. Don’t stunt ride in traffic and never ride impaired. If you’re feeling too tired or too preoccupied with life’s stresses to ride—don’t.
The Kelowna & District Safety Council is a non-profit organization that has been a leader in motorcycle safety since 1980. With the largest rider training facility outside of the Lower Mainland, KDSC trains over 500 riders each year. KDSC also offers driver training and operates the Little Travellers’ Safety Village for children. For information on any of KDSC’s programs, visit www.kdsc.bc.ca or call 250-765-3163.