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Another View: Keep alert, drive safely and share the road

Hot summer weather always brings with it a number of hazards such as risk of sunburn or sun poisoning, heat stroke, dehydration and more.

Additionally, the warmer weather sees an increase in motorcycle operators, which poses an additional threat on the roads.

The U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported motorcycle riders are overrepresented in fatal traffic crashes, with 5,579 fatalities in 2020.

Whitehall Township recently saw the deaths of two young residents from accidents involving motorcycles - one was the driver of a motorcycle and the other a passenger in a car involved in a collision with a motorcycle. The motorcyclist in the second accident, a man from Reading, also died.

People might question why others would take what is often deemed an unnecessarily risky mode of transportation.

Ride With Us reports people ride motorcycles for a number of reasons, including the feeling of freedom, to save on gas money, an easier commute, easier access to parking, the close-knit rider community, feeling more connected with your surroundings and even as a form of meditation.

“When traveling by motorcycle, you engage all your senses,” Ride With Us reported. “You feel the temperatures change, you smell the world around you, you move with the turns - all these things would be missed if you were in a car, bus, train, plane or other mode of transportation.”

Many of the motorcycle accidents seen this time of year can be avoided with increased awareness and safety measures from all drivers on the road.

“Safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways,” NHTSA reported. “By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.”

NHTSA noted drivers should understand challenges faced by motorcyclists such as vehicle size and visibility.

Collisions often happen while one vehicle is changing lanes. Taking a second look before changing lanes can help a motorist check for a motorcycle. Since motorcycles are significantly smaller vehicles, they can be missed at first glance. Take an extra second and double check before changing lanes.

Motorcyclists can also increase their own safety by wearing appropriate gear such as helmets, proper footwear, long pants, jackets, gloves, etc. Using correct lane signaling, keeping extra space between vehicles and using headlights will also help contribute to a safer ride.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation noted speeding is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents in the state. PennDOT noted 96% of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States involved the motorcyclist hitting another vehicle. The organization urges motorcycle riders to slow down, drive the suggested speeds and learn to yield to other motorists.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway - do not operate a motor vehicle of any kind while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

“Alcohol and drugs, including some prescribed medications, negatively affect your judgment, coordination, balance, throttle control and ability to shift gears,” NHTSA said. “These substances also impair your alertness and reduce your reaction time.”

NHTSA urges motorcyclists to be properly licensed since riding a motorcycle requires different skills and knowledge than driving a car. This often involves taking a special motorcycle driving course. NHTSA noted 36% of riders involved in fatal motorcycle crashes in 2020 did not have valid motorcycle licenses.

PennDOT has a motorcycle safety program offering courses across the state.

At the end of the day, everyone out on the road - whether driving a sedan, motorcycle, truck, bicycle or other mode of transportation - has somewhere they need to be. Everyone is focused on their lives and their routes. This is especially relevant right now with Musikfest happening in Bethlehem. There will be a lot of extra vehicles out on the roads.

Be sure to leave extra space between vehicles, take a second look before changing lanes, follow recommended safety protocols and pay attention to what you are doing.

This could help save a life.

Samantha Anderson

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

Northampton Press

Catasauqua Press