Motorcylists need our protection
The other night on the Adirondack Northway, a driver of an SUV was anxious to get through the traffic — anxious enough to be willing to kill someone.
Zig-zagging through traffic, he managed to come up upon a motorcyclist stuck in the passing lane behind slower-moving vehicles. Rather than back off to give the motorcyclist room, he tailgated the bike as if he was behind a large truck.
The motorcyclist, who was riding with a passenger on the back, managed to keep his cool and eventually ease into the middle lane without getting clipped by the driver of the SUV.
Had the cyclist been forced to slow up even a little, perhaps for the traffic ahead or to avoid a rut or an object in the road, the SUV would have plowed into him, sending him sprawling into traffic and very likely causing serious injury or death.
As the Americade motorcycle rally roars into Lake George this coming week, now is a good time to remind both motorcyclists and operators of other motor vehicles to drive more carefully around one another.
A motorcycle is inherently dangerous. It's far more unstable than a four-wheel vehicle and lacks the protections like bumpers, seat belts and air bags that a car does. Helmets are vital in reducing injury and death, but they're only one safety measure.
A motorcyclist is 35 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than someone driving another vehicle. Accidents involving motorcyclists vs. other motor vehicles make up 75 percent of all motorcycle crashes.
As drivers of the four-wheel variety of vehicle, we have an obligation to protect these riders. Why, you might ask? They're the ones taking the risk. They don't call them "donor-cycles" for nothing, right?
OK, so how would you feel if you were responsible for creating a situation that caused the death of a motorcyclist? Would you justify your reaction by saying they asked for it?
This is the time of year for motorcycles. So give them room. Don't tailgate them or harass them in any way that might cause the rider to become distracted and lose control. Be extra careful when you're making left turns across traffic to ensure a motorcycle isn't coming the other way. Two-thirds of motorcycle crashes are caused when the other vehicle didn't give the right of way. Stay in your driving lane, especially around curves. A motorcyclist is rarely going to survive a head-on collision with a car. Double check your mirrors; motorcycles are a lot harder to see than cars and trucks. It's easy to lose track of them.
Be on the lookout for motorcyclists who are weaving in and out of traffic. Again, it might be their fault if they crash, but you'll have the guilt if you're responsible.
Of course, the responsibility for a motorcyclist's safety isn't all on the other driver. Cyclists who weave in and out of traffic put themselves at risk. Those who speed or who take curves quickly or who expect the other driver to stop are the ones most likely to crash and either be injured or die.
Blaming the car's driver after you're dead does you no good. Wear bright clothing, use your headlights, and be mindful of distracted drivers who might drift into your space. And neither motorcyclists nor four-wheel driver should be drinking. Cars, trucks and motorcycles can safely share the road as long as all are respectful and careful around each other. Don't be the driver who causes a motorcyclist to die. Let's all get home safely tonight.