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Motorcycle safety is a two-way street

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WARRENSBURG — Today marks the start of National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. With the nice weather comes motorcyclists, and for some, motorcycle accidents. The National Safety Council urges automobile drivers and motorcycle riders that safety is a two-way street and splashes some cold water on those with bike-fever with some alarming statistics:

• Motorcyclists make up only 3% of registered vehicles, yet account for nearly 14% of all traffic fatalities.

• Nearly 28% of motorcycle fatalities involve alcohol.

• Almost 90% of motorcycle fatalities are male.

Friday, a motorcycle training session was hosted for around 100 riders from Whiteman Air Force Base at the Missouri Safety Center course in Warrensburg. 

“We used our facility here at the Missouri Safety Center to set up some exercises for them to practice on,” said Ray Pierce, Program Manager for the Missouri Motorcycle Safety program. “We gave them some instruction, showed them a demonstration of Anti-lock Braking Systems using our skid bike and gave them some speeches on safety and training.”

Pierce said everyone should have formal motorcycle training, and that training should be an ongoing commitment. 

“Everybody needs training, and even if they've been trained, they need more training,” he said. “I've been in the business for 31 years, and every year I get more training.”

Larry Yeager from Sedalia’s Yeager Cycles was there and has some quick tips to keep cyclists who are hitting the pavement this Spring from hitting the pavement this spring. 

“You can go to yeagercycle.com and we’ve got rider training on there. You can go to State Fair Community College, it's got basic rider’s class on there, or you can go to Missouri Motorcycle Motorcycle Safety Foundation's website,” said Yeager. “At State Fair Community College they supply the bike. It's a two-and-a-half-day course. You show up with your riding gear, your helmet, your gloves, your long sleeve shirt and long sleeve pants and your boots and they have coaches on staff and they help teach you how to ride. Everything from teaching you where the starter button is to where the clutch is, where the shifter is, where the turn signals are at, all the way to how to do a safe stop at 35 miles-per hour.”

Yeager warns that motorcycle safety often comes down to being seen.

“You need to make yourself be seen,” said Yeager. “Whether it be wearing fluorescent gear or fluorescent helmets or your positioning around cars while going down the highway, you can make yourself visible and be seen better.”

Pierce agrees and points to a tragic fatality motorcycle accident at Whiteman. 

“Just two weeks ago we had a situation on the base where an individual was run over by a car,” said Pierce. “The airman died and unfortunately his wife got to witness that. It was very, very sad, so you’ve got to watch out for motorcycles.”

Pierce can’t blame cars in most accidents, however, motorcyclists are more often to blame for their own crashes. 

“Most of the time it's the motorcyclist,” said Pierce. “Driving too fast and on corners and they run off the road, or they end up running into oncoming traffic. That's the No. 1 killer. We do certainly have instances at intersections where cars are responsible for about 30% of the deaths and about 40% of the injuries, but when it comes to motorcycle crashes, the rest of the time it’s the motorcyclist’s issue — a lack of skill, lack of judgment. Motorcycle safety is a two-fold picture, the motorcyclists need to be better and car drivers should watch for us.”

Pierce and Yeager stress using safety equipment, helmets, gloves, boots and protective clothing. 

“Missourians are notoriously bad about wearing good riding gear,” said Pierce. “They think that jeans will help them, and jeans at 30 miles-an-hour last literally less than 10 feet.”

Back in Sedalia, cyclist John Koechner has another safety concern.

“On an average day of riding I'll have three to five cars cross the centerline with a phone in their hand, talking,” said Koechner. “Put your phone down, keep your eyes open and stay on your side of the road, and don't break the speed limit.”

For information on motorcycle safety courses visit www.yeagersharleydavidson.com/learn-how-to-be-an-excellent-biker--learn-to-ride, mmsp2.msi5.com or www.sfccmo.edu/the-learning-force/the-learningforce-schedule-of-courses.

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