PIERRE, S.D. (KELO)– As the weather warms up, drivers can expect to be sharing the road with more motorcyclists.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a time designated to remind everyone to be alert for travelers on two wheels.
KELOLAND News spoke with Lieutenant Tony Maunu with the South Dakota Highway Patrol about some of the ways motorcyclists and other drivers can keep themselves safe while out of the roads. Maunu is also a motorcycle safety instructor with the South Dakota Safety Council.
While driving, look twice for anyone on a motorcycle, don’t share a lane with a motorcyclist and don’t drive distracted, Maunu said.
He said one thing homeowners can do to increase safety for motorcyclists is to watch where you are throwing lawn clippings and try to avoid throwing those on the road as it can make the road slippery, similar to riding on ice.
When it comes to being safe as a motorcyclist, there are a lot of different things to do, Maunu said. Making sure you have appropriate gear is important.
“You really want to dress for the slide and not necessarily the ride,” Maunu said.
Other things for motorcyclists to remember: do pre-ride examination of the bike before every ride, make sure you are in the correct state of mind and physically ready to ride as it requires a lot of concentration, and make sure you continue to practice riding, Maunu said.
In South Dakota, there are a lot of rural areas that have abundant wildlife, Maunu said. He suggests motorcyclists avoid riding during the dusk to dawn timeframe because that is when the animals are most active.
“The best thing to do if you see a deer on the side of the road, realize they are a herd animal, probably going to be more than one, is come to a complete stop,” Maunu said.
The South Dakota Safety Council offers both a basic rider training course and advanced courses, which allow riders to practice, Maunu said.
“You want to know your capabilities and you want to know your motorcycles abilities and then you just want to ride within those parameters,” Maunu said. “It’s fun; it’s fantastic. You end up taking on a little bit of risk, and motorcycling is dangerous…but it’s exhilarating too.”
These training courses are important because motorcycling is a skill that needs to be developed, Maunu said. They see multiple skill levels in this class; there are beginners and then there are individuals who take the course every year.
A lot of motorcycle crashes happen at intersections, Maunu said. If it is a one vehicle crash with a motorcycle, it is typically at a curve, whether that be taking it too fast or not paying attention.
Amanda Hossle, Director of the Office of Highway Safety, said that in 2019, the state saw 27 motorcycle fatalities in 2020 compared to 14 in 2019.
“Although there was an increase from 2019 to 2020, when we look at our five-year average of motorcycle fatalities, we’re continuing to see a downward trend on that,” Hossle said.
Hossle says there was a big increase in the percentage of motorcycle fatalities for drivers who were not wearing motorcycle helmets. This percentage was 74% in 2020 and 43% in 2019.
“At the Department of Safety, fatalities are always a huge concern for us and so for the driving public, wear your seatbelt, don’t drive impaired, pay attention” Hossle said. “And kind of those exact same things on the riding side. Don’t be distracted, wear your proper riding gear and then never drink and ride.”
The Office of Highway Safety partners with the South Dakota Safety Council and recommends that riders take the motorcycle safety course, Hossle said. Riders can also sign up with southdakotarides.com to receive e-mails throughout the summer with safety tips as well as interactive and printable maps.
Be prepared for the route you are taking and make sure to wear appropriate gear, Hossle said.
The motorcycle season is underway, Maunu said, with a lot of motorcyclists getting their bikes out now or back in April, and goes until September or October depending on where they are located. A lot of the season depends on the weather.
The knowledge that Maunu shared today does not take the place of a safety course, he said, which covers multiple different items with 16 to 18 hours of instruction. With a successful completion of both the written and driving portion of the course, riders can get their motorcycle endorsement.