COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)—May’s designation as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and National Bicycle Safety Awareness month is far from arbitrary. According to Sergeant Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), warmer months mark an especially dangerous time of year for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
“A lot of it has to do with simply the time of year,” Burkett said about the issue.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicated in a 2020 report 61 percent of motorcyclist deaths occurred between the months of May and September.
Burkett explained oftentimes motor- and bicyclists are getting back on their vehicles for the first time since before winter. He urged people to inspect their bikes before hitting the road and emphasized the importance of defensive driving for smaller vehicles.
Scott Ressmeyer, who leads Columbus’ Miracle Riders on a cross-country motorcycle trip for charity each year added knowing one’s limitations can help avoid trouble on the road.
“To me, I think the most important thing [motorcyclists] can do is don’t let your ego get in the way: take the motorcycle safety course,” said Ressmeyer, who will lead the Riders on their annual ride later this month.
He told WRBL he makes all of his 30 riders take a refresher on motorcycle safety each year led by Lieutenant Tim Wynn of the Columbus Police Department. Wynn is also a member of the Miracle Riders.
Ressmeyer said the group does daily safety briefs on their Miracle Ride and he always emphasizes to his riders the importance of pulling over for a rest when needed and staying hydrated on the road.
“We’ve had a couple of accidents…one of them was because of fatigue…he just kind of dozed off and went off the side of the hill,” Ressmeyer said. The biker noted the rider was okay, but he would have preferred pulling over to rest over taking an unplanned trip to the hospital.
Burkett and Ressmeyer noted safety apparel can make a big difference in protecting cyclists and bikers, but additional methods can help as well. Burkett pointed to reflective clothing while Ressmeyer noted he likes to confirm other drivers see him by making eye contact with them. They both emphasized the importance of a good helmet.
The owner of Ride On Bikes in Columbus, Jason McKenzie reiterated this as well.
“We don’t charge for helmets, we strongly recommend them,” said McKenzie, who rents out bicycles from his shop on a daily basis.
The cyclist divulged he regularly encourages customers to use helmets by telling them about a serious concussion he sustained after crashing on his bike without one. McKenzie also keeps a broken helmet display in the store.
In the future, McKenzie expressed hopes for increased bike safety infrastructure, including review courses on bike hand signals.
The store owner recounted an accident which resulted when a driver misinterpreted his turn signal as an invitation to pass. He also noted sometimes drivers assume bikes should not be in the road even though it is illegal to bike on a sidewalk in Columbus.
While Ressmeyer acknowledged he rarely wears bright colors to increase his visibility on the road in good conditions, instead sticking to black, during rainy weather he forces all of his riders to don “fluorescent orange” rainsuits and drive slowly.
Burkett also explained what to do if an accident should occur.
“You need to get yourself out of that roadway as quick as possible,” said Burkett. He elaborated saying if someone falls, they become a pedestrian and it is important to get to safety and try to keep clear so emergency personnel can respond.
In a press release by ALEA, agency secretary Hal Taylor said, “If everyone is vigilant and respectful to other riders and drivers when we are on the roadway, we can all do our part to keep all of our roadways safe.”