May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. It’s also Zombie Awareness Month and Scandinavian American Heritage Month, but greater awareness of motorcycles and motorcycle safety is likely to save more lives.

Motorcycles continue to gain popularity, but unfortunately, there are still far too many serious and fatal motorcycle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a traffic crash, a motorcyclist is 26 times more likely to die than the occupant of a passenger vehicle.

Motorcycles only make up about 3 percent of all vehicles registered in the U.S. If you don’t ride one, you might assume that motorcycle safety has nothing to do with you. The reality is, we all share the road. We can’t get stuck in a “not my job” mindset; people are dying.

Car and truck drivers have a big role to play in reducing motorcycle wrecks

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s latest statistics, the car or truck driver is completely at fault in about 47 percent of motorcycle accidents. Most often, the driver wasn’t drunk or driving like a madman. Instead, they frequently report they “just didn’t see the motorcycle.”

Start seeing motorcycles.

How? Start looking for them. Play a game in your car where you get points for noticing them. Involve your kids.

Here are a few other motorcycle safety tips for drivers:

  • Unlike those in cars and trucks, motorcycle turn signals don’t automatically turn off after the turn is complete. That means they can get left on – so don’t assume the biker is turning just because he or she is signaling. WATCH.
  • Before you turn, change lanes or merge with other traffic, check all of your mirrors and blind spots for potential bikers.
  • Always use your turn signal if you plan to turn, change lanes, or merge. That way, if you can’t see the motorcycle, at least the rider has warning.
  • Allow more following distance behind motorcycles than you do when following a car or truck. They can stop much faster than you can, and they need room to maneuver.
  • Check, double-check and check again at intersections – a motorcycle’s small size can fool your eye so you don’t realize how fast they’re coming, and one of the most frequent causes of motorcycle wrecks is a car turning into their path.

Enjoy the fine weather and go for a drive. If you do, watch out for motorcycles!