Motorists urged to share the road with motorcyclists

As the days get longer and warm weather returns, drivers should expect an increase in motorcyclists on Michigan roadways, state officials advise.

With that in mind, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson this week reminded motorists to be alert and attentive about motorcyclists as she relaunched the Michigan Department of State’s annual “Look Twice. Save a Life.” public education campaign. The campaign kicks off as part of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in Michigan; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also issued a proclamation.

“It is a golden rule of traffic safety for all drivers – whether on a motorcycle or driving a passenger vehicle – to be mindful of those around them,” Benson said. “’Look Twice. Save a Life.’ is more than a slogan. It is a fundamental tenet of safe driving and key to reducing the number of crashes between passenger vehicles and motorcycles.”

Warm weather months are typically the most dangerous time of the year for traffic crashes involving motorcycles. With a much smaller visual profile than passenger vehicles, motorcyclists are harder to see. Because of this, Benson reminded drivers that “looking twice” at intersections and when making left turns increases the opportunity to spot a motorcycle and prevent a crash.

From early May through late September 2021, the last year for which complete data is available, Michigan recorded 1,716 crashes between motorcycles and passenger vehicles that resulted in 120 fatalities and 407 serious injuries – the highest annual number of fatal and serious injury crashes on record.

Motorcyclists are also at high risk of being killed or suffering a serious injury in a crash and are 28 times more likely to be killed in a crash than is an occupant of a passenger vehicle, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2020, the nationwide number of motorcyclists killed in a crash reached the highest total since the Fatality Analysis Reporting System was established in 1975. That was a double-digit increase from the previous year.

In addition, 84 percent of crashes in Michigan occur on streets, not highways, with speed limits of 35 to 55 mph. Half happened at intersections. In 2021, most crashes occurred in the state’s more populous counties, and most of those happened on weekends when motorcycle traffic tends to swell.

Funding for the “Look Twice. Save a Life.” campaign comes from the Motorcycle Safety and Education Fund, which was created by the Michigan Legislature in 2017. The fund is financed by $2.50 from each original motorcycle endorsement and $2 from each motorcycle endorsement renewal. The 2017 law requires the Secretary of State to create the “Look Twice. Save a Life.” program to promote motorcycle awareness, safety, and education.