Motorcycles require extra attention in traffic

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 4, 2015

Warmer weather means it’s more likely for bikers to take their prized possessions for a ride on Michigan’s roads. And that means everyone on the road needs to be cautious, whether on two wheels or four.

AAA Michigan Public Affairs Director Susan Hiltz said drivers should never tailgate a motorcycle or abruptly change lanes in front of one.

“With summer approaching, it’s good to be on the lookout for motorcycles in the traffic mix,” she said. “If you’re preparing to change lanes, use your turn signal, use your mirrors and check your blind spot.”

Hiltz also recommended that bikers should keep their skills fresh and seek additional training if necessary. They also should avoid driving distractions, she said.

Jim Rhoades, legislative director of the pro-motorcyclist rights group ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) of Michigan, said the group’s objective is to encourage safe ridership and training that leads to state endorsement. He added that around 42 percent of the 2014 motorcyclist deaths came from bikers who were operating without a lawful cycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses.

  “The key to motorcyclist and traffic safety is to teach people how to ride properly and to make car drivers aware of motorcyclists,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades explained that bikers get official state endorsements by taking classes that involve written and riding exams. 

“The classes generally involve about a three-day time period — a first half a day is spent learning techniques and learning laws,” he said. “The next two days is spent fully on the range.”

According to traffic crash statistics compiled from the Michigan State Police, motorcycle-related fatalities declined in 2014. Last year, 107 motorcycle users died from crashes compared to 2013 (128) and 2012 (129).

“2014 had the second-lowest number of motorcycle fatalities in the last 10 years despite the doom and gloom that was predicted when the helmet law was modified in 2012,” an ABATE press release said April 21.

In 2012, Michigan passed a law that allows motorcyclists ages 21 or older to ride without a helmet so long as they have sufficient medical benefit coverage and have either completed an approved safety course or have had a motorcycle endorsement for a minimum of two years.
Rhoades is supportive of the current helmet law.

“We recommend that if they choose to, they can go ahead and use it,” he said. “We don’t feel that helmets necessarily made a substantial difference.”

AAA’s Hiltz recommended that bikers cover their  heads with the proper equipment.

“We know it’s not a law, but we strongly encourage helmet use,” she said. “It’s just a smart move.”

Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting Find out more about ABATE of Michigan by visiting