SALEM, Ore. - As the weather improves, more and more motorcyclists will hit the roads. With that in mind, Governor Kitzhaber has proclaimed May 2013 "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" in Oregon. Oregon is joining with motorcycle organizations and other federal, state and local highway safety and law enforcement organizations to raise awareness about motorcycle safety.
Unfortunately, 50 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in 2012 according to preliminary data from the Oregon Department of Transportation, up from 40 in 2011.
Almost 50 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in Oregon are single-vehicle crashes, meaning another vehicle wasn't involved in the crash. In addition, 12 percent of traffic fatalities in Oregon in 2012 were motorcyclists, yet they represent only 8 percent of drivers and only 4 percent of registered vehicles.
Training improves safety
Oregon is a national leader in motorcycle safety education, program administration and licensing practices. ODOT-approved motorcycle safety courses are provided by the TEAM OREGON Motorcycle Safety Program. Currently, new riders between the ages of 21 and 50 must take either the Basic or Intermediate Rider Training course. Those under 21 must take the Basic Rider Training course. Additional age groups will be phased in as follows:
- Jan. 1, 2014 - All new riders under age 61
- Jan. 1, 2015 - All new riders no matter what age.
The hope is that as more people go through training, the number of crashes will decline. According to ODOT data, very few trained riders die in motorcycle crashes.
Safety is everyone's responsibility
During May – and the rest of the year – drivers should safely "share the road" with motorcycles and be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists have responsibilities too. They should obey traffic rules, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted and always wear a helmet and highly visible gear.
"It doesn't matter if you're on four wheels or two; we all have to do our part to share the road safely," said Michele O'Leary, Motorcycle Safety Program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "One simple thing motorcyclists can do to improve their safety is wear high visibility gear so they can be seen by other traffic users."
ODOT offers safety tips for drivers and motorcyclists:
- Remember, motorcycles are vehicles with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
- Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
- Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Don't tailgate.
- Always wear a helmet and highly visible, protective clothing.
- Allow time and space to react to other motorists or changing road conditions.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic
- Don't speed.
- Motorcycle rider training and education save lives. TEAM OREGON offers classes for beginner to advanced riders.
For more information about the law and motorcycle endorsements and training, visit -