Drivers reminded to watch out for motorcycles and bicycles

It’s Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Awareness Month, and that means motorists are being encouraged to safely share the roadways throughout Florida.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Trucking Association to spread that message.

“Smaller vehicles are harder to see on the road,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Drivers must be sure to always look twice, use caution when changing lanes and give others plenty of space.”

A member of the Villages Public Safety Department checks out Vincent Zaranti’s motorcycle after a collision with a golf cart in March in the Village of Caroline.

Sharing the road, Rhodes added, is everyone’s responsibility.

“Whether you operate a large truck, passenger vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle, learn your role on the road and always look out for one another,” she said.

FHP Director Col. Gene Spaulding agreed.

“Motorists should use caution when driving around large trucks and watch for motorcycles and bicycles,” he said. “By staying alert, drivers and riders can help create a safer road environment for everyone to arrive alive.”

Preliminary statistics show that in 2017, there were 9,535 motorcycle crashes and 6,521 bicycle crashes in the Sunshine State. That equates to more than 300 motorcycle and bicycle crashes every week, which resulted in 611 motorcycle and bicycle fatalities.

Statistics also show that of the 10,232 motorcyclists involved in a crash, 42 percent were not wearing a helmet. And more than 85 percent were male.

Given those numbers, officials say it’s important to remember that motorists should never share a lane with a motorcycle. They also should maintain a four-second buffer zone between their vehicle and a motorcyclist and increase space when encountering bad weather and road conditions.

Drivers also shouldn’t follow too closely behind a motorcycle or bicycle. And for more safety tips, anyone who operates a motor vehicle or bicycle should refer to the official Florida Driver License Handbook, officials said.

“Understanding how to share the road responsibly is critical for the safety of Floridians, visitors and our police officers who work on bicycles and motorcycles,” said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “It’s important for motorists to be mindful of these vehicles and help us keep our roads and highways safer for all users.”

Motorists also are being reminded of the necessity to safely share the road with commercial vehicles. Since large trucks don’t maneuver like passenger vehicles, drivers must never tailgate and stay out of the “No Zone” – the blind spots in front, behind and on both sides of commercial vehicles, officials said, adding that it’s equally important to always pass on the left for maximum visibility and to watch for wide turns.

“It is vital to spread the message of safety on the roads for all motorists – whether it’s on two, four, or 18 wheels,” said Ken Armstrong, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association. “A large truck can take the length of a football field to stop and has big blind spots. We encourage all drivers to stay alert and practice safe driving techniques to properly share the road with bicycles, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.”