Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety in Illinois
Since motorcycles don’t have seatbelts or any protection for their riders, motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to serious injury or death in a crash. For this reason, motorcyclists need the skills to make the right split-second decisions in emergency situations, such as how or when to swerve or brake. This informed judgment needs to come from training because if it first comes from experience, it might be too late.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) offers these safety guidelines for motorcyclists:
Don’t drink and ride. In 2007, of 157 motorcycle fatalities, 67 of the motorists killed had a blood alcohol level of.01 or higher
Trucks have large blind spots on all sides; don’t hang out in these “no zones”
Always wear a helmet that meets DOT standards (look inside for the DOT label)
Ride defensively and watch your speed
Conduct a safety check of your bike before you go
Wear protective clothing, including sturdy footwear, straight-leg pants of heavy material, long-sleeves, helmet, eye-protection, and full-fingered gloves
Resources and Courses for Motorcycle Safety
IDOT offers the Cycle Rider Safety Training Program to manage the risks and increase the skills of motorcycle riders. There are basic, intermediate and experienced rider courses available and all are free for Illinois residents over the age of 16 who possess a valid automobile or motorcycle driver’s license or permit. IDOT administers the program through Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, University of Illinois in Champaign, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and Illinois State University in Normal.
There are also commercial driving schools, including Midwest Police Motorcycle Training of Illinois. The school offers advanced training courses in motorcycle safety for police officers and civilian riders. The school uses accident reconstruction to create safety courses based on real-life situations that are carried out in a controlled environment. The school wants to improve riders’ skills to be the best rider they can, while at the same time helping riders understand the limitations of their capabilities on their motorcycle.
If you find the course you want is full or you can’t take a course, you can read a copy of “The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Guide to Motorcycling Excellence: Skills, Knowledge, and Strategies for Riding Right.” The Illinois Secretary of State’s office provides the “Illinois Motorcycle Operators Manual.”
IDOT also continues to promote their “Start Seeing Motorcycles” campaign, which is designed to increase other motorists’ awareness of the presence of motorcycles on the road.
Another Vulnerable Rider on the Road: Bicyclists
Motorists also need to be aware of bicyclists on the road and remember to share the roadways with them. Bicyclists have the same right to be on the road as motorists, but with those rights come the same responsibilities for following the rules of the road. The Illinois State Police offers a brochure on being a safe bicyclist on their Web site. Bike safety tips include:
Always wear a level, snug-fitting helmet
Be predictable. Make eye contact with drivers and signal your intentions
Make sure your children know the rules of the road and train them in safe bike riding
Avoid riding after dark. If you do, use head and taillights and wear reflective clothing
Ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the road
Be cautious and ride defensively
The Illinois State Police reports that most accidents involving adult bicyclists and cars are caused by the motorists (e.g., failing to yield while making a left turn across the path of a bicyclist). When they are caused by bicyclists, it is usually because the bicyclist was riding against the flow of traffic. If motorists remember to share the road and be patient and bicyclists ride defensively and both follow traffic laws, the roads will be a lot safer for everyone.