Highway Patrol offers safety tips for motorcyclists as fatalities trend upwards

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 8:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With Labor Day marking the unofficial end of summer, South Carolina Highway Patrol says to expect more motorcyclists on state roadways throughout the fall.

October is typically is one of the top months for motorcyclists. But more riders on the roads often go hand in hand with increased motorcycle fatalities.

“I think that boils down to we’re coming to the end of the year, you have a higher number of motorcyclists on the road,” Lt. Bill Rhyne of SC Highway Patrol said. “The Upstate of South Carolina is beautiful in the fall. I mean it’s gorgeous because of all of our mountains. So you have tons of motorcyclists on the road going to look at leaves.”

Motorcycle fatalities are trending upwards across the state of South Carolina over the past year, according to SC Highway Patrol. They’re up 27 compared to this point in 2020. As of September 2, there were 104 motorcycle deaths on South Carolina roadways this year. At the same time last year, there were 82.

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In an attempt to thwart this trend, SC Highway Patrol is planning on pushing out a lot of information on motorcycle safety in the coming months.

Rhyne has traveled nearly half a million miles on a motorcycle, and even he takes every opportunity he can to freshen up his skills. He said one piece of information taken away from any kind of training session could be the difference between life and death.

“When you hit a point that you think nobody can teach you anything, you need to hang your helmet and you need to hang your gear up because you’re just a few, few steps away from becoming a statistic at that point in time,” he said.

To prevent collisions and stay safe, Rhyne said motorcyclists should “dress for the slide and not the ride,” which means putting themselves in the position to survive a collision. This includes wearing the proper footwear that covers your ankles, a jacket, gloves, and a helmet.

“A helmet isn’t required but I can tell you as a trooper that wearing a helmet could greatly increase your chances of surviving a crash,” Trooper David Jones, also of SC Highway Patrol, said. Deflated motorcycle tires are often found at collisions, they said.

SC Highway Patrol also recommends a pre-ride inspection, which includes making sure there are no liquids dripping from your bike, and checking handlebars, brakes, and tire pressure.

If you haven’t been on your motorcycle in some time, you should take it easy on the roads until you re-establish a level of confidence, Rhyne said. This is because operating a motorcycle is a depreciable skill.

“Even somebody like myself who has been a certified motor officer for the Highway Patrol since 2003, if I go two to three weeks and I’ve not ridden a motorcycle when I first get on it, it may feel like I’m riding a brick,” he said. “Because I’m not employing all the strategies that I need to be employing at that time.”

Other motorists on the roads have a role to play in ensuring the safety of motorcyclists, which are classified as vulnerable roadway users.

“If you’re out and about, know that you have to share the road,” Jones said. “When you’re at an intersection, look in front of you. Often times motorcycles are overlooked.”

Both Jones and Rhyne said that motorists do their part to keep motorcycle operators safe by reducing their speed, being mindful, and limiting distractions.

Failure to yield to motorcyclists is one of the leading causes of crashes that Highway Patrol sees on state roadways.

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit Highway Patrol’s website. There, you can request an in-depth safety presentation from a trooper.

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