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Posts Tagged ‘Motorcycle Awareness Month’

Car-TextingI’m talking about texting and distracted driving.

Based on my daily commute observations, many drivers must believe that everyone else is the problem, when actually you – YES YOU – including the dude in the beat up White Toyota who nearly went into the ditch on Sunset Highway this morning while trying to text, is in fact—the problem!

We’ve all seen the tell-tale signs of texting.  Straddling or weaving between lanes and/or driving well below the speed limit or looking down at your lap as if that isn’t obvious.

It’s unlikely that Mr. White Toyota knows that May, is designated as national Motorcycle Awareness Month, (Gov. Kitzhaber’s memo HERE).  The initiative, supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, encourages drivers to watch for motorcycles and understand that motorcycle riders have the same rights and privileges as operators of other vehicles.

The slogans are everywhere, on billboards and bumper stickers, badges and T-shirts: “Watch out for motorcycles.” “Look twice, save a life.” “Share the road.”

But, not all motorists notice the warnings and clearly the White Toyota dude believes that his one little text is more important than say… driving safe and can’t hurt that much.

It’s interesting to me that Expedia.com, released the results of the 2014 Road Rage Report, conducted on Expedia’s behalf by Northstar. Americans identify the behaviors that are likeliest to elicit road rage, from texting to swerving to speeding and beyond.  Drum roll… and the winner is…  People who text while driving incur the most anger. 69% of Americans rate “The Texter” as the most aggravating driving behavior.

We know the warmer temperatures rolling across the Northwest this month means the roads are filling up with motorcycle riders.

So, take the “distracted” out of driving and avoid becoming one of “the 69%” who report having been “flipped off” by a fellow motorist!

Photo courtesy of the WWW.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Fair Weather Riders

Fair Weather Riders

It seems that May is déjà vu all over again.

It marks the start of the motorcycle safety awareness month which is shortly followed by accident reports or dumb and dumber maneuvers by  motorcycle riders.

The first in Oregon was the 10am arrest of Jessica Peterson (28 years old) on the first day of Motorcycle Awareness Month.  The charges were assault in the 2nd degree, DUI and reckless driving.  Ms. Petersen crossed over into oncoming traffic and struck Chase Dillon Ivey (26 years old) on his Suzuki motorcycle.  At last report Mr. Ivey was in serious condition at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

The opening weekend of Motorcycle Awareness in Washington state wasn’t any better where 3 deaths in two motorcycle crashes on highway 101 in Western Washington occurred.  In Idaho, just a few days earlier three motorcyclists died.

And as if that wasn’t enough to bring a lot of attention to rider safety and the tragic events, on May 6th on Highway 97 south of Lapine, Oregon, Gregory Zaser (61 years old) was cited for speeding – 130mph in a 55mph zone – on a Ducati motorcycle.  According to Trooper Newcomb, Mr. Zaser had just purchased the Ducati (bagger) and wanted to “see what it would do”…

Spoken just like a true attention-grabbing teenager!

I searched and found nothing mentioned on the Desmos web site about this new break-in procedure from Ducati.  And combine that with the fact that Highway 97 is notorious for wild animals standing peacefully on the roadway… I think Mr. Zaser is lucky to walk away with only a huge ticket!

My point?  Other than calling out Mr. Zaser’s attempt to revive the art of fossilized manliness and giving motorcyclists a bad image?!

We’re coming off 3-weeks of incredibly nice weather here in the northwest and motorcycles have been out in force.  Many riders in the state are fair(er) weather riders and for the first time pulling out their motorcycle from storage.  An experienced rider once shared with me that when you’re riding on a motorcycle you’ve always got to watch out for everyone else around you.  And I’ve noticed more than ever the freeways in the Portland metro area are full of people on the phone – talking and texting – changing lanes or swerving and not using blinkers because they’re just not paying attention to their surroundings.

It’s not my intention to pick on a particular group of drivers or riders, but I wanted to reinforce the conversation about motorcycle safety.  A high percentage of accidents are rider caused and preventable.  Make smart decisions on the road.

Photo courtesy of George Toomer

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Watch For Motorcycles!

Many of you already know that May is motorcycle awareness month.

The self-appointed “wise men” and policy elites down in Salem, OR declared it (.PDF) – so it must be true!  They’ve also piled on and proclaimed it to be Transportation Safety Month, further relegating the motorcycle to the “end of the line” as they blah, blah, blah, espouse the virtues of raising awareness on motorcycle safety.  Why not pile on with farm tractor safety month and stop texting month too?!  Why limit the pile on?

The real story is that with warmer weather approaching motorcyclists are hungry to get out on the roads and this is a good opportunity to remind riders to realize that our fellow ‘cagers’ might have forgot over the long and wet winter that they share the roads with motorcycles and to ride defensively.

Speaking of riding defensively, did you know that Oregon back in 2005 was named by the NHTSA as having the top motorcycle safety program in the nation?  Either did I, yet it’s true.

And since I’m talking about defensive riding you might be interested to know what a couple of our poster child riders are up to – which serve to reinforce the public’s viewpoint of motorcyclists.  Let’s highlight Mr. Richard Boedigheimer (33) who showcases “driving safe” during motorcycle awareness month: He was pulled over on Oregon 22 west of Mill City after being clocked at 140 MPH.  He told the Marion County deputy that he was “just having fun” with his new girlfriend of one week who was a passenger at the time.  No word on the girlfriend status after the arrest.  Need more examples?  How about Mr. Nicholas Houck (20), who attempted to elude state police on a H-D motorcycle without a helmet at speeds exceeding 100 MPH.  First you draw attention to yourself for not wearing a helmet, in a state that requires it, then more troubling decide to elude. Mr. Houck also had a suspended license…

Notwithstanding the above poor judgment… the good news is the number of motorcycle crash fatalities in Oregon have dropped to their lowest level since 2004; the bad news is that 38 people lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in 2010 according to preliminary data from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

report released (.PDF) this week by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that nationwide motorcycle fatalities declined in 2010 by at least 2 percent. Based upon preliminary data, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities declined from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or less in 2010. The projection is based upon data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The decline comes on the heels of a dramatic 16 percent drop in 2009, which followed 11 straight years of steady increases in motorcycle deaths.

The new report—the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2010—was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. GHSA is projecting declines in approximately half of the states and for Oregon they are projected to be down 27 percent.  The Oregon GHSA Vice Chairman Troy Costales credits the state’s progress to a strong training program and a new law strengthening penalties for riders who do not have a motorcycle-specific license as well as working with motorcycle clubs, who are advocates for riding safe and sober.

The disturbing news which comes with deeper analysis of the data reveals that there are some areas for concern. First, 2010’s decrease of at least 2 percent is far less than 2009’s dramatic 16 percent decrease. Second, the 2010 decrease was concentrated in the early months of the year, with fatalities actually increasing by about 3 percent in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in 2009. Additionally, with the improving economy and surging gas prices, motorcycle travel is expected to increase, thus increasing exposure to risk. Finally, motorcycle helmet use dropped from 67 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2010.  In addition, motorcycle registrations continue to rise as the baby boom generation rediscovers riding a motorcycle.

In Oregon, the laws focus on safety and training.  The 2009 Oregon Legislature passed several motorcycle safety related laws in an effort to improve safety. In 2010, the penalty for riding without a motorcycle endorsement changed from a Class B (minimum $360) to a Class A (minimum $720) violation. Changes were also made to Oregon’s motorcycle training requirements, requiring new motorcycle riders to complete an ODOT-approved training course. The law has a five year phase-in period based on the age of the rider. As of January 2011, new riders age 30 and under must complete a basic or intermediate rider training course. Additional age groups will be phased-in each year until 2015 when all new riders must take training.

Oregon has made significant progress in motorcycle safety, but I’d argue that an awareness campaign once a year is not nearly enough.  Remember the rants and blog posts about those ODOT message boards?  No, I’m not bitter…

Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Reminiscent of the sly wizard in Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz, chances are most people have probably never heard of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) program manager of motorcycle safety and safety standards, Michele O’Leary.

Who is Michele O’Leary?   A person who wants you to wear a helmet and protective clothing.  The person who manages the motorcycle endorsement funds and determines how it gets allocated.  But wait there’s even more…

The Statesman Journal has an interesting interview with O’Leary and it provides insight on the person behind the curtain.

First off, O’Leary came to the job with a motorcycle endorsement and owns a motorcycle!  It’s good to be able to relate to rider issues and in my book this was a step ahead of the Harley-Davidson CEO (Keith Wandell) when he was hired last year with neither.   As a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on motorcycle safety, O’Leary has the inside track and has been successful in getting legislation changed to increase fines/penalties on certain types of infractions deemed safety oriented.  Is that good?

I became acquainted with O’Leary as part of my safety rants back in April to do anything and everything to encourage the use of the States variable message signs (VMS) for motorcycle awareness. Those neon signs are peppered across the metro area roadways and provide information about traffic congestion and accident reports and in my little world I thought they would make an excellent public safety reminder for drivers to watch out for motorcycles.  My request was promptly denied and I got “schooled” on the ‘correct’ usage of variable message signs by the ODOT traffic engineers. Previous posts related to this subject matter at: Motorcycle Safety TacticsSpotlight On ODOTWanna Be Policy Makers.

Many might debate that we need to ‘just say no’ to the ever increasing attempts by the government to manage every aspect of our lives through increased regulation.  Others will say it’s a noble cause to help make Oregon motorcycle riders safer.  Read the interview, learn who is looking out for you and judge for yourself…

And finally, if the above wasn’t enough to digest… from the edges of the internet come information about a tornado strikes festival celebrating The Wizard of Oz.

Photo courtesy of Picasa.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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May is Motorcycle Awareness Month.

There are so many interests groups out there these days. Sometimes the noise level and the drum beat volume gets so loud that you can’t determine if they’re about discrimination or empowerment.

As a “wanna-be” policy maker I planned to get more involved in this year’s safety efforts and do more than just sit back and pontificate via this blog that May is the celebratory occasion.   But, sometimes making a difference is harder than you think.  You might recall back in February I blogged about reaching out to the various city and state government entities to advocate the usage of the “Amber Alert signs” during Motorcycle Awareness Month.  My ask was they display the words: LOOK TWICE. SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES or something to that effect.  I wrote the “Gov”, but I suspect he read one of my previous “Lazy Ted” enough with the higher taxes for the working folk posts and…I got a non response, response?!  I even sent a number of emails to Oregon State Police and ODOT in hopes of getting a positive response, but was shot down in a blaze of blogging glory.  Don’t these people know who I am?  Interestingly OSP has time for a cell phone campaign, but has no enforcement effort tied to Motorcycle Awareness Month.

It’s my view that as these type of issues become more complex, these representatives are not empowered or entrusted to make on-the-fly changes and this becomes problematic whenever public servants are ask to make modifications contrary to the initial intent or it is in question with the letter of the law on sign usage.  Oh well…what seems clear cut and logical to me isn’t to them.  So be it.

But, there is good news!   There will be more visibility this year for motorcyclists because the Motorcycle Safety Program and Vehicle Safety Equipment Program Manager was successful in obtaining billboard placements around the state (see above photo). This is a FIRST in Oregon and the messages will be specifically targeted to make drivers aware of motorcycles.

The billboard placements will be on I-84 @238th, Hwy-97 (somewhere – not sure just yet) and I-5 at Keizer. Unfortunately these billboards won’t go up until June due to advertising timing. It doesn’t sync up with Motorcycle Awareness Month, but June works and is better than nothing.

The are other placements too.  They include: Transit in Portland, Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford. There will be print and radio ads available to all markets and Water Closet media placements will be at “motorcycle friendly establishments” in Portland and Eugene. There is also web banner logo’s available for groups, organizations, bloggers and motorcycle dealerships to use on their website or blog. All of the placements will be up throughout the summer months, starting in May (except billboard).

All this is coming exclusively from the hard working folks in the ODOT Transportation Safety Division!  A major shout-out to Michele O’Leary for the efforts on this front and helping make Oregon a little safer for motorcycles.

Important to note is the motorcycle rally on the State Capitol that is being sponsored by BikePac this Saturday, May 1st. ODOT’s role is to read the Governor’s Proclamation that May is declared to be Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. The rest of the event is coordinated by BikePac and ODOT is not affiliated with any other part of the event.

Lastly, there is a Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety and if you have the opportunity I am sure they would appreciate hearing from motorcyclists.  Their next meeting is July 16th and you’ll find logistics and email information HERE.  They always have an open spot on the agenda for any motorcycle group, organization or individual to come and speak.

Photo courtesy of ODOT and used with permission.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Previously I posted an article about motorcycle safety and the idea of leveraging the States variable message signs (VMS) for motorcycle awareness.

These neon signs are peppered across the metro area roadways and provide information about traffic congestion and accident reports.  In addition they’ve been used as public safety reminders for drivers to buckle up, DUI driving and about the new cell phone law enacted earlier this year.

I submitted a request to ODOT, OSP and sent a letter to Governor Kulongoski’s office asking for their support and consideration in use of the message signs during Motorcycle Awareness Month (May).  I’ve received no response from OSP or the Governor’s office.  I’m sure they are busy.  My request to ODOT did receive a quick response (thank you Janice!) as well as the request by an ODOT employee (Motorcycle Safety Program Manager – Michele).  We were both promptly DENIED by the State Traffic Engineer.

The reason?  They don’t want drivers to “tune out” the signs and stop paying attention to them.  Huh?  I get that message signs have a fundamental requirement to assist drivers in finding their anticipated destination in the most economical, reliable and safe way.  And having a marketing background I totally understand the “tune out” factor, but a concern about message saturation is clearly “fuzzy logic!”

The exact response was:

“We have decided not to post safety messages on our traffic variable message signs unless they correspond with a targeted enforcement and media campaign.  Educational safety messages don’t fit well into our Variable Message Sign Guidelines of something that requires an immediate decision (what – where – when).  It might be a good approach for something like a massive motorcycle rally, along with some basic info on the rally, but not for general shotgun purposes.

If just general purpose safety messages become common, the impact of the signs is reduced – meaning people tune them out more.  We really want to keep the messages on these sign to issues with immediate impact on travelers.”

Let’s see.  If I’m following all this signage logic correctly then it would be valid for drivers to assume that when the VMS sign is blank it is disabled or broken too, correct?!

Not understanding the inner workings of ODOT, OSP and the Governor’s office, I ask via email if there was something the motorcycle community could do for ODOT to reconsider this decision and was informed the State Traffic Engineer decision is final.

It would’ve been so easy and convenient at this point to slide into a rant about “Why Government Doesn’t Work”, and use this ODOT example as the poster child.  Then I could drone on about the overt power that one individual – a traffic engineer – wields over the state.  I won’t.  I’d like too, but I won’t.  They undoubtedly have spent millions of tax $$ on studies about driver attitudes and through advanced mathematics know the optimum number of messages per driver that can be displayed in a precise timeframe which can be remembered by the ‘average’ human brain.

I’m aware of the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) and I’d like to see this memory analysis and how ODOT’s “intelligent transportation” signage system has been optimized across the entire range of safety initiatives and driver demographics.  I researched the U.S. Dept. of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration, Traffic Control Systems Handbook: Chapter 10, Traveler Information Systems — and a quick scan clearly indicates there are a number of appropriate applications for use of electronic signage around public service messages such as motorcycle safety, DUI or reminders to buckle up.

I haven’t given up on this, yet.  Anyone interested to join me in emailing ODOT or the Governor to “Watch Out For Motorcycles?”  Maybe I’d get more attention if I propose renting these electronic signs out to advertisers as a way to raise money for the state?!  I can see a “Commuter Special Happy Hour” message now.

Photo courtesy of FHWA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Motorcycle Awareness on Amber Alert Signs

The pacific northwest and Oregon in particular has an abundance of great motorcycling roads.

If you are like me you have a lot of pent up desire to get out there and hit the open highway.  The riding season is always too long in coming due to wet and cold weather, but this past weekend was outstanding for mid-February and brought out the motorcycles.   Light winds, sunny blue sky and a temperature brushing up against 60 degrees.  Wow!  Incredible spring weather two months early so I jumped on the opportunity to get out and enjoy the riding experience.

Financial crises, public debt exploding, taxes rise and unemployment lingers…all a distant memory when you’ve got the wind in your face.

Having said that I noticed a couple of items that I wanted to share my experiences.  There is no substitute for personal experience and this is that time of year I typically wear a full face helmet.  Why?  Not because it’s colder, which it is, but because just a short 5 weeks ago the ambitious ODOT road crews were “sanding” roads for the possibility of icy conditions and those ‘rocks’ are prevalent everywhere.  Nothing worse than gravel pebbles in your face.   Even with a windshield they manage to pepper your body.  Second, is the fact that “cagers” are not aware of or are they use to seeing motorcycles.  And they were out in force this weekend.  As a result,  the less observant auto-drivers make me twitchy when I’m out driving busy freeways this time of year to get to the lone two-lane blacktop.

As I cruised around I remember looking up at the freeway congestion and “Amber Alert” electronic sign on I-5 and thought about how it could be used for motorcycle safety and education efforts.  For example it could display the words: “LOOK TWICE. SHARE THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES.”

The flashing signs across Oregon state would at least put a message out there in the minds of drivers to be aware.  This could be done in the spring when those warming days and sunshine bring everyone out on their motorcycles. Or at minimum during May, which is Motorcycle Awareness Month.  In the interest of being thorough I did a web search to see if the electronic display tactic had been used previously.  It turns out California Highway Patrol uses this technique as part of their campaign to reduce motorcycle-related collisions.

What do you think.  Waste of time or good suggestion?  Either way I’ve sent recommendation email to both ODOT and OSP on using the electronic signs  for motorcycle safety in May.  I’ll provide updates on any feedback or responses I receive.

Photo courtesy of Union-Tribune.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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