An Independence Day motorcycle accident in Parke County claimed the life of one Hoosier, just one of the 51 deaths in Indiana this year attributed to motorcycle crashes.
Ride Safe Indiana, a division of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, reported 97 motorcycle fatalities in 2018, a decrease from 136 the year before. The organization works to decrease fatalities by increasing awareness of cyclists and coordinating training courses across the state.
“A lot of the single-vehicle accidents, those are going to be the fault of the operator,” said Jeff Stokes, the program director for Ride Safe Indiana.
“They may not be able to brake as quickly as they should, or they may go a little faster than they should. ... There’s always some one-off stuff – motorcycle versus deer or something. But the majority of the problem seems to be a lack of skills or the lack of awareness by drivers.”
Of the 97 motorcycle fatalities in 2018, over half, 54 incidents, involved a motorcycle and one vehicle. Seven additional accidents had more than one vehicle. Thirty-six occurred with a motorcycle alone.
Indiana’s most populous county, Marion, had the most motorcyclist deaths, 16, in the state in 2018.
With the typical riding season stretching from March until October, fatalities can occur at any time of the year, according to Brittainy Hubble, the BMV director of central operations.
“With holidays and good weather, you’re going to see an uptick in those collisions or fatalities,” she said. “Unfortunately, we still see fatalities (outside of the riding season) on nice days because people are rusty or (motorists) aren’t used to seeing bikes out.”
Over the course of 2018, RSI opened more than a dozen training facilities, with more planned throughout 2019. This optional training can be modified according to the rider’s experience level.
“One of the common complaints we heard is that there weren’t enough classes available and a lot of people were untrained,” Stokes said. “Obviously, (the location of previous fatalities) is one of the things we also look at when we’re trying to provide more opportunities.”
In Indiana, a motorcycle endorsement requires passing a written exam and demonstrating basic skills.
“Unfortunately, with that you don’t get any true skills,” Stokes said, noting that riders might pick up bad habits. “If you’re just displaying the minimal skills, that’s all you’ll ever have.”
In 2018, 6,350 Hoosiers participated in an Ride Safe Indiana training course.
During statewide events, Ride Safe Indiana attempts to spread the word about training opportunities and raise awareness with other motorists. RSI efforts include digital board messages on interstate routes encouraging motorists to share the road.
“Last year, we were able to be within 50 miles of anyone that wanted to take a class,” Hubble said.
At those events, she said, experienced riders might learn about advanced training and interested motorcyclists can test a new hobby.
Ride Safe Indiana’s report lists the five most common factors for a motorcycle collision: failure to yield right of way, ran off the right side of the road, following too closely, speeding and other drivers/vehicles/environmental factors.
Drivers making turns at intersections may not be aware of motorcyclists, failing to yield the right of way and potentially injuring the rider, Stokes said.
These primary factors accounted for approximately two-thirds of collisions from 2015 through 2018. Total collisions decreased slightly each year, from 2,934 in 2015 to 2,560 in 2018.
The biggest contributor to collisions, the failure to yield the right of way, decreased by more than 100 incidents from 2017 to 2018.
As Ride Safe Indiana focuses on further reducing the number of collisions and fatalities involving motorcyclists, Stokes said training and awareness would be two key components.
“I would ask, personally, that folks driving in a car or truck look for motorcyclists, especially at intersections. Lean forward and lean back to give yourself a different view,” Stokes said.
“As far as motorcyclists, ride like you’re invisible; like no one can see you. You have to protect yourself.”
Contact Whitney Downard at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @WhitneyDownard.