Motorcycle crashes are up for the area from last year’s numbers, and riders are encouraged to take a few precautions.
Crashes so far for 2016 are at 11 for Champaign County, according to Ohio Highway Patrol data. That is higher than the seven for 2015, though not quite as high as the 16 in 2014. Crashes this year have occurred on U.S. routes, state routes and city streets, with city streets being slightly more common. Most of the crashes occurred around 5 or 7 p.m.
There has been one motorcycle fatality in 2016 so far this year, the data notes. There were no fatal motorcycle crashes in Champaign County in 2014 or 2015.
Crashes from motorcycles can be particularly damaging to the rider and passenger, Ohio Highway Patrol Springfield post Sgt. Merrill Thompson said. But riders can do a lot to protect themselves, starting with wearing a helmet.
“Start with proper riding gear,” he said, highlighting helmets, jackets, long pants and boots. “Most of the time when a motorcycle is in an accident, the rider gets ejected. They end up sliding on grass, asphalt or gravel.”
Thompson knows about motorcycle safety firsthand. He was on the motorcycle unit for the patrol for four years. He received extra training to be on that patrol, which covered a number of motorcycle safety topics.
Thompson recommends motorcyclists look 12 to 15 seconds up the road, so they have more time to react. He advised being more cautious with braking, using the front motorcycle brake more than the rear one.
“There are a high percentage of motorcycle accidents I’ve seen in my career where proper braking on the motorcycle is not utilized,” he said.
With cars, approximately 80 percent of braking is done with the front brakes. With motorcycles, a lot of accidents show that drivers are not using the front brakes at all.
“It’s not like a 10-speed bike you used when you were a kid. You are not going to go out end-over-end (when you brake) like a bicycle,” he said.
Newer motorcycles have anti-lock braking, which prevents the locking of wheels and the bike going out from under one side or the other, he said.
Thompson also advises looking into curves and not focusing on where you do not want to go.
“If you focus on an object, or going around a curve you focus on the ditch, chances are your hands will guide you to where you are looking,” he said. “If you are looking off the road at an object you don’t want to hit, you stand a greater chance of guiding the bike over to that object.”
Thompson added riders and drivers should be cautious this time of year at dawn and dusk because of deer.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.