Texas Department of Transportation members, DPS, San Angelo police department, Blue Knights and San Angelo Bicycle Association members participated in TxDOT’s “Motorcycle Awareness Month” kick off event at TxDOT’s district headquarters in San Angelo on May 3rd.

 Over the last several years, on average, motorcyclists have been responsible for less than 1% of total miles driven yet are involved in 15% of fatality collisions. Most years an average of 4,000 motorcyclists died in accidents and in some years, such as 2007 and 2008, over 5,000 motorcyclists died.

 In Texas in 2017 there were 501 motorcycle fatalities. Of those, 258 were not wearing helmets, which is considered the single most significant contributing factor to motorcyclist deaths. The 25-34-year old age bracket accounted for 24% of motorcycle crashes from 2010-2017. According to TxDOT statistics, 5% of riders were killed in Texas overall during those years. 52% of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.

 DPS Trooper Sergeant Justin Baker was at the ceremonies and spoke of wearing helmets, “It’s very important that you wear a helmet when riding, whether it’s a motorcycle or a bicycle. Whatever you hit is going to be stronger than your head. You also need to make sure you are licensed to ride a motorcycle. Many of those involved in collisions didn’t not have the “M” endorsement on their license.” The statistics show that 41% of riders involved in motorcycle fatality crashes in Texas didn’t have the motorcycle endorsement on their license, compared to 31% of licensed motorcyclists.

 Animals also contributed to motorcyclists’ deaths. From 2010 – 2017, animal-involved crashes that were fatalities or serious injuries totaled 17% in urban areas and 37% in rural areas. In the same sample period, 49% of automobiles were found to be at-fault whereas only 25% of the time the motorcyclist was found to be at fault.   

 West Texas is a favorite destination for motorcyclists with its breathtaking views, wide-open land and beautiful wildflowers as far as the eye can see. Motorcyclists spend entire weekends hopping from town to town throughout west Texas, yet none of the counties west of Travis County ranked at the top of the fatality/serious injury stats. Only El Paso County in far west Texas was in the rankings with 251 fatal and serious injury motorcycle collisions from 2010-2017. Harris County was the only county with over 1,000 fatality/serious injury crashes (1,369) during the same period. Dallas County was next with 973 fatality/serious injury collisions follow by Tarrant County was next with 914, Bexar with 666 and Travis with 566.

 In 2018 there were 27 motorcycle crashes in San Angelo with 5 of those being serious injury. The stats hit close to home in 2015 when San Angelo Police Sergeant Korby Kennedy was killed while escorting vehicles for the boat races on Knickerbocker road. The driver of a car was on her cell phone and did not see Kennedy. She failed to yield right-of-way while turning left from a private drive and pulled out in front of him, causing him to strike it the vehicle and die. She was charged with criminally negligent homicide. The woman, Cynthia Quigley, is from Ozona and was able to avoid prison with a pre-trial intervention plea.

 May is both the national and state Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The motto, “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” urges drivers to be extra cautious. Karen Threlkeld, the public information officer for TxDOT’s San Angelo district spoke with members of the media, “We’re asking motorists to look carefully for motorcyclists since they’re harder to see than cars and trucks.”

According to their press release, TxDOT is urging motorists to:

Look twice for motorcycles, especially at intersections.

Always assume motorcycles are closer than they appear to be, and avoid turning in front of an oncoming motorcycle.

Use turn signals and check blind spots before changing lanes.

Always maintain a safe following distance.

Give motorcyclists a full lane, especially when passing.

Obey posted speed limits.

May is also bicycle awareness month so TxDOT is also urging motorists to keep their eyes open for bicyclists.