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May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

April 28, 2014

Drivers urged to share the road, riders urged to get licensed

With winter weather finally over, motorcyclists are ready to kick off this year’s riding season.

More than 515,000 Wisconsin residents have motorcycle licenses or permits and more than 390,000 motorcycles are registered in the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. As motorcycles continue to grow in popularity among men and women of all ages, safety is a constant concern. Last year, 84 motorcycle riders and passengers died in Wisconsin traffic crashes, which was a 28 percent decrease from 2012 when 116 riders and passengers died in crashes.

"During National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we’re reminding drivers to share the road and watch for motorcycles, especially at intersections and while making turns and lane changes," says Greg Patzer, manager of the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program (WMSP). "Drivers frequently misjudge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle because of its smaller dimensions. To prevent crashes, drivers should check the position of a motorcycle at least two or three times before they proceed through an intersection or make a turn."

To protect themselves and others on the road, motorcyclists need to get trained and ensure they have the legally required motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. About 35 percent of motorcyclists’ fatalities from 2003 to 2012 in Wisconsin involved riders who had not completed the safety training or skills test required to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license.

"Too many people have been riding for years without a valid motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license," Patzer says. "It’s a serious problem especially for those who have not ridden a motorcycle for several years and are beginning to ride again. Riding a motorcycle requires more physical skill and mental concentration than driving a car, so training is critical to a motorcyclist’s safety. Getting properly endorsed is not difficult. The motorcyclist must pass a written test and a road test at a DMV service center. Motorcyclists who successfully complete a basic rider course, and in the near future an advanced rider’s course, do not have to take the road test at the DMV."

This year, the WMSP is teaming up with ABATE of Wisconsin, a motorcycle riders’ advocacy group, to distribute posters around the state urging riders to get endorsed. In its 33 year history, the WMSP has graduated more than 180,000 riders from its training programs. The program has expanded its courses around the state that provide training for riders at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced. More information is available online at the WisDOT website.

Patzer emphasizes that motorcyclists need to make responsible decisions to reduce their risks of serious or fatal injuries. "Motorcyclists must obey all traffic laws, such as speed limits, and never ride while impaired. They should always wear protective and conspicuous clothing and gear, including a helmet that meets or exceeds U.S. DOT standards. Tragically, nearly three out of four motorcyclists who died in crashes last year in Wisconsin were not wearing helmets."

To reach out to riders and motorists around the state, the WMSP will hit the road again this year with its mobile training facility, called THE REF (Transportable High-End Rider Education Facility). THE REF promotes training for all riders as well as motorists’ awareness of motorcycles on the road.

Patzer concludes, "Now more than ever, we need well-trained and responsible motorcycle riders along with motorists who share the road to help reach the goal of reducing the number of preventable traffic deaths to Zero In Wisconsin."

For more information, contact:
Greg Patzer, Motorcycle Safety Program manager
(608) 266-7855,



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