Cheney Free Press -

In Our Opinion: Improve declining driving safety by looking first for motorcycles


Take a drive anywhere today and you'll notice a large number of motorcycles. The number of those taking to the streets on the two-wheeled vehicles has increased dramatically over the last few years.

Unfortunately, as the amount of motorcyclists increases, so do the number of accidents.

Reasons for choosing motorcycles over regular vehicles vary from person to person, but right at the top is likely fuel efficiency. As long as gas prices are high and cost of living continues to increase, expect the rising trend of motorcyclists to continue.

What does this mean for other drivers on the road? Extra precautions.

While automobiles have air bags, seatbelts, and a hard metal frame, to offer protection in a crash, motorcyclists have none of those. Select motorcycles now have air bags and some riders elect to wear leathers or other protective gear in an effort to further prevent injury. None of those, however, come as close to offering the same protection as an automobile.

Today's distractions while driving, in the form of cellphones and other media, can cause extra jeopardy for cyclists. Distracted driving is on the rise, and attempts to counter it have only been marginally successful.

The “California stop,” coming to a near-stop at an intersection, is all too common and can leave cyclists on the short end of the stick. Just taking an extra half-second to fully halt at a stop sign can be the difference between a collision and a safe commute. While motorcycles have flickering headlights meant to enhance their visibility, even larger cycles can be missed if you're not on the lookout.

Washington state requires endorsements for motorcyclists. A motorcycle endorsement costs $25, and an initial 90-day permit will cost $15, which can be renewed one time, and an initial $5 application fee. Compared to the $125 to $200 spent on a basic motorcycle training course in Spokane, it's a bargain.

But, while motorcyclists have seen collisions increase, the fault can't solely reside with those in automobiles.

Hitting the road in a motorcycle involves a certain amount of risk-taking. There's an unmistakable thrill of being on the open road, likely serving as a chief reason to own a motorcycle. For some, however, that thrill turns into endangering others on the road.

Some motorcyclists place everyone on the road in danger when they speed in parking lots, cut on the road's shoulder to avoid traffic or pass a long line of cars on a two-way street to beat a stoplight. The bottom line is that reckless driving puts lives at risk.

As a whole, driving quality needs to improve. The state patrol must be on to that, especially after choosing to place speed readers on Interstate 90 at the top and bottom of the Sunset Hill.

According to CBS News, Washington had the highest yearly rates for automobile insurance premiums in the Pacific Northwest, at $1,584, or 23rd-highest in the nation in 2011. Idaho was ranked at 36, with $1,325 and Oregon at 38 with $1,306. Fewer auto incidents may help to bring those rates down.

Perhaps it's time for the state to consider requiring a refresher course for those with 20 years of driving experience. Although most would never admit it, driving quality and attentiveness diminishes over time. One possible solution is to administer a written test, and then, if those scores aren't charting high enough, schedule a practice test. Alternatives to testing after 20 years of being on the road, however, could also factor in simulations.

The point behind the exercises isn't to embarrass or demean drivers, but rather to offer a refresher session. After all, everyone has at least one frustrating experience at a four-way stop or an uncontrolled intersection. In no time at all, those forgotten situations come flooding back to mind.

In the end, taking that extra second to check for fellow motorists, coming to a full stop at intersections and following the rules of the road will save lives.


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