By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)——————–May is “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month” and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office not only recognizes this important designation, but it also wants to remind all motorists to be safe, regardless of what kind of vehicle they may be driving.
In May of 2005, then South Carolina governor Mark Sanford issued a proclamation recognizing and raising awareness about motorcycle safety. The proclamation mentioned that this observance “calls attention to the importance of actively promoting safe motorcycle operation, increased rider training, improved licensing efforts, and motorists’ awareness.” The Governor’s proclamation also asked for all road and highway users to “exercise added caution” to “ensure all motorcyclists throughout South Carolina have an enjoyable riding season” and that “all South Carolinians to be aware of motorcyclists who share our roads and highways and to work together to reduce motorcycle related crashes, injuries, and fatalities.”
Motorists are asked to “Look Twice –Save A Life” every day when it comes to sharing the road with motorcyclists. But, motorcycle safety goes beyond that, not just for bikers, but drivers of other vehicles as well.
“The advice I would give motorists would be to consciously look out for motorcycles,” according to Sgt. Kevin Matheson of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and an Oconee County native. Sgt. Matheson is also a member of the Upstate SC Chapter of Defenders, a law enforcement motorcycle club. “The greatest concentration of motorcyclists is normally from March to October, when the weather is the warmest. But motorists need to look out for bikers year round. Also, make sure not to tailgate a motorcycle, because bikes can stop quicker than a normal passenger vehicle. Also, motorists need to be aware of distractions as they are driving their vehicles in regards to texting or calling while they drive. These distractions can make it more difficult for motorists to be aware of bikers who are close by.”
“One of the most important things bikers can do is to look at the drivers of other vehicles, not just the vehicles themselves,” according to Sgt. Matheson. “If it’s at all possible, lock eyes, try to see them and make sure they see you as well. Make sure you look at their rims to see in which direction they are turning. Use the entire lane, especially if you are riding alone, and if you riding with a group, make sure you ride staggered for safety concerns, as it gives you room to maneuver and prevents you from hitting another biker if they apply their brakes.”
Safety equipment is extremely important, according to Sgt. Matheson. Helmets and leather protective gear are certainly recommended, including gloves, jackets, and chaps, even wearing blue jeans is good. In the summertime, there is protective gear that is vented which allows air to circulate. Helmets made of carbon material are much lighter and half-helmets are DOT certified. For those who may not like to wear helmets, Sgt. Matheson recommends that you make them your own, by painting and putting stickers on them.
A huge part of biker safety is taking a safety course, which is highly recommended by Sgt. Matheson and Lance Corporeal Bill Rhyne of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, who teaches a majority of the motorcycle safety training classes throughout the state of South Carolina for the Patrol.
“Everybody needs some type of training,” according to Trooper Rhyne. “Everyone needs to take at least an intermediate level course no matter how long they have been riding.”
In fact, according to Trooper Rhyne, South Carolina is only one of two states, California being the other, which has an advanced training course for on and off road bikers. That course is located in Spartanburg County at the BMW course. Lance Corporeal Rhyne recommends going to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website at www. msf-usa.org for training information. Sgt. Matheson also recommends checking with your local motorcycle dealer for safety classes.
Sgt. Matheson also wants to remind everyone that it is not just a “biker” that you may hit, but someone’s father, husband, son, mother, daughter, or wife.