SIDNEY — May is Motorcycle Awareness Month and Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart wants all vehicle drivers to share the road safely with one another.
“With the nice weather Monday and Tuesday, I’ve been seeing more motorcycles on the road,” said Lenhart during his weekly interview. “It’s a fun thing to be on the open road when we have weather like we have today (Tuesday).”
Across the nation, Ohio ranks as No. 5 with having the most motorcycles among the 50 states.
“That means we have a whole bunch of motorcycles here,” said Lenhart. “Fourteen percent of all accidents involve a motorcycle. We have more than our share of accidents involving a motorcycle.”
In Shelby County in 2017, the county had three personal injury motorcycle crashes and one fatality. In 2018, there were 10 crashes which involved injuries to eight individuals.
“There were 5,000 deaths across the United States involving motorcycles,” said Lenhart. “That’s 28 percent higher than those involving motor vehicles.”
Ohio, said Lenhart, doesn’t require motorcyclists to wear helmets once they had held a motorcycle license for a year.
“If folks would wear helmets, the stats would go down dramatically,” he said.
Other factors involved in motorcycle crashes includes excess speed, alcohol use and inexperience.
“People who are 82 years of age or older are most likely to be in a motorcycle accident,” said Lenhart. “It’s just not the young drivers who might be in a crash.”
Safety equipment is important for both the motorcycle driver and passenger.
“Some motorcycles have anti-lock brakes and air bags,” said Lenhart. “A person take an exam when they are 15 1/2 for a motorcycle and driver’s permit. They will have that temporary instruction permit for a year.
“If you’re over 18, you can get a motorcycle license once you pass the motorcycle skill test,” he said. Some first-time drivers also take a class to learn how to operate a motorcycle safely.
When riding a motorcycle, protective gear should be worn by all on the motorcycle.
“Eye protection is important,” said Lenhart. “If you wear a helmet, it usually has a shield on it to protect your face and eyes. Everyone should wear a leather or heavy denim jacket, trousers, boots and gloves.
“The passenger on the back should sit as close to the driver as possible,” he said.
Motorcycles should be driven with its headlight on at all times, have working brake lights and turn signals, he said.
One cause of crashes, he said, are the result of unsafe driving practices by the motorcycle driver.
“The person might keep changing lanes and speeding up to pass other vehicles,” said Lenhart. “Or they might be weaving in and out of traffic.
“I’ve seen motorcycle drivers cut in between two vehicles,” he said. “That’s when you can get yourself into trouble.”
Lenhart said motorcycle drivers should practice on their vehicle before taking it out onto the road. A larger motorcycle is harder to control than a smaller one.
“If they hit a pothole with a motorcycle, you have one tire going into it. You might have a real problem. They also have to watch for road debris.”
Lenhart said last year two motorcyclists each struck a deer when they were out on the county roadways.
“I can only imagine what’s going through the driver’s mind when they hit the deer,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart also cautioned against driving after consuming alcohol or drugs.
“They will negatively affect your judgment and balance,” he said.
“I’d just like to remind everyone to share the road,” said Lenhart. “Be patient. Be aware of blind spots when you’re looking out your mirrors. Sometimes motorcycles are difficult to see when you’re looking out the mirrors.
“We want you to have fun, and be careful when using the roadways,” he said.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.