Making highways safer for motorcyclists - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Making highways safer for motorcyclists

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DESOTO COUNTY. Miss. (FOX13) -

A motorcyclist is at The MED with life-threatening injuries after crashing his motorcycle early Wednesday morning.

According to Memphis Police the 30-year-old was riding his motorcycle down Jackson near Woodlawn around 1:30 a.m. when he lost control and hit a pole. The cause of the crash is still under investigation

The latest Department of transportation stats show almost 5,000 bikers were killed in 2012 nationwide, up from 4,612 the year before.
 
Getting on a motorbike increases your chance of dying in an accident by 35 percent, the Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta said.

Statistics from the Tennessee Department of Safety show 140 bikers were killed in the state  in 2012, and in Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that in 1997 when the Natural State repealed its helmet law, deaths rose by a whopping 21 percent.

Mississippi has one of the smallest number of biker fatalities in the country, but the Magnolia State has the highest number of DUI motorcycle deaths per capita in the country the National Highway Transportation Authority said.
 
Safety advocates say the first thing you can do is wear a transportation department approved helmet. You should put one on whether it's the law or not. THe CDC said helmets reduce the risk of injury by 69 percent and the risk of death by 39 percent.

On top of that, you might want to take the time to take a rider safety course. It can teach you strategies to avoid accidents, and help your wallet when it comes to insurance.

"Basically she t-boned me in the intersection, knocked me off my bike," Cavin said. "The only thing I remember is trying to swerve and the next thing I know I woke up in the hospital. I was getting my head stapled back together in the hospital."

For biker Rick Cavin, Mother's Day 2011 won't soon be forgotten. He was on his way to work on his motorbike when a driver suddenly struck him.

"Basically she t-boned me in the intersection, knocked me off my bike," Cavin said. "The only thing I remember is trying to swerve and the next thing I know I woke up in the hospital. I was getting my head stapled back together in the hospital."

Cavin has yet to fully recover from that devastating crash. He has taken dozens of photos of his recovery over the last two years. He says he was hit by a drunk driver making a left turn in front of him. He wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

"I busted my head open, I ended up with 75 percent of peripheral vision in my left eye," he said. "iImessed my shoulder up, I broke my pinky, had surgery on that, broken ribs, broke my ankle and busted all the bones in my face all the way around my nose and eye and all the way over there."

Miraculously two years later Cavin is back on the bike. These days he straps on a helmet.

"My choice is from here on out to have one on my head," he said. "I know it's the law and now I make sure of the people around me. When I approach an intersection, whether I have a green light or not, I am always going to look to make sure no one is coming."

Cavin says he has taken at least four different motorcycle safety courses over the years,

"I think it certainly helps to know your motorcycle and know what you are doing, and know how to operate a motorcycle," he said. "But I also think that based on my experience that at any point you can get on a bike and be the best rider in the world and somebody runs a red light and you'll be snuffed out that quick."
    
For Don Stevens, the dangers are also apparent. Cranking up the motorcycle is an adventure, but as a riding instructor he knows he's got to stay on his toes.
 
"High level of awareness," Stevens said. "You have to be playing a game of "what if ..." all of the time. As I am going down the road I tell people. What if I am coming up on an intersection? What if that car pulls out? What if there is debris around this turn?"

Stevens is a  riding instructor for Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson. He never looks at the same stretch of roadway the same way.

"You're not going to meet the same vehicles every day," he said. "There's going to be different debris in the road every day, there are going to be different conditions every day. Even though you are driving the same way every day, it won't be the same every day."

For nine years DeSoto County Justice Court Judge Brad Russell has taught motorcycle safety courses to Southaven Police and the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department.
 
"Don't get complacent. Each time you crank that motor you take a chance to run into elements out there, other motorists, road debris," Judge Russell said.
 
Some have described riding a motorcycle as the ultimate freedom, with wind in your hair and your troubles in the dust.

"It is enjoyable, but you have to remember every time you get on a bike it's a big responsibility," Judge Russell said. "You have to stay alert of other motorists and other factors that may threaten you and even kill you on the road."
 
Bike organizations can't stress enough the importance of a safety course.
 
"I would in my view at least once a year," Judge Russell said. "It's a perishable skill. It's like anything else if you don't practice it."

Making sure others on the road see you is critical.
 
"I wear a bright orange jacket when I ride, I want people to see me," Beck said.

A couple of other things motorcycle instructors swear by, LED lights on your bike, and looking other drivers in the eye at the intersection. If you make eye contact, you can almost guarantee as a biker that the other driver has seen you. Also remember to stay out of blind spots.

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