In the first half of 2014, 18 motorcyclists have died in traffic crashes in Wisconsin.
Motorcycles make up about 6 percent of all registered vehicles in Wisconsin, yet represent nearly 19 percent of all highway fatalities, according to data from the 2012 Wisconsin Traffic Crash Facts.
Approximately 100 motorcyclists are killed and more than 2,500 injured each year in Wisconsin traffic crashes.
Most of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented. Riding a motorcycle or scooter takes more physical skill and mental concentration than driving a typical motor vehicle. Training and experience are critical to safety.
The state’s motorcycle fatalities include 84 in 2013, and 116 in 2012, according to statistics provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
In an effort to increase awareness for motorcycle safety, the Wisconsin DOT brought its Transportable High-End Rider Education Facility (THE REF) to the Iola Old Car Show.
Built with federal funding in 2004, the 40-foot-long REF trailer is operated by the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program, a division of the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Chris Blanchard, a DOT motorcycle safety instructor, presented motorcycle safety information in a Teamed to Learn program.
“Fatalities were going up and up in the state and we saw the need to get the word out about motorcycle safety in Wisconsin,” he said. “On a motorcycle, there’s no such thing as a fender-bender.”
According to DOT statistics, in incidents involving a fatality, 60 percent had been drinking and 90 percent were not wearing helmets.
According to the DOT, there were a total of four motorcycle fatalities in Waupaca County in 2011; 2 in 2012 and 1 in 2013.
The highest rate of fatalities is in Milwaukee and Rock counties, with most counties averaging 1 or 2 per year.
According to Blanchard, fatalities are higher in the state’s north-central counties where there are more motorcycle-deer crashes.
About 65 percent of the motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, while about 35 percent involve a single motorcycle.
“Riding a motorcycle has risks and drivers need to be aware and accept the risks involved,” Blanchard said.
Both the motorcyclists and other drivers need to be aware of the risks, he noted. No matter who is at fault, the motorcyclist has the greater chance of injury, he said.
“Everybody needs to do their own part,” Blanchard said. “It’s very simple: It is just taking responsibility for your own actions.”
The DOT’s goal is to have zero motorcycle fatalities in Wisconsin. Though its 5=ZERO campaign, the DOT hopes to reduce motorcycle fatalities to zero by promoting and providing options covering the five main areas of motorcycle safety.
According to the DOT, motorcycling is more dangerous than driving a car. The handling characteristics are unique, and rider skills must be at a level capable of safe operation.
Yet, the DOT reports that an overwhelming majority of all riders in Wisconsin have never taken a basic rider education course.
THE REF mobile training facility helps inform the public about “What we can do about being safe on the road and what we can do to be safe as motorcyclists,” Blanchard said.
The interactive learning environment teaches both riders and non-riders about sharing the road, crash avoidance and awareness of traffic and road hazards.