NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Ride Safe Indiana helps reduce motorcycle fatalities

While motorcycles are involved in less than 2 percent of all collisions in Indiana, they make up 16 percent of all traffic fatalities. There have been 51 motorcycle fatalities in the state this year, on a par with the 97 last year. And that was down from 136 in 2017.

That’s why we think Ride Safe Indiana’s mission to train motorcyclists and educate motorists in order to decrease motorcycle accidents and fatalities is such a good idea.

RSI is Indiana’s motorcycle safety program through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It strives to decrease fatalities by coordinating training courses across the state and increasing awareness of cyclists on our roads. Since the beginning of the program in 2015, RSI has trained more than 25,000 students in entry level, three-wheel and advanced safety and training courses through a number of authorized providers across the state.

RSI reports that in 2017 and 2018 alone there were 5,407 motorcycle collisions with a total of 233 fatalities. Marion County, where Indianapolis is located, had the most deaths in the state from motorcycle accidents in 2018 with 16. And while Allen County had eight fatalities last year, it had the most in the state in 2017 with 13. So the problem is serious here as well.

“I am excited about the growth Ride Safe Indiana experienced in 2018,” said Peter Lacy, commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “With 18 providers across the state, we increased the safety and training courses available to Hoosiers and trained more than 6,350 students last year. The increase in partnership helped us reach our goal of having a provider within 50 miles of all Indiana residents.”

A dozen new sites were added during 2018, and four more were to be added this year. Five training providers are in Fort Wayne – ABATE of Indiana, Ehlerding Motorsports, Harley Davidson of Fort Wayne and Motorcycle Rider Training of Fort Wayne’s two locations.

RSI says its providers offer “the highest quality and most comprehensive motorcycle safety education for new and experienced riders in a continued effort to keep all Hoosiers safe on the road.”

“A lot of the single-vehicle accidents, those are going to be the fault of the operator,” RSI program director Jeff Stokes said in an article in the Goshen News this week. “They may not be able to brake as quickly as they should, or they may go a little faster than they should. … But the majority of the problem seems to be a lack of skills or the lack of awareness by drivers.”

Of the 97 motorcycle fatalities last year, 36 involved just a motorcycle, 54 involved a motorcycle and one vehicle and seven included more than one vehicle. Among the most common factors in motorcycle collisions, according to RSI, are failure to yield right of way, being run off the right side of the road, following too closely and speeding.

“I would ask, personally, that folks driving in a car or truck look for motorcyclists, especially at intersections,” Stokes told the Goshen News. “Lean forward and lean back to give yourself a different view. As far as motorcyclists, ride like you’re invisible; like no one can see you. You have to protect yourself.”

RSI training is for Indiana residents older than 16 who hold a valid Indiana driver’s license. It includes five hours of classroom instruction followed by 10 hours of practical riding exercises in a controlled, off-street environment. The course concludes with a knowledge-and-skills evaluation. Those who complete the program receive a motorcycle endorsement.

Motorcycle riders face different challenges on the road than drivers of cars and trucks. And we believe RSI training offers an opportunity to develop skills and awareness that can save lives.