Take action toward motorcycle awareness

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We need to raise awareness for motorcycle riders in and around the Flathead Valley.

One of the biggest threats motorcyclists face each day while riding is that there is always at least one motorist driver that fails to see them. Or maybe it’s not that they didn’t see them, but only miscalculated what the rider’s intentions were. Nearly all riders do pay attention to there surroundings as taught by the MSF’s (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) riding courses. Too many times have I heard of motorcyclists being struck by vehicles and the only thing the drivers have to say is “I didn’t see him/her or “they came out of nowhere.”

As some of these explanations may be true it only reinforces my opinion about negligent drivers. So what action can we take? You cannot force people to see what is around them, but we can take steps to improve the awareness of motorcyclists. I play a game with my kids to count how many motorcycles they see on the road. This implants the awareness image in their minds to look out for them. Another way to improve awareness is to place up signs that bring a message to people, “Motorcyclists have families too.”

I started riding in Florida in 2007 and that was my trial by fire for riding. It was bad but if you could survive riding the interstates and cities in Florida you will do fine everywhere else. The Hawaiian island of Oahu takes traffic safety very serious and I felt safe riding there. When I moved back to my hometown of Whitefish from the U.S. Navy, I felt like I was in Florida again. More unnecessary riding accidents were popping up on the news almost every other week, and to hear the tragedies and losses from those accidents, inspired me to work on making a change geared to preventing these horrific events. People lose more than what is realized and what is not talked about when a family loses someone from a careless driver. The “click it or ticket “campaign and the no use of cell phones while driving laws, are adhered to very well. The message is simple, we need to take action with preventing motorcyclist accidents from negligent drivers, and those who just don’t care about riders in general.

I’m not saying all accidents were caused by car/truck drivers; an element of riders also put themselves in situations that can avoided. I would recommend that some of the state or county Department of Transportation safety budget be used to advertise road warnings and cautions for motorcyclist protection on local media. The current Montana helmet law applies to 18 years and under. I recommend that age should be raised to all ages 16 and up for rider protection. It is very sad to hear when someone was killed in a motorcycle crash involving a car or truck. The feeling hits home to all riders. I have had some very close calls in the past five years in the valley that should have not been that close. We need to take action towards motorcycle awareness.

— Ryan Schwegel, Kalispell

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