Motorcycle safety concern grows in warmer weather months


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana Highway Patrol is warning drivers to be alert this time of year, because more motorcycles are hitting the road, and that means they respond to more crashes. On Thursday afternoon, MHP troopers said a crash near Clarkston sent a motorcyclist to the hospital. The rider was not wearing a helmet. Though injuries weren't life-threatening, MHP said it serves as a reminder to take safety precautions. According to the Montana Department of Transportation, motorcycle crashes made up 15 percent of the state's fatal crashes, and around 6 percent of all injury crashes in 2012. While those may seem like small numbers, MDT said motorcycles can be more dangerous than cars, and crashes are often fatal. When the weather warms up in the spring, it only means one thing for Lee Williams -- time to start up his bike. "I'm not going to drive my truck except in the winter time, so I'm on my bike," Williams said. Many riders like him are swapping out four wheels for two this time of year, and with that, comes a whole new set of road rules. "Make sure all the lights are working, make sure you can be heard, and if not heard seen for sure," Williams said. Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Doug Samuelson said one danger motorcyclists face is the road itself. "Most of street motorcycles, the tires don't handle very well in the gravel," Samuelson said, "and often times riders can get towards the edge of curves, and it will cause the motorcycle to slide out from underneath somebody." Sand and gravel left over from the winter snow can be a big danger. Not wearing a helmet is dangerous too. "A lot of the times when we have crashes, the motorcycles, they could be relatively minor in nature but often times the rider isn't wearing a helmet and it ends up being a more serious injury crash," Samuelson explained. But it is not just bikers that need to make sure they're taking precautions to stay safe. Samuelson said as more motorcycles hit the pavement this time of year, MHP responds to more motorcycle crashes, sometimes caused by other vehicles, so drivers need to be just as alert. "It's especially important to look and be careful when you're entering into traffic, pulling out from parking lots, making turns, looking for motorcycles. They are smaller and harder to see," Samuelson said. He said it's important to check your blind spot before switching lanes. These are small steps that can make a big difference for riders like Williams. "It's just part of something a lot of people need to be aware of," Williams said, "a lot of us are sons or fathers and we'd like to come home to our family at night." Both Williams and Samuelson said it's important for motorists and motorcycles to stay aware of each other to make sure everyone stays safe. Williams is part of the Bridger Hog group, which is a local group of riders under the Yellowstone Harley Chapter. For information, visit