Officials urge safety to prevent motorcycle fatalities

BUFORD -- Gwinnett had the third-most motorcycle fatalities of any Georgia county over the last two years.

As part of a nationwide motorcycle safety campaign, state public health and highway safety officials met Thursday at Lake Lanier to discuss initiatives for 2013. Their goal, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety said, is to "eliminate tragedies in Georgia this year."

"We are seeing the numbers of motorcyclists killed in Georgia decline, but consider the families of these 132 motorcycle riders," GOHS director Harris Blackwood said. "Surely, they do not feel as if Georgia's roads are safer for motorcycles today than in 2011."

The 132 motorcyclists killed across the state last year was down slightly from the 148 who died in crashes the year prior. Over the last two years, 14 motorcyclists have been killed in Gwinnett County, trailing only Fulton (23) and DeKalb (16).

Overall, Georgia motorcyclists still perish on roadways "at a rate disproportionate to their counterparts in passengers cars."

"High fuel prices and the beautiful weather unfortunately bring out a lot of people who may not know how to handle a motorcycle," said Jim Kelly, coordinator of the Georgia Department of Driver Services' motorcycle safety program.

Drivers of passenger vehicles are urged to take the following precautions to prevent collisions with motorcycles:

-- Never drive distracted

-- Allow a motorcycle a full lane width; do not share lanes

-- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic

-- Always check for motorcycles in mirrors and blind spots

-- Motorcycle turn signals are often not self-cancelling; allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist's intentions before proceeding

-- Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances for motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists

-- Allow three or four seconds following distance