WARSAW — Although May was specifically proclaimed “Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month,” by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, drivers and riders are urged to look out for each other at all times.
Motorcyclists encounter many more hazards on the road. Things that have a much smaller effect on a car, such as debris, wet pavement, gravel or small objects, can result in a crash for motorcyclists.
One item that is gaining more attention recently is the accumulation of grass clippings in roads. Not only do grass clippings tend to clog up storm drains, but they also create a dangerous situation for motorcyclists.
If blown into streets or highways, grass clippings can cause big problems for motorcycle riders because they create slick conditions.
In some municipalities, blowing grass clippings onto the road is illegal.
Dana Hewitt, code enforcement officer, said the city of Warsaw does have an ordinance that covers this. Section 66-34 addresses refuse, rubbish or natural debris. Warsaw residents who blow grass clippings onto the streets could be fined.
According to Kosciusko County American Bikers Aimed Toward Education Representative Jerry Ganger, grass clippings on the road make it slippery when traveling on two wheels.
“Grass is 85 percent water so it is very slick,” Warsaw resident Israel Garza agreed. “Some people compare it to hitting ice on the road.”
While somewhat rare, grass clippings have contributed to motorcycle accidents — some of them fatal.
In June, Cheryl Zeglen was out riding with her husband, Thomas, and friends in Bureau County, Ill. Thomas hit grass clippings in the road, started to lose control and slowed down suddenly — and Cheryl then crashed into him. She died two days later.
In 2015, a Channahon, Ill., couple who dumped their grass clippings in the road were sued for negligence after a pair on a motorcycle struck the grass, wrecked and sustained injuries.
Inattentive drivers, though, are the bigger issue, said Tippecanoe resident Bob Vernatter.
“There is a big push right now to bring the cut grass issue to attention,” Vernatter said. “But my biggest worry has been people on their phones.”
Ganger, Garza and Vernatter agree that distracted driving is a concern.
“I think in about three out of five cars, the driver has a phone in their hand, texting or Facebooking,” said Vernatter. “People just aren’t looking for motorcycles. They’re looking for something the size of a car.”
Motorcyclists are not able to make a fast stop. If a vehicle pulls out in front of a motorcyclist, there’s a good chance that the motorcyclist is going down as they try to avoid a collision.
Tips for motorcycle safety as well as information about training courses are offered by Ride Safe Indiana at https://www.in.gov/rsi/files/Motorcycle_Operators_Manual.pdf
“Look Twice, Save a Life” is a popular slogan often used to promote motorcycle safety awareness. The slogan is good advice for both bikers and drivers. “Look Twice, Save a Life” involves checking your blind spot and using caution to help keep roads safe for motorcycle riders.
“Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times,” Garza suggests. “Assume the driver in a car does not see you and may pull out in front of you as you approach. Keep your cool and stay focused.”