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Ringing in the riding season that never really ended

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 11:02 a.m. CDT

DECATUR (MCT) — Motorcycle riders itching to get back into the saddle should understand the risks and take care, local bikers and Illinois Department of Transportation officials said at a Decatur news conference Wednesday, ringing in the riding season that for some never really ended this past winter.

Terry Redman, manager of the motorcycle safety and certification courses the state provides for free, spoke alongside members of the Decatur chapter of the Goldwing Road Runners Association and ABATE Illinois at World of Powersports. Redman said bikers make up about 3 percent of motorists in Illinois, yet account for 16 percent of vehicular fatalities.

Most tragic is that so many of the incidents are preventable. Redman said slightly fewer than half of motorcycle accidents are single-vehicle, meaning no other vehicles were involved in the crash. An “unbelievable” 40 percent of motorcycle fatalities involve alcohol, he said.

“We have some major areas of concern,” Redman said. “We encourage all motorcyclists, now that it’s warm, to get your bike out, check the tires, breaks, turn signals and so on. Make sure everything’s in working order.”

Carleen Grant, public relations coordinator for ABATE of Illinois, a motorcycle group, stressed riders should not only gear up appropriately, but perform preventive maintenance on their bikes at the start of the season to catch any mishaps before they occur.

“Motorcycle gear is more than just about looking cool,” Grant said. “It’s more than just a guy standing over there in leather, oh doesn’t he think he looks bad? He’s wearing it for a reason.”

Grant said high gas prices have again meant a boom in riders, some who are returning after years out of the saddle or aren’t that experienced to begin with, making the campaign to get everybody into state-sponsored classes and aware of proper safety precautions even more important.

“A few years ago, fuel prices skyrocketed and it caused an influx of motorcycle riders in Illinois,” Grant said. “We had a lot of women riders, older riders who’d returned back to motorcycling and a lot of new riders. Well, guess what: Gas prices are going up again.”

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