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Motorcycle riding has become more popular in recent years, appealing to a new group of enthusiasts, consisting of older and more affluent riders. At the same time, motorcycle fatalities have also been climbing, reaching their highest level in 2006 since 1981.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2006 4,810 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 5.1 percent from 4,576 in 2005 to the highest level since 1981. Motorcyclists were 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash in 2006, per vehicle mile traveled, and eight times more likely to be injured.

With motorcycle crash fatalities increasing every year for the past nine years, the NHTSA and several other motorcycle safety organizations have come together to offer safety tips to other motorists in an effort to stem the tide of fatalities involving motorcycles and passenger vehicles.

Here are five quick tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation that all car and truck drivers should know:

1. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

2. Because of its small size a motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Don’t assume all motorcyclists are moving as fast as they look.

3. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

4. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is for real.

5. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”

By observing these easy tips, we can help to reverse the disturbing trend of higher motorcycle crashes and fatalities. Who knows, one these easy tips may prevent a crash with one of your loved ones.

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