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Sharing the Road


On June 3, 2001 the West Milford Township Fire Department stood by as this helicopter landed to airlift a motorcyclist to the hospital following an accident.


With the warm weather motorists will be sharing the road with more vehicle types, motorcycles, bicycles and more pedestrians than in the cooler weather.

Following is some advice for motor vehicle drivers:

Over two-thirds of car-motorcycle crashes are caused by drivers, not by motorcyclists. The driver either does not see the oncoming motorcyclist at all or does not see the motorcyclist in time to avoid a crash.

Drivers tend to look for other cars, not motorcycles.

Because of its smaller profile, a motorcycle is harder to see and you may find it more difficult to estimate the motorcycle's speed.

The motorcyclist's riding pattern is different from your driving pattern. Different actions may be needed for the same driving or highway situation. For example, you may ignore a piece of road debris as a driver; however, that same piece of road debris may be deadly for a motorcyclist.

Traffic, weather, and road conditions require a motorcyclist to react differently than a driver, thus it is more difficult for you to judge and to predict cues that may require the motorcyclist to take an evasive action.



What Are Some Situations When Crashes Are Most Likely to Occur?


Car making a left turn: You are attempting a left turn in front of a motorcycle operator.


Riding in your blind spot: A motorcyclist is riding in your blind spot and you may not see the motorcycle. Additionally, you may fail to adequately check blind spots before changing lanes or making turn.


Hazardous road conditions: Potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks and other road obstructions may dictate that a motorcyclist take an action that you may or may not.


Obstructed line of sight: Large vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, delivery vans, and large trucks may block a motorcycle from your view and the motorcyclist may seem to suddenly appear.


How Can I Become More Aware of Motorcyclists?


Respect the motorcyclist: Remember the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the privileges of any vehicle on the roadway. Give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel.


Look out: Look for the motorcyclist at intersections, when a motorcyclist may be making a left turn, and on the highway, when a motorcyclist may be changing lanes. Clearly signal your intentions.


Anticipate a motorcyclist's maneuver: Obstructions that you do not notice may be deadly for a motorcyclist. Predict evasive actions.


Allow plenty of space: Don't follow a motorcycle too closely. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to take evasive actions. 



Don't assume that you are visible to a driver. As a motorcyclist, it is your responsibility to make your presence known to the driver. Select and wear an appropriate helmet with retroreflective materials. Wear bright, contrasting protective clothing. If you choose darker clothing, wear a fluorescent vest.

23 states require that the headlight be on while the motorcycle is on the highway. Use high beams rather than low beams and consider using a modulating headlight if your state allows it.



Proper lane position is important to being seen and for protecting your riding space. If you can see the driver in the side-view mirror, the driver can see you. Don't "hide" in the driver's blind spot!

Clearly, communicate your intentions by signaling appropriately. Let the driver know what you intend to do.

Car making a left turn: A driver is attempting a left turn in front of you.

Riding in a driver's blind spot: You are riding in the driver's blind spot and the driver may not see the motorcycle. Additionally, the driver may fail to adequately check blind spots before changing lanes or making turn.

Hazardous road conditions: Potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks and other road obstructions may dictate that you take an action that a driver may not or does not anticipate.  

Obstructed line of sight: Large vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, delivery vans, and large trucks may block a motorcycle from a driver's view and you may seem to suddenly appear.

Make yourself visible: Choose protective gear that will increase your visibility in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. A motorcycle helmet is your most valuable piece of protective gear and should be most visible to the driver.

Ride where you can be seen: Remember that there is no one safe place to ride. Use lane positioning to your advantage to be seen and to provide extra space for emergency braking situations or avoidance maneuvers. Avoid the driver's blind spots. Make your lane moves gradually, and always use appropriate signaling.

Never share a lane with a car: A driver may not expect you to be there and may not be aware of your presence. Remember most drivers are looking for other, bigger vehicles.

Clearly signal your intentions to the driver: Signal before changing lanes and never weave between lanes.


Traffic Light - Cross at the Green

  Children and older people are often victims of traffic accidents. Pedestrians represent the second largest category of motor vehicle deaths and injuries in New Jersey. In 1996 there were 21.7 percent pedestrian motor vehicle-related deaths, compared to 13 percent for the national average. Pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey totalled 149 in 1997. These pedestrians often forget safe walking rules or do not know about driving dangers. People who have had too much to drink are also likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents. Unfortunately, many of the measures that make roads safer for drivers such as large medians and wide shoulders make those roads more treacherous for pedestrians.

  Car-pedestrian accidents have a 5 percent fatality rate if the car is going 20 mph, but the rate jumps to 85 percent at 40 mph.


  Walking into traffic from between parked cars is a common cause of fatal accidents. Children chasing a ball, for instance, give no thought to traffic. Small children are hard to see. Always watch for movement around parked cars. Drivers should watch for signs that mark special hazard areas such as school zones, bus stops, playgrounds, parks and schools. In these and residential areas indicate where children are most likely to play or cross the streets.

Similarly, an older person may wander into the street without any thought of traffic. 
    She/he may not see a car or judge its distance. The drinking pedestrian may not see, hear or think clearly. Watch for pedestrians when driving on streets lined with parked cars. This also holds true when there are groups of people along the side of the street or highway.
     Pedestrians and joggers should always walk or jog off the roadway and face traffic. They should cross at crosswalks only on proper signal, look all ways before crossing, avoid crossing between parked cars and at night wear light-colored or reflective clothes, carry a white handkerchief or a light. It is not a good practice to wear headphones while walking or jogging near the roadway.
     At night, drivers should watch for anyone walking along a highway and blow their horn to warn the person on foot.
     Always yield to pedestrians. Be extra careful at intersections, crosswalks and on streets lined with parked cars, school zones, bus stops, playgrounds and parks. When driving from an alley or driveway, watch for pedestrians.
     The law is very specific that blind persons have the right of way when crossing any highway or intersection. Stop when you see a person with a white or metallic colored cane, or with a guide dog. All motorists must comply with this law.


Bicycles, skateboards and inline skates


     When you are following or passing a bicyclist, skateboarder or inline skater leave plenty of room. Any bike used after dark must have front and rear lights and a rear reflector. But these may be very hard to see. Watch the side of the road and be ready to dim your lights. As you approach a bicyclist, skateboarder or skater, beep your horn as a warning that you are approaching. It's the law in New Jersey that bicyclists, skateboarders and inline skaters on a roadway have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the motor vehicle driver. 


The International Inline Skating Association advises that inline skaters go with traffic and they are safer when treated like motor vehicles on the road. If you would normally yield to a motor vehicle, then you should yield to a bicycle, skateboard or skates as well. Be aware that bicycles, like any smaller vehicles, are harder to see. Watch for them and always drive defensively.
     If a driver is turning right when the bicyclist, skateboarder or skater is on the roadway, pass him or her before reaching the turn or wait until s/he has passed the corner, then turn. Remember to signal your turn.
      To turn left, a bicyclist, skateboarder or inline skater may choose to turn as a vehicle does. The driver should be alert that if there is a left turn lane, the bicyclist, skateboarder or inline skater will ride on the right edge of the turn lane.


Horseback riders and drivers

A rider of a horse or a horse-drawn vehicle has the same rights and duties of a motor vehicle driver when riding on a public highway. Approach a rider with caution; don't blow your horn; and maintain a maximum speed of 25 mph.

Just as you stop for the driver of a motor vehicle who signals to stop, turn, or pass, you should observe a hand signal from a horseback rider or horse-drawn vehicle driver. Also, there are riding and parking rules a rider must follow.

For example, a rider may not use certain limited access highways; must ride with the traffic and keep as far to the right as possible; cannot drive or back a horse or horse-drawn vehicle across a sidewalk without the owner's or municipality's consent; cannot leave a horse unattended on a highway unless properly and sufficiently harnessed to a weighted vehicle; and must take necessary precaution when hitching and unhitching a horse from a vehicle.
     Speeding and illumination rules also apply. The rider cannot race a horse on a highway. When traveling, you must display a light on a horse-drawn vehicle from thirty minutes after sunset to thirty minutes before sunrise, and in foggy weather.


Township of West Milford OEM


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