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Thursday, May 19, 2016 12:13 am

Can we just ride worry-free?

ABATE’s safety slogan: ‘Look twice to save a life’

The Farewell Ride, black and aluminum glass-sided coach Harley-Davidson Road King Trike conversion, offered to avid bikers by Butler Funeral Homes in Springfield.


For bikers like Phil Cornell, longtime motorcyclist, a fun summer is a safe summer.

“I do this because I love to ride,” said Cornell. “But I’m sick of burying my brothers and sisters as a result of motorist-involved accidents.”

For motorists all across Illinois, staying safe while operating their vehicle is a priority, but the month of May in particular is when drivers will start seeing more motorcycles on the roads. For the 33rd consecutive year in Illinois, May is Motorcycle Awareness Month. With the support of Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education of Illinois (A.B.A.T.E) motorists will have an opportunity to be educated about how to share the road safely.

A.B.A.T.E of Illinois is a motor rights organization that promotes education, charity, acceptance and safety of motorcycle use. On May 1, A.B.A.T.E of Illinois held its annual awareness rally at the Illinois Dept. of Transportation. In an interview with Illinois Times, a few members and supporters of the organization’s mission shared that being bikers are not their only occupation and they want to stay safe, too.    

A.B.A.T.E.’s slogan says, “Look twice to save a life.” The bikers at the rally shared common memories of their brothers, sisters and friends dying as a result of motorist-involved accidents.

George Hurst, vice president and safety and education coordinator of A.B.A.T.E, said that the most common causes of accidents are distracted drivers and people not looking ahead when they make left turns.

“Over 40 percent of accidents happen when someone is making a left turn at the intersection and run us over,” Hurst said.

To help educate the newest drivers hitting the roads, the Lincoln Land chapter of A.B.A.T.E. has implemented a segment of motorcycle awareness into their own driver’s education classes in Springfield area high schools, including Riverton, Rochester, Pleasant Plains and Athens.

“Currently, we are going to six schools teaching over 800 high school-aged students about how to be safe while on the roads, either while operating a bike or riding next to one,” Hurst said.

This legislative session the organization is watching House Bill 4105. This proposal would allow blue dot tail lights on motorcycles to increase visibility, especially at night.

“The blue dot is intended to catch a driver’s attention quicker,” said Josh Witkowski, legislative coordinator for A.B.A.T.E of Illinois. “A motorcycle’s taillight is only so big, and for motorcycles visibility is important.”

On May 3, the annual safety campaign, “Start seeing motorcycles,” kicked off as Rauner rode into the press conference on his personal Harley Davidson suited in a leather vest and A.B.A.T.E membership hoodie, Illinois’ first governor to do so.

“We want to remind every driver to start seeing motorcycles,” Rauner said. “We want to make sure everyone stays safe, reduce the number of accidents, so we all may enjoy the roads. We’re encouraging motorcyclists to obey the laws, but to drive defensively, assuming that folks don’t see you.”

Randy Blankenhorn, secretary at IDOT, and Illinois State Police Lt. Rich Kozik joined the governor at the press conference urging people look out for motorcycles.

According to Kozik, “Motorcycles represent only 3 percent of the total vehicles registered in the state and 16 percent of total fatalities.”

“Any rider, regardless of experience, can be involved in a crash,” Kozik said.

Kozik suggested motorcyclists attend safety courses, wear protective body gear, refrain from drinking alcohol while operating their bikes and try not to get stuck in blind spots.

Rauner called on all drivers to, “Drive carefully, drive thoughtfully and drive with awareness.”  

Contact Brittany Hilderbrand at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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