CHICAGO -- As the weather improves, more motorcyclists will hit the roads. Local motorcycle groups will be out this month for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, working to remind drivers to watch for them and share the road.
Their message is simple: just pay attention while you’re driving. Put down your phone, listen, and watch for motorcyclists because they have a smaller footprint and less protection than a vehicle.
Debra and Kevin Franzen lost their son, 23-year-old Timothy Jordan, in September. A driver hit him while he was riding his motorcycle.
“He wasn’t doing anything wrong; he was just going with traffic. She just didn’t look,” Debra Franzen said.
A driver hit Mike Landers while he was riding in February.
“I did sustain a compound fracture to my lower leg, a lot of road rash on my face, about a 3-inch scar on my head. I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse,” Landers said.
Scott Luczynski and Wally Elliott lost two friends in a 2010 motorcycle crash.
“It was quite tragic and it was just cause someone wasn’t paying attention on the road, texting and not paying attention,” Luczynski said.
And Brittany Tedesco lost her mom in 2012.
“Nobody wants to be turning 17 and burying their mom. There are so many times I want to talk to her now and I can’t,” Tedesco said.
They all have the same message for drivers.
“Open your eyes. There’s more going on around you than your cell phone, radio, your make up,” said Debra Franzen. “Your life will go on; ours stopped September second.”
The organization A.B.A.T.E. hopes to prevent these tragedies. Members will be out this month encouraging drivers and motorcyclists to share the road safely.
“We get out there and try to educate the public and also the motorcyclist,” said Judy Kaenel, President of DuKane A.B.A.T.E.
“It’s important that both of us, motorists and motorcyclist are aware of some of the dangers out there and are prepared,” Kaenel said.
They hope drivers will put down their phones, and watch and listen for motocyclists.
“A motorcycle has a very limited profile unlike a car, so a bike takes up so much smaller room on the road itself that often times people in vehicles aren’t paying attention and looking hard enough to the right and the left,” said Ozzie Giglio, CEO of Windy City Harley.
“You can always institute fines, or add things like that, but the hardest thing about it, until you do it or it happens to you, you’re not going to be aware,” said IL State Senator Tom Cullerton. “There’s a bigger fine if you’re not paying attention.”
A.B.A.T.E. will be out on Route 47 tomorrow, holding up signs reminding both drivers and motorcyclists to ride safely and share the road.
The message to drivers this month: put down the phones, double-check your blind spots before changing lanes, and allow added following distance behind motorcycles.
But it's important to remember the message for motorcyclists as well: don’t dart in and out of traffic, obey all traffic laws, and help make yourself visible to vehicles.