Choose Safety for Life
Choose Safety for LifeMaryland Safety Campaigns
Martin O'Malley, Governor, and Anthony G. Brown, Lt. Governor
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  Home > Motorcycle Safety  
  Gear up for safety.  

The Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program includes education and training for motorcycle riders, awareness campaigns for motorists, and enforcement of traffic laws for all road users. Radio PSAs and billboards have been used to raise motorists’ awareness of motorcycle safety issues; SHA and the Motor Vehicle Administration have convened a Motorcycle Safety Task Force, which meets regularly, to promote motorcycle safety across the State.

In 2008, the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Campaign will focus on motorist awareness and rider responsibility. Proper motorcyclist licensing will be a focus for law enforcement throughout the year. The best way for new riders to ensure that they obtain the right information and coaching is to enroll in a certified Basic Rider Course.

Motorcycle Safety – The Issue

Motorcycle safety is an increasing concern in Maryland. Ridership has increased dramatically over the last four years and the numbers of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving motorcyclists has increased as well. Excessive speed on the part of the motorcycle rider is a significant factor in fatal motorcycle crashes.  Motor vehicle drivers also contribute to a number of fatal motorcycle crashes each year – caused when drivers are inattentive, violate the motorcyclists’ right of way or are impaired. Rider inexperience and impaired riding by motorcyclists of all classifications are also contributing factors. 

Extreme speed has been noted in a number of crashes involving sport bikes. Aggressive driving by a minority of sport bike riders continues to be a problem for state and local law enforcement agencies in Maryland.

Motorcycle crashes increased from 1,749 in 2005 to 1,804 in 2006, the last year for which complete data is available.  Preliminary numbers indicate another increase in motorcycle crashes and fatalities will be seen in 2007, following a nationwide trend of increasing motorcycle crashes and fatalities.

Tips for Riders

  • Make yourself visible. Choose riding gear that increases your visibility in traffic in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. Use bright colors and retro-reflective strips or decals, especially at night.
  • Ride so you are seen. There is no one safe place to ride. Use lane positioning to be seen. Ride with your headlight on and consider using a modulating headlight.
  • Give yourself space and time to react. Allow space for emergency braking or for avoiding a crash. Make your lane moves gradually.
  • Signal your intentions. Signal before changing lanes. Avoid weaving between lanes. Flash your brake light when you are slowing down and before stopping.
  • Be courteous and respect other road users. Being courteous, non-aggressive and cooperative can go a long way in reducing crashes.

Tips for Drivers

  • Respect the motorcyclist. Motorcycles are vehicles with the same privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel.
  • Look for motorcycles. Motorcycles are smaller profile vehicles that are harder to see and whose speeds are more difficult to estimate. Look for motorcycles at intersections, especially before making a left turn. Check your blind spots frequently and before changing lanes. Always signal your intentions.
  • Allow plenty of space. Traffic, weather and road conditions require the motorcyclists to react and maneuver differently. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to maneuver and enough time for you to adjust.
  • Be courteous and respectful. Being courteous, non-aggressive and cooperative can go a long way in reducing crashes.

Maryland Fast Facts

  • In 2006, there were 83 motorcycle fatalities in Maryland.
  • In 2006, there were 1,406 motorcycle related crashes in Maryland
  • Motorcycle riders aged 21-49 are overrepresented in crashes, compared to rates among all driver types statewide.
  • Nine out of ten motorcycle crashes involve a male rider.
  • Three-quarters of motorcycles passengers involved in crashes are female.

National Statistics

According to 2006 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,810 Motorcyclists were killed on our nation's roads last year, a 5% increase from 2005 (a 127% increase from 1997).

Maryland Laws

All applicants of a motorcycle license endorsement under 18 years of age and all new drivers regardless of age must have satisfactorily completed an approved driver education course of not less than 30 hours classroom instruction and six (6) hours behind-the-wheel driver training. Anyone under the age of 18 must also complete either the Basic Rider Course or the Alternate Basic Rider Course before applying for a motorcycle license.

No person shall operate or ride a motorcycle unless they are wearing protective headgear, which complies with the standards established by the Motor Vehicle Administration. All helmets sold in the United States for use by motorcyclists since 1973 must comply with the Federal Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218). This is the minimum standard for helmets required to be worn by motorcycle operators and passengers in Maryland.

Individuals may not operate or ride on a motorcycle unless they are wearing an approved eye-protective device. Motorcycle operators and passengers must wear an eye-protective device that is in compliance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration regulations on impact resistance, 21 CFR Section 801.410(d)(2). Eye-protective devices include face shields, goggles, and spectacles. Most eyewear sold over the counter complies with the FDA’s impact resistance regulations. Motorcycle operators and passengers must wear clear (non-tinted) eye-protective devices when motor vehicles are required to display or use their lights.

Motorcycles may be fitted with modulating headlamps, provided that they meet OEM standards and are equipped with an automatic nighttime shutoff switch.

Rider Training

Riding a motorcycle requires special skills and concentration. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) offers motorcycle rider training courses for new and experienced riders. The courses teach the participants the special skills and mental strategies necessary for responsible motorcycle operation. More than 90 percent of riders involved in crashes had no formal training, were self-taught or learned from family and friends. Over 100 thousand people have learned to ride a motorcycle with the MVA's Motorcycle Safety Program.  Maryland's approved curricula meet or exceed the standards established by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Highway Maintenance

The mission at the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is to efficiently provide mobility for our customers through a safe, well-maintained and attractive highway system that enhances Maryland’s communities, economy and environment. SHA maintains more than 16,000 lane miles of Interstate, primary and secondary roads and more than 2,500 bridges. Safety is our number one priority.

We work hard to provide our customers with a world class highway system. Thousands of dedicated SHA employees work each and every day to make sure roadways are safe for all those that travel them, including motorcyclists. We welcome feedback and information from riders about the condition of our roadways. If you find something on your ride that creates an unsafe condition, please let us know about it. Click here to learn how. [insert link to Rough Ride? Flyer]


Your choice.Slow down.Always drive sober.Focus.Everyone share the road.
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