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Put Down That Cheeseburger And Watch Out For Motorcyclists

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts are rumbling into town for the Republic of Texas Rally this weekend. At least three traffic accidents involved motorcycles yesterday, so we called Motorcycle Safety Foundation vice president Robert Gladden to get some tips on how to stay safe during the ROT Rally.

KUT News:  There are more motorcycles on the road now in Austin than anywhere else in Texas any other time of year. What would you say to the people driving cars and trucks?

Robert Gladden: It’s important with motorists this time of year, especially when the weather gets nice, that they understand that there will be more motorcyclists out on the roadway. If you expect to see them, you’ll see a lot of them out there.

It’s also important that they focus on driving and not drive distracted. When they’re behind the wheel, put both hands on the wheel. Put down your phone. Put down your cheeseburger. Make driving a priority.

KUT News: Put down my cheeseburger? Let’s not go overboard here.

Gladden: It is asking a lot, but is lunch that important that you’re willing to possibly injure or kill another person on the roadway? Same with the mp3 players, the phones, things like that. We’re seeing that distracted driving is more and more often a primary collision factor in crashes and fatalities on the roadway. One key element is to make driving a priority.

KUT News: Okay, so now I’ve put down my cheeseburger and I’ve stopped texting. I’ve got both hands on the wheel. What now?

Gladden: Motorists should always check their blind spots. They should always use their turn signals. Signal your intentions. It’s for everyone’s safety and it’s also the law.

The other thing is, keep it in the car. People have a tendency to throw things out of the car and that can add to the hazard.

Really, look for motorcyclists. Motorcycles are smaller than a car or a truck. They only have one headlight or two headlights really close together. They can be harder to see. But research shows your brain tells your eyes what to look for and if you’re looking for motorcycles, you’ll see a lot of them out there.

KUT News: What can people on motorbikes do to be more safe? Besides wearing a helmet, obviously.

Gladden: For all motorcyclists, what we like to see them do is get proper training and get licensed. Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. You can complete the BRC in a weekend, and then you can get your motorcycle endorsement.

Also, really important, is to wear all the gear all the time, and that starts with a high-quality helmet. Wear a helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants, and boots. They make great riding gear these days that even in the heat and humidity of a great place like Austin, you can be comfortable due to the ventilation and mesh.

Really important, especially at events like this, is that people don’t drink and ride. You should never ever mix alcohol and any kind of drugs with riding motorcycles. Nearly half of all riders killed in motorcycle crashes have been drinking. It’s a growing trend and we’d like to see that reversed.

And really important is to ride within your own skill limits. It’s easy when you’re out riding in a large group with a lot of people to possibly get in over your head a bit. It’s important to ride within your own skill limits and obey traffic laws, because your friends would rather wait for you than wait on an ambulance for you.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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