On the Road: Motorcycle cautions as the weather warms up
Motorcycle laws and safety will be the first topic in a series of monthly articles for the Post Independent. Each month, we will focus on a specific traffic topic, including applicable laws and safety tips.
With warm weather and summer activity rapidly approaching, there will be an increase in motorcycle traffic throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Preliminary data indicates traffic crash fatalities in Colorado totaled 607 during 2016. Approximately 125 of those were motorcycle deaths.
First and foremost, it is important to know Colorado’s driver’s license requirements for legally operating a motorcycle on public roadways. There are two types of motorcycle endorsements in Colorado. The “M” endorsement allows licensed drivers to operate a two- or three-wheeled motorcycle. The “3” endorsement allows licensed drivers to operate a three-wheeled motorcycle only.
In order to obtain either of these endorsements, you must be at least 16 years old and meet the following requirements:
• Driving record review.
• Physical aptitude test.
• Vision test.
• Pass a motorcycle written exam.
• Pass the motorcycle operator’s driving skill exam at a State Driver’s License Office or with a certified third-party tester.
• Pay the required fees.
In addition to driver’s license requirements, Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) dictate several equipment and safety requirements. Helmets are not required for drivers and passengers who are 18 and older; however, helmets must be worn by drivers and passengers younger than 18. In addition, eye protection must be worn by all drivers and passengers, regardless of age. Many helmets offer integral eye protection in the form of visors. Make sure your helmet meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards, fits snugly and allows a full range of view.
Regardless of speed, riders not wearing helmets are more likely to die from injuries sustained in a crash.
Motorcycles operated on a public roadway must have at least one headlamp, but no more than two. Many “dirt bikes” designed for off-highway use are not equipped with headlamps. When operating a motorcycle in lanes of traffic, the following laws apply (C.R.S. 42-4-1503):
• All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a traffic lane.
• The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake or pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
• No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
• Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
The law also requires people riding on motorcycles to face forward, astride the seat, with one leg on each side. Drivers are prohibited from carrying packages, bundles or anything else that prevents both hands from being on the handlebars. This includes electronic devices such as phones and cameras. Clinging to other vehicles while operating a motorcycle is also prohibited.
In closing, my most important advice to riders is “See and be Seen.” Utilize defensive driving skills by maintaining safe distances and clearances. Ensure your headlamps, brake lamps and turn signals are functioning, and use them properly to help passenger vehicles see you in traffic. Consider reflective clothing for visibility and protective layers to ensure environmental elements do not contribute to fatigue. A tired rider is a dangerous rider.
For those of us who don’t ride, stay alert and watch for motorcycles while driving. Give them a wide berth and plenty of space.
I will close these articles the same way every month. Never operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Ask yourself: “Is it worth the loss of a life?”
Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol’s Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs. The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.