South Carolina

Warm weather increases danger for motorcyclists, moped riders

Lexington police and Highway Patrol investigated a wreck that happened in April on Sunset Boulevard in front of Walmart.
Lexington police and Highway Patrol investigated a wreck that happened in April on Sunset Boulevard in front of Walmart. PROVIDED PHOTO

Warm weather mean it’s time for motorists to share the road increasingly with two-wheeled vehicles.

Sometimes, that can be dangerous.

Columbia police have dealt with two hit-and-run collisions involving motorcycles in less than a month. An April 19 crash resulted in a motorcyclist’s leg having to be amputated, while a man was charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol after police say he struck a motorcyclist Saturday.

“I hope everybody can learn from those unfortunate situations and take something positive away from them,” said Sgt. Derek Miller, who heads the police traffic safety unit.

Miller stressed that motorists should drive defensively and be on the lookout for vehicles such as motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles.

“We want to make sure to give them enough space,” Miller said. “We don’t want to be following too closely. In the event you have to pass one of those vehicles, we want to make sure people pass them safely and lawfully and give them enough room.”

Those on two-wheeled transportation can help themselves by wearing proper gear, he said.

Bicyclists and moped riders should wear bright, reflective clothing, he said. And both motorcyclists and moped riders can benefit from wearing heavy leather, boots and other items.

For all, Miller emphasized the importance of helmets, whose use is optional.

Since Jan. 1, Columbia police are investigating eight fatal crashes, Miller said. One of those involved a motorcyclist who was not wearing a helmet and three involved pedestrians.

Police also are seeing more moped usage as University of South Carolina students frequently use the devices to travel around campus and downtown.

Troopers with the South Carolina Highway Patrol have worked 40 fatal wrecks involving motorcycles this year across the state, Sgt. Bob Beres said. In 2015 up to this point, there were 39 such crashes.

South Carolinians should expect to see more motorcycles on the road this week, as riders head to Myrtle Beach for Bike Week 2016, Beres said. And some riders will venture out away from the beach on road trips to Columbia and Charleston.

“The weather is nice, the temperature is right, and gas prices are fairly low,” Beres said.

For motorcycle riders, Beres emphasized that drinking and driving on two wheels is just as dangerous as on four. For drivers of cars and trucks, Beres stressed the importance of avoiding distraction such as eating, texting or talking on the phone.

Chad Fuller of ABATE – a group advocating for biker rights – said the main cause of wrecks is vehicles pulling out in front of motorcycles followed by getting rear-ended when stopped, he said.

“When I’m operating my motorcycle, I almost treat it as a game of Frogger, where everyone is trying to kill you,” Fuller said.

In addition to his work with ABATE, Fuller is an attorney with a Columbia-based firm which represents injured motorcyclists. “This is the busiest year I’ve ever had,” he said.

Glen Luke Flanagan: 803-771-8305, @glenlflanagan

Safety on the road

▪ Give motorcycles and mopeds space when passing

▪ Look twice – it can be difficult to judge speed

▪ Don’t follow too closely

Source: Columbia Police Department