Although motorcycle riders make up 3 percent of motorists in the U.S., nationwide statistics for 2013 put them at 14 percent of vehicle-related fatalities and 16 times more likely to die per mile traveled. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month to combat these grim facts, and the Santa Barbara Police Department will hold a special safety enforcement operation on Saturday to look for the type of violations that lead to motorcycle crashes.

With the greatest number of registered motorcycles — 830,000 — in the U.S., California counts more than 1.4 million riders. Among them, 13,143 were injured in accidents in 2013, and 485 were killed. “Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise,” said Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez. “We all need to be more aware of motorcyclists in order to save lives.”

Drivers are reminded that motorcycles have the same rights on the road as cars and trucks; to be aware of motorcycles moving into blind spots when changing lanes, merging, and especially at intersections; that motorcycles are allowed to share a lane in California; and to allow more following distance behind a motorcycle. Motorcyclists can improve their safety and wear safety gear at all times, including a DOT-compliant helmet; obey all traffic laws; be properly licensed to ride a motorbike; follow at a safe distance; be aware that excessive speed is the most common rider-related factor in motorcycle crashes; and ride defensively. Motorcycle safety training information can be found at

Also, starting May 18, all police agencies will step up enforcement of seatbelt rules, which is, simply, belt up if you’re in a car. Running to the end of the month and coinciding with the Memorial Day weekend, “Click It or Ticket” aims to prevent the approximately 50 percent of auto accident deaths that occur because occupants do not have their seatbelt fastened. The phenomenon soars to a nearly 60 percent not-belted fatality rate at night, and law enforcement will take a no-excuses approach to night-and-day enforcement. The penalty for scoffing the seatbelt starts at $161 in California.

To further emphasize just how statistically likely it is for an accident to result from being less than careful while on the road, United Blood Services California has sent out a call for the need for more than 5,000 pints of blood and platelets in the tri-counties for Memorial Day, one of the busiest travel weekends, and the summer. Demand is expected to increase just as the supply traditionally decreases. In Santa Barbara, the healthy and over 16 may contribute, by appointment, at 4213 State Street, (805) 965-7037, and in Santa Maria at 1770 South Broadway, (805) 928-2546.


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