(WXYZ) — As the weather begins to warm up in metro Detroit, you can expect to see more motorcycles on the streets.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and it aims to educate people about how to be safe on and around motorcycles.
In 2020, 5,578 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes. That same year, people riding motorcycles were 28 times more likely to die in a crash compared to people in other vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It's been six years since Shelly Frontera was hit by a drunk driver while she was riding on a motorcycle. While she is lucky to be alive, she still lives with the physical and emotional pain.
"I'm a third of the person I used to be," Frontera said.
In August of 2015, she was riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, turning from westbound 26 Mile to southbound Gratiot. A drunk driver blew a red light and hit them.
"When he started to go, I glanced up, green light and then I started my turn, I remember the swerve back and I remember the headlights," Frontera said.
She doesn't remember anything until nine days later when she woke up in the hospital with injuries to her head, spine, right hand, hip and substantial injuries to her right leg.
To this day, she walks with a cane and a knee brace, and still experiences pain.
"Especially when the weather is up and down like this, this is my most painful time of the year," Frontera said.
She also struggles mentally.
"I'm a Marine, so I have that mentality of I can conquer anything, and I no longer have that," she said.
James Thorburn with Allen Park Police said he's seen a number of crashes in his city, and it was never the fault of the motorcyclist.
He has many tips to keep people safe. For riders, wear bright colors and protective gear, including a helmet.
"Always dress for the crash, obviously the weather, but you see people you know we have all seen it people driving down the road no shirt, no helmet, it is not going to be great if you crash," he said.
Other suggestions from Frontera include making sure you have good insurance if you do ride, and she reiterated the importance of wearing a helmet.
She was not wearing a helmet at the time of her crash, so she is very lucky to be alive.
Tips for Drivers
- Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots, so check — then check again — before changing lanes or making a turn.
- Predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks. A motorcycle may look farther away than it is because of its small size, and it may be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it appears.
- Keep a safe distance. Motorcyclists often slow by rolling off the throttle or downshifting, thus not activating the brake light, so allow more following distance, about 3 to 4 seconds.
- Understand lane shifting. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.
- See the person. When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle, see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.
5 Tips for Riders
- Be visible. Motorists often have trouble seeing motorcycles, so wear bright clothing and a light-colored helmet. Always have your headlight on, day and night, and avoid riding in blind spots of cars and trucks. If possible, flash your brake light when slowing down and before stopping.
- But pretend you are invisible. If you assume others on the road can’t see you, and any car that can hit you will hit you, you will tend to ride in a hyper-aware mindset and learn to notice every detail in your surroundings. Take extra responsibility for your safety and ride defensively.
- Gear up every ride. Wear proper riding gear from head to toe. Full-face helmets provide the best protection, and jackets, pants, gloves, and boots that are made for riding will generally be made of abrasion-resistant material, include protective armor, and provide additional comfort.
- Use good street strategies. Constantly search the road for changing conditions and use the Search-Evaluate-Execute strategy (SEE) to assess and respond to hazards before you have to react to an emergency.
- Before you ride, check over your bike. Make a habit of doing a pre-ride check, which includes looking over your tires and wheels, checking fluids, cables, your bike’s chassis, lights and electronics, and the stands. Use the T-CLOCS inspection checklist to help you.