In 2010, ABATE of Oklahoma member Robert “Gunner” Catcher was killed when a truck pulling a trailer pulled out from the side of the road and made a “U” turn in front of him. Gunner, a certified rider coach and experienced biker who was driving the speed limit, had no time to react, and was killed. Gunner was loved and respected by bikers all across Oklahoma. ABATE of Oklahoma, a motorcycle safety and rights organization, sponsored and heavily lobbied to pass Gunners Law. This law added $3.00 to an annual motorcycle tag with the money earmarked solely for motorcycle safety. Gunner’s Fund has raised over $2M since it was passed.
Fast forward to 2017. Gunners Fund now provides grants to fund affordable, approved motorcycle training courses across Oklahoma, and ABATE of Oklahoma is doing their part to proactively assist by educating the public.
Most people realize that additional laws will do little to stem crashes. Every state already outlaws violating a vehicle’s right-of-way. Even when a driver is convicted of killing or injuring a motorcyclist, the punishment is minimal. In many states people are punished more severely for abusing an animal than killing a motorcyclist. ABATE of Oklahoma has a solution for vehicles crashing into us.
ABATE of Oklahoma started a Share the Road audio visual program that shows drivers how to better see and avoid collisions with motorcycles. We have three versions:
- one for car and light truck drivers,
- one for big rig drivers and heavy service vehicles, and
- one for bus drivers.
We present 30-45 minute Share the Road programs, free of charge, to any school, company, or organization that requests it. Instructors pass a background check, intense training, and assist in several presentations before becoming a Certified Share the Road Instructor.
In 2017, our volunteer instructors drove over 7,000 miles, presenting the program to approximately 1,500 attendees. We have presented it to all the bus drivers of the second largest school system in the state, some of the largest trucking companies, the premier trucking company safety organization, the largest CDL training program in the state, public utility companies, and high school drivers’ education classes. We already have presentations scheduled for government operations, trucking companies, oil field service companies, and public utilities through the summer of 2018.
Share the Road employs several techniques to keep the audience’s attention and to imprint the results of not looking twice for motorcycles. We often display a wrecked motorcycle, from a vehicle right-of-way violation in cases where a motorcyclist was killed.. We show an actual motorcycle/car crash, show the reasons why drivers misjudge our distance, and show a motorcycle needing the full width of the traffic lane to avoid potential death. Audiences learn the limitations of motorcycles that make them vulnerable to crashes. They take several awareness tests to show that they see only what they are looking for, not what they are looking at.
Our program has been so successful that we have been asked to develop a program that shows motorcyclists the limitations trucks and buses have regarding motorcycles. The program will be released the first quarter of 2018, and will be available to all motorcycle groups in Oklahoma.
How do you measure the success of the program? Obviously you cannot measure something that doesn’t happen. We do measure death statistics. We started presenting Share the Road in earnest at the beginning of 2016. Motorcycle deaths held constant between 2015 and 2016. The numbers are statistically too small to accurately judge our effectiveness. Maybe we helped? The program needs a lot more presentations before we really see the results. We do know that every organization where we presented it, has asked us back for repeat presentations. Several large organizations where we presented it have offered us the use of buses and tractor trailer rigs and drivers for video and still photography shots needed for our presentations. We do know that an Oklahoma Highway Safety Office employee said it was the most effective program in the state to reduce vehicle verses motorcycle collisions. We recently doubled the number of instructors in preparation of reaching our goal of 3,000 attendees in 2018. While the numbers do not seem large, remember that we are targeting the drivers who log the most miles, and young drivers, trying to instill the habit of looking twice for bikes.
If you are interested in our Share the Road programs, please contact Jim “Radar” Koelle, (918) 852-6872, or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be glad to share our experiences. After all, the more cage drivers that look twice, the better off all motorcyclists are.