The Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program includes education and training for motorcycle riders, awareness campaigns for motorists, and enforcement of traffic laws for all road users. Radio PSAs and billboards have been used to raise motorists' awareness of motorcycle safety issues; and a Motorcycle Safety Task Force promotes motorcycle safety across the State. The best way for new riders to ensure that they obtain the right information and coaching is to enroll in a certified Basic Rider Course.
Motorcycle Safety – The Issue
Motorcycle safety is an increasing concern in Maryland. Ridership has increased dramatically in recent years and the numbers of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving motorcyclists has increased, as well. Excessive speed is a significant factor in fatal motorcycle crashes. Motor vehicle drivers also contribute to a number of fatal motorcycle crashes each year – caused when drivers are inattentive, violate the motorcyclists' right of way or are impaired. Rider inexperience and impaired riding by motorcyclists are also contributing factors.
Extreme speed has been noted in a number of crashes involving sport bikes. Aggressive driving by a minority of sport bike riders continues to be a problem for State and local law enforcement agencies in Maryland. More than 1,500 people were injured and 70 people were killed in 1,880 motorcycle-involved crashes in Maryland in 2011.
Tips for Riders:
- Get trained, get legal. Operating a motorcycle in Maryland requires having a motorcycle license. A great way to obtain your motorcycle license is to complete Basic Rider Training at one of the many motorcycle safety training centers across Maryland.
- Make yourself visible. Choose riding gear that increases your visibility in traffic in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. Use bright colors and retro-reflective strips or decals, especially at night.
- Ride so you are seen. There is no one safe place to ride. Use lane positioning to be seen. Ride with your headlight on and consider using a modulating headlight.
- Give yourself space and time to react. Allow space for emergency braking or for avoiding a crash. Make your lane moves gradually.
- Signal your intentions. Signal before changing lanes. Avoid weaving between lanes. Flash your brake light when you are slowing down and before stopping.
- Be courteous and respect other road users. Being courteous, non-aggressive and cooperative can go a long way in reducing crashes.
- Gear up before you roll out. Wearing motorcycle-specific protective clothing can prevent serious injury in a crash. Over the ankle boots, gloves, protective jacket and pants and a helmet with face shield or protective eyewear are all part of the full gear package
Tips for Drivers:
- Respect the motorcyclist. Motorcycles are vehicles with the same privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel. Violating a motorcyclist's right of way in a crash that causes a serious injury could cost you three points and a $1,000 fine.
- Look for motorcycles. Motorcycles are smaller profile vehicles that are harder to see and whose speeds are more difficult to estimate. Look for motorcycles at intersections, especially before making a left turn. Check your blind spots frequently and before changing lanes. Always signal your intentions.
- Allow plenty of space. Traffic, weather and road conditions require the motorcyclists to react and maneuver differently. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to maneuver and enough time for you to adjust.
- Be courteous and respectful. Being courteous, non-aggressive and cooperative can go a long way in reducing crashes.
Maryland Fast Facts:
- Motorcycle riders aged 21-49 are overrepresented in crashes, compared to rates among all driver types Statewide.
- Nine out of 10 motorcycle crashes involve a male rider.
- Three-quarters of motorcycles passengers involved in crashes are female.
- Motorcycle crashes are serious. Three out of every four motorcycle crashes result in a motorcyclist injury or fatality.
- Motorcycle is a two-way street. Both drivers and riders have a responsibility to share the road safely.
- Motorcyclist fatalities have fallen from the peak a few years ago. Motorcycle fatalities fell in 2011 to 66—7 fewer than the 73 fatalities in 2010 in Maryland. This is the lowest level of motorcycle fatalities since 2003.
- Unfortunately, the total number of crashes remains high. The total number of motorcycle crashes and injuries has not declined at the same rate as fatalities. The difference between a fatal motorcycle crash and a nonfatal crash can be a slight difference in speed or direction. So, the number of crashes that become fatal could easily go back up.
- Motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities are most concentrated in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. More than 40% of all crashes statewide (42.7%) occur in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford Counties and Baltimore City.
- Crashes between cars and motorcycles are more common in the urban areas in the Baltimore –Washington corridor. A little more than half of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle.
- In crashes between drivers and riders, the driver is at fault more than half of the time.
- Crashes where only a motorcyclist is reported to be involved make up slightly less than half of all crashes. A small proportion of these crashes are caused by animals and other hazards in the roadway and some causes are unknown, but the largest proportion of motorcyclist-only crashes is caused by rider error.
*Crash data source: State Highway Administration Safety Information Database
Current Motorcycle Laws
As of October 2012:
- Helmets: All motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet that meets MVA standards. MVA has adopted Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 as its standard for compliant motorcycle helmets.
- Eye protection: A person may not operate a motorcycle unless the motorcycle has a windscreen or the operator wears an approved eye-protective device.
- Turn signals: Motorcycles do not need to be equipped with electric turn signal lamps.
- A motorcycle may be equipped with, and an operator may use auxiliary lighting, including blue dot illumination and/or light emitting diodes (LED), provided that the LED are nonblinking, nonflashing, non-oscillating and are not blue or red in color (these colors are typically reserved for emergency vehicles).
Operation of a motorcycle
- All of Maryland's traffic laws apply to motorcycle operators.
- The operator of a motorcycle may only ride the motorcycle on the permanent and regular seat.
- A passenger can only ride on a motorcycle designed to carry more than one person.
- A person may not carry anything that would prevent keeping both hands on the handlebars.
- A motorcycle is entitled to the full use of a lane and a motor vehicle may not be driven in any manner that would deprive a motorcycle of the full use of a lane.
- A person may not operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic.
- Motorcycles may not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
- A Class E license authorizes the licensee to drive a motorcycle.
- A Noncommercial Class M license authorizes the licensee to drive a motorcycle.
- MVA may not issue a Noncommercial Class M license to a person under the age of 18 unless the individual has successfully completed a motorcycle safety course approved by the MVA.
Motorcycle Safety Course
- Any Maryland resident who has a valid Class E or Class M license or learner's permit, or who is eligible for a Class M learner's permit may enroll in the course.
- Completion of the course shall be considered the equivalent of passing the skills and knowledge test required for obtaining a Class M license.
Laws pertaining to motorcycles can be found in the Transportation section of Maryland Annotated Code.
The MVA offers motorcycle rider training courses for new and experienced riders. The courses teach the participants the special skills and mental strategies necessary for responsible motorcycle operation. More than 90% of riders involved in crashes had no formal training, were self-taught or learned from family and friends. More than 100 thousand people have learned to ride a motorcycle with the MVA's Motorcycle Safety Program. Maryland's approved curricula meet or exceed the standards established by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. For more information, please visit the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's Motorcycle Training site
The mission at SHA is to efficiently provide mobility for our customers through a safe, well-maintained and attractive highway system that enhances Maryland's communities, economy and environment. SHA maintains more than 16,000 lane miles of Interstate, primary and secondary roads and more than 2,500 bridges. Safety is our number one priority. Thousands of dedicated SHA employees work each and every day to make sure roadways are safe for all those that travel them, including motorcyclists. We welcome feedback and information from riders about the condition of our roadways. If you find something on your ride that creates an unsafe condition, please let us know about it.
About Motorcycle Helmets
In the event of a crash while riding a motorcycle, a DOT compliant motorcycle helmet can help to minimize head injuries and prevent death due to head trauma. A study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), published in 2009, reported that helmeted motorcyclists were less likely to experience facial and head injuries compared to un-helmeted motorcyclists. Helmeted motorcyclists were significantly less likely to experience TBI, according to the report. You can view a copy of the report here.
NHTSA publishes a pamphlet on identifying a helmet that is compliant. You can download the pamphlet here.
NHTSA published a report on performance testing of "novelty" or "beanie" helmets that do not comply with the FMVSS 218 standard. You can view a copy of this report here.
Resources and Links
Maryland Motorcycle Safety PSA's