As warmer weather begins to move in, motorists should be keeping their eyes open for a large number of motorcycles coming back to the roadways.
An accident on Saturday killed a motorcyclist in Athens County, but Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Bettinger said so far this year there have been no accidents involving motorcycles in Washington County.
Kristen Castle, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said there are many ways motorcyclists can be prepared and stay safe, but it is also dependent upon other drivers too.
John Burdette, director of public safety training at Washington State, helps instruct motorcyclists each weekend during rider courses. The courses are directed at teaching riders safety and how to properly operate their motorcycles.
"We try to focus on riders themselves, but there is definitely a motorist education component," she said. "We give out bumper stickers and magnets and tell people to be aware of your surroundings."
Bettinger said there are ways both motorists and motorcyclists can stay safe.
"Advice for people driving cars and trucks: look twice before you make a lane change," he said. "Keep back the proper distance from a motorcycle, which is 10 feet for every 10 miles an hour; that's the rule of thumb."
A list of Motorcycle Ohio safety courses from basic to advanced can be found at motorcycle.ohio.gov/.
The Basic Rider Course and Basic Rider Course for Returning Riders are held locally at Washington State Community College every weekend. The courses are $50. Registration must be completed at the Motorcycle Ohio website, where payment is also accepted.
To become an instructor, visit motorcycle.ohio.gov/instructors.stm.
Source: Times research
Fatal crashes in Washington County"
2012: Three, no motorcyclists.
2013: Eight, one was a motorcyclist.
2014, as of Monday: None.
Total 2014 crashes: 278, none involved motorcycles.
Source: Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Bettinger said motorcyclists should also have proper training.
"Also, (they should know how to do) evasive maneuvering so you can react properly to avoid a crash: what are they going to do in a worst case scenario, how can you move to avoid an accident or serious injury?" he said.
Castle said there are a variety of safety courses available throughout the state through Motorcycle Ohio.
"That's kind of what the Motorcycle Ohio program really prides itself on; we offer training to riders, whether it's a novice rider or experienced rider who wants to brush up on his skills," Castle said. "Our class is really popular; we only charge $50...some can be hundreds of dollars."
Castle said that the different class levels are offered at different locations across the state.
"Our advanced rider course, we've got it in five counties," she said. "The basic is in dozens."
Castle said one training site locally is Washington State Community College, 710 Colegate Drive, Marietta.
"They offer the basic rider course (BRC) and the basic rider course for returning riders," she said. "We consider Washington State a huge partner because that is the primary (site) in Southeastern Ohio."
John Burdette, director of public safety training at the college, serves as an instructor for the courses. He said classes are held each weekend and Motorcycle Ohio just donated four motorcycles at the end of March to help with training.
Each course varies slightly, with the basic being intended for those who have never driven a motorcycle, but everyone can learn something.
"I've been riding a motorcycle myself for 46 years and I took the BRC course," he said. "There were things in that class I'd never learned before. There is truly something for everybody in that class."
He said coming in July, the training site will begin offering the more advanced courses, the basic riding course 2 (BRC-2) and the advanced rider course. He said classes for those will start July 20 and Aug. 9, respectively.
Registration can only be done online at the Motorcycle Ohio site. Each class holds about 12 students. Burdette added that the program is looking for some instructors to get involved and help teach the weekend courses, which involves a 60-hour course and passing a skill test, knowledge test and student teaching.
In addition to the courses, Castle said May is Motorcycle Awareness Month and a past campaign used is the SMART campaign.
"It stands for Ride Sober; Ride Motorcycle Endorsed; Ride Alert; Ride with the Right Gear, so boots, pants, helmet, jacket and gloves; and Ride Trained," Castle said. "Be aware of your surroundings and always make sure you're being seen (by others) too."
Castle said the weather might contribute to people being lax in awareness.
"It doesn't help that it's been so cold," she said. "I think people have forgotten (about motorcycles)...We try to focus on training riders and educating riders, but general motorists also play a part in keeping everybody safe on the road."
Burdette said the courses are important for everyone, even if they've been riding for years.
"The only way to learn how to properly operate a motorcycle is through sanctioned training, such as what we offer," he said. "Anything less than that can result in establishing poor riding habits...There's just too many things waiting out there that are waiting to jump out and bite you...Even for the people who have been riding motorcycles for years, there is still something to learn from these classes."