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Crack down on drivers to prevent motorcycle accidents

OCEANSIDE — Extra motorcycle police officers were out from 6 a.m. to noon on key streets this August to crack down on careless drivers who are likely to cause a motorcycle-involved accident.The Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operation is aimed at reducing the number of motorcycle deaths.

“We’re looking for any violations of vehicles or motorcycles that can lead to motorcycle accidents,” Sgt. Gabe Jimenez said.

Automobile drivers who speed, make unsafe lane change, or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are a major cause of motorcycle-involved accidents.

Drivers distracted by cell phones, adjusting music, or putting on makeup while driving are putting motorcycle riders at greater risk by not focusing their attention on the road.

Extra police patrols were also on the alert for motorcyclists who were not driving safely.

“Unsafe speed for conditions and lane turning are the top two,” Jimenez said.

State Route 76, College Boulevard, Oceanside Boulevard, and Vandegriff Boulevard were identified as roadways that motorcyclists frequently ride and locations where a high number of motorcycle crashes and violations occur.

“There are more crashes in most of those areas,” Jimenez said. “We’re trying to focus on heavy traffic flow, rush hour traffic to noon.”

California motorcycle fatalities rose 18 percent in 2011.

The number of motorcycle fatalities a year also peaked in Oceanside in 2011 with three fatal collisions. The following year ended with another three motorcycle fatalities.

Two recent motorcycle fatalities were caused when a rider ran off the road and a rider did a wheelie and was ejected from his bike.

Part of the cause for the increase in fatal accients statewide is the upturn of the economy. As the economy improves there are more people on the road. There is also an increase in novice motorcycle riders.

Motorcycle safety training is strongly recommended. The course teaches riders how to react to road situations.

“Out in public is not the place to learn how to ride a motorcycle,” Jimenez said. “It’s better to be prepared.”

San Diego Harley-Davidson Rider’s Edge training course is a California Motorcyclist Safety Program that educates 300 riders a year.

Derik Bergman, San Diego Harley-Davidson sale manager, said the 25-hour course benefits all riders.

“Anyone who want to learn how to ride, refresh their skills, and be safe on a motorcycle,” Bergman said.

Bergman said tips for safe riding depend on a rider’s experience.

Some universal advice for all riders is assume people don’t see you, don’t drink and drive, use common sense, and don’t be in a rush.

Wearing the proper safety gear is also essential. A motorcyclist must wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. Other recommended gear is leather gloves, a leather jacket, protective pants, boots and sunglasses.

Jimenez has ridden as a police officer and sergeant for 1- years and ridden personally since he was a teenager. His advice for fellow riders is to drive defensively.

“Be safe, obey all laws, don’t take unnecessary risks,” Jimenez said. “Ride defensively, be aware of your surrounding and roadway surfaces. Look ahead for potential hazards.”

“Respect other riders,” Jimenez added. “Don’t be an emotional rider. It’s not a raceway, the road is to commute.”

Bergman’s tips for automobile drivers are to look when changing lanes and focus on the road.

Bergman added that lane sharing is legal in California. Motorcycles often pass cars between the freeway one and two lanes. Drivers should be alert and drive in the middle of their lane.

Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operation police patrols are paid for by a California Office of Traffic Safety grant through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Locations of California Motorcyclist Safety Program training courses can be found by calling (877) 743-3411.