May is national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the Wisconsin State Patrol asks motorcyclists and all other motorists to share the road, be alert and safe.

“Motorcycle crashes often occur when a car or truck driver changes lanes, turns left or pulls out in front of a motorcycle,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Travis Wanless, Commander of the North Central Region’s Wausau Post, in a news release. “Because of their smaller profile, it’s easy to misjudge a motorcycle’s speed and distance. That’s why we’re reminding motorists to always look twice at approaching motorcycles.”

Failure to yield the right of way to another vehicle (state law 346.18) can result in a $175 citation, but penalties are much more severe if the violation results in someone getting injured or killed. In 2018 in Wisconsin, there were 2,074 motorcycle crashes, 1,678 motorcyclists injured and 81 motorcycle fatalities.

Motorcyclists can do their part by getting properly licensed, wearing visible and protective equipment, and carefully scanning ahead for potential hazards such as gravel, debris or wildlife in the roadway.

Motorcyclists have two options to get the required Class M license: pass a motorcycle driving skills test after making an appointment at a  Division of Motor Vehicles service center or successfully complete a WisDOT-approved rider education course. Motorcyclists who successfully complete an approved safety course earn a skills test waiver used to obtain their Class M license.

“Whether a person is brand new to motorcycling, an experienced or returning rider, a safety course is a wise investment,” Captain Wanless said. “Safety along our roadways requires all motor vehicle operators to share the road, watch their speed, eliminate distractions and be alert.”