Motorcyclist advises driving students on road safety

CONYERS - Conyers motorcyclist Dick Hopkins wants drivers to actually obey the bumper sticker that tells them to "Look twice - save a life!"

He feels so strongly about motorcycle safety - both of motorcyclists and other drivers - that he felt he should talk to a group of driver education students at the Rockdale Career Academy this summer. He spoke to one group earlier this summer and another group on Wednesday.

"Some of you may not have a motorcycle ... but we need to make drivers - the four-wheelers - more aware of us on the road," said Dick Hopkins, motorist awareness coordinator for the McDonough chapter of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association. "We want you to be safe, regardless if you are riding a bike or in a car. ... Pay attention - look twice, and save a life. The life you save may be yours or a friend or family member."

He said 75 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle are due to collisions with another vehicle; two thirds of that percentage is due to other vehicles turning in front of motorcycles.

"Look twice - that one second isn't going to get you where you're going any quicker; chances are it's going to get you into an accident," said Hopkins, who drives a Honda Gold Wing trike.

Other accidents may be caused by such things as experiencing a blind spot caused by something in the vehicle or another vehicle, misperception of stopping time and speed and, of course, irresponsible motorcyclists, he said.

Many times, he said he believes drivers are distracted and not paying attention to their surroundings.

"Few of us could have imagined the increased hazards on the roads," said Hopkins, who started driving motorcycles in the '60s in Germany but only began actively riding again a couple of years ago after taking a 40-year break. "Vehicle operators are more distracted than ever."

He cited cell phones, food, navigation systems, music and kids and pets as common distractions.

"You've got all kinds of things in the car," he told the students. "You as young drivers need to learn how to manage that and pay attention to your driving first."

He also spoke to a handful of students who expressed their interest in one day driving a bike.

"If you want to ride a bike, fine - I think it's great, but go take a safety course and get your proper endorsements first," he said, adding that motorcyclists need to think safety and also watch for others around them.

Additionally, he encouraged drivers to follow safety guidelines like using flashing headlights and turn signals, as well as wearing a Department of Transportation-approved helmet, eye protection, long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves and over-the-ankle footwear while driving.

"It's called managing your risks when you're driving," he said. "It's smart."

Hopkins said he and other members of the GWRRA give presentations on motorcycle safety to almost any group, such as homeowner's associations, civic organizations, companies and others.

"If you get a group of four people together, I'll be happy to come talk to you," he said.

He is available by calling 770-375-8971 or e-mailing ram35@bellsouth.net.

The chapter meets the third Saturday of each month at Uncle Sam's Grill, which is located at 2000 Commerce Place off Ga. Highway 155 and Racetrack Road in McDonough; dinner is at 5 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6 p.m.

More information about the group is available by visiting www.gwrra-gaa.com.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Actions by drivers in everyday traffic that pose the greatest risk to motorcycles

· Turning across oncoming traffic

· Left or right turns at the intersection from a stop

· Blindspots temporarily hiding motorcycles

· Unsafe following distances