With the first hints of spring in the air, Dr. Terry Johnson, Scioto County Coroner, wants to remind everyone in the region to stay safe.
“It’s been a long, cold winter,” Johnson says, “and did we ever have a February that we’re glad to put behind us! I just want us all to be safety-conscious in the months to come.”
With brighter skies and warmer temperatures, he warns that pedestrians will be walking the roads and streets and more kids will be out on bikes and skateboards. As motorists, we need to watch out for them.
“We’ll also see the usual up-tick in motorcycle riding, ” Johnson says. “Please, please, please—watch out for the bikers. They have a perfect right to be there, and they are extremely vulnerable to collisions. Watch out for the four-wheelers, too. They are not supposed to be on the roads, but they are. All terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not designed and are not licensed for highway use, and I hope that all law enforcement agencies and responsible citizens will work together to keep these vehicles off-road, where they belong. We’ve had far too many injuries and deaths from these vehicles being used improperly, and I just hate to see the tragedy it brings upon our families. If someone gets hurt or killed on an ATV this year while riding on the highway, that casualty will be totally uncalled for and totally preventable – period.”
Johnson urges truckers and car operators to look out for one another during the spring and summer driving season. Among the points he wants to stress:
- Do not drink and drive.
- Always use your safety belt, and make sure that your passengers do as well.
- Drive defensively and assume that the people driving near you will do something stupid—all too often, they do!
- Leave early for your destination and do not get in a rush.
- Show courtesy to your fellow drivers.
- Avoid road rage: if you find yourself cursing and banging the steering wheel and making obscene gestures, you’re wrong—period!
- Avoid in-car distractions , such as cell phone use and “gadgeteering.”
- Do not tailgate or “push” the operator ahead of you down the road.
“Watch out for motorcycles and bicycles and people walking and kids playing. This is stuff that everyone knows to do, but right now is an especially dangerous time as we make the transition from stuffy housebound living to the wonderful out-of-doors. I just want folks to pause and think about being safe.”
Regarding motorcycles, Johnson urges operators to ride as responsibly as possible. “Be conspicuous. From a safety standpoint, you can’t make yourself too conspicuous.” Unfortunately, most of the “cool” garb that bikers prefer to wear tends to make them “disappear” against the road, particularly at dusk or dawn, and while riding at night. “Bright, reflective gear makes you much more visible, and can save your life.” Wear protective equipment regardless of the state law minimums. “It makes no sense to ride a motorcycle without a helmet,” says Johnson. “The risk of a head injury in the event of an accident—even a minor accident—is just too great.”
Wear a long sleeve protective shirt or jacket and good boots that come over the ankle. Eye protection is essential, as are gloves. “You have to think like you’re going to wind up hitting the pavement. If you don’t prepare for the worst, your skin and bones are going to pay a heavy price when things go wrong.” As you get your bike out of winter storage, make sure that it is mechanically sound and that the tires are in good shape and properly inflated. “Know your equipment, know what it can and can’t do, and stay within the operational envelope.”
Also, if you are a new rider, be especially cautious. Inexperienced riders are particularly vulnerable, especially if they are not safety conscious. “When you take a motorcycle out on the street for the first time, the learning curve is steep. There are just too many things that can hurt you. You have to go slow and be smart as you learn.” Johnson is an experienced motorcyclist who has been riding since age 16. “Experienced riders, on the other hand, have to guard against being complacent. Accidents happen to riders with lots of experience, too.”
For ATV riders, Johnson urges much the same as he does for motorcyclists. “It’s all about doing smart things. If you treat ATV riding like you’re playing a video game, eventually you are going to pay the price,” Johnson says.
ATVs have limits, and each year too many people come up against those limits. Some hills are just too steep, some terrain is just too rough, and just because your ATV is as fast as lightening doesn’t mean you have to go faster than conditions will bear.” If your ATV isn’t designed for doubling a passenger, do not do it! Your machine will be outside of design limitations as you go through curves or up hills. That means that it will flip or tumble. “Every year we have many, many injuries due to this simple fact.”
Wear a helmet, eye protection, sturdy clothes and boots. Take a safety course—manufacturers offer these courses free of charge, and that information can be obtained through ATV dealers. “Most of all, keep them off the highway. They are not designed for the road, not licensed for the road, and accidents involving ATVs on the highway are typically catastrophic.”
For automobile operators—be courteous and watch out for others. For motorcyclists—be conspicuous and assume that others do not see you, and wear a helmet and eye protection. For ATV operators—keep them off-road and wear a helmet and eye protection.
Stay safe – let’s all live to see and enjoy the changing leaves of fall!
Dr. Johnson can be reached for comment or questions at: (740) 259-5699 (SOMC Lucasville Office) or (740) 355-0113 (Coroner’s Office, Scioto County Courthouse).