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Reclaiming freedom: Motorcycle season is back in Illinois

If you look for motorcycle helmet restrictions in Illinois, you won't find them. Unlike most other states, helmets are not required for motorcyclists here. Many riders choose to wear helmets anyway to prevent head injuries in a motorcycle accident.

There are 300,000 registered Illinois motorcycles, but no reports to say how many of their owners use helmets. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcyclists who ride without helmets are three times more prone to severe brain injuries that bikers with helmets. Roads are riskier for all motorcyclists compared to car drivers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says that fatal crashes are 35 times more likely among motorcyclists than drivers on four wheels. Motorcycles are comparatively small and, therefore, less visible on the road. Of course, car drivers have a built-in shield of metal and interior safety features. Bikers also say that a motorcycle unawareness problem causes some drivers to ignore or respond incorrectly to two-wheeled vehicles.

Many Cook County motorcyclists are riding for the first time since before our brutal winter. Veteran motorcyclists frequently require a period of readjustment in spring to recover riding skills and navigate fresh potholes. In either case, motorcyclist education experts recommend suiting up appropriately for the ride -- from boots to reflective gear to helmets -- even if the law does not require you to wear them.

Riding in groups is suggested as a way to increase visibility. Car drivers tempted to tailgate and make a fast turn or pull out in front of a single rider might think twice if there is a group of motorcyclists riding together.

The pleasures and risks of riding a motorcycle must be balanced. Riders know alertness and defense driving skills are invaluable. Motorcyclists who've been injured also realize the importance of knowing and exercising legal rights, like filing claims against negligent drivers.

Source: WICC NewsChannel 20, "Motorcycling Safety Top Concern With Warmer Weather" No author given, Apr. 12, 2014

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