MOTORCYCLE SAFETY
This Mills Transfer truck in Lincoln is among the 10 delivery trucks that are moving billboards for a spring motorcycle safety message, part of the state's annual highway safety program. The trucks should be viewed 6.7 million times, according to Fred Zwonechek, Nebraska Highway Safety Administrator. (photo contributed) COURTESY PHOTO

Aware that on a motorcycle he is particularly vulnerable, Dan Fonfara always drives defensively.

Fonfara has put about 50,000 miles on his Harley in almost five years - without an accident.

But he has avoided people changing lanes who haven't seen him, people who've pulled out of a side street unaware of how close he is.

Not every driver on the road makes it a habit to look out for the Harleys, Kawasakis, Suzukis, Yamahas and Hondas that head for the roads in the spring.

So Fonfara thinks a Nebraska campaign that started in early May, using 10 delivery trucks as moving billboards, is a great idea for raising awareness.

The delivery trucks with the "Watch for motorcycles everywhere" message will be on highways and city streets through mid July, according to Fred Zwonechek, Nebraska Highway Safety Administrator.

Zwonechek discovered the mobile billboard idea at a national conference, where the messages focused on drunk driving and seat belt messages.

It seemed to be a logical idea for getting the attention of drivers in the spring when there are more motorcycles on the road, Zwonechek said.

The state expects to get 6.7 million impressions -that's the number of times the ad will be seen - from the $24,000 contract with Intran Media, a Minnesota company that provides mobile outdoor advertising.

"We think it is an easy way to reach drivers. We've already gotten a lot of feedback," Zwonechek said.

Two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents involve both a motorcycle and another vehicle, and most of those accidents are the fault of the car or truck, says Jodi Wessel, who runs the Share the Road program with her husband, Bill.

The program is provided by ABATE of Nebraska, a state motorcycle rights organization.

The couple's volunteer educational work stems from their own experiences, including a near miss that could have been far worse.

A car, driven by a distracted mom who was overseeing children in the back seat while talking on a cell phone, cut between Jodi and her husband - the driver apparently thinking she would fit.

Bill, in front, headed into the grass, and Jodi slammed on the brakes. Behind her, cars were switching lanes to avoid an accident.

The problems are a combination of size and distracted drivers not thinking.

"People don't see you because you're small," Wessel said.

And "they misjudge speed and distance because we are smaller," she said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

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