RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported an increase in motorcycle traffic crash deaths.

Ray Pedraza, the public information officer for TxDOT, said the “Share the Road – Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign is promoted in May for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

“In 2021 in the Pharr District, we had 225 crashes involving motorcycles, 5 motorcyclists either operators or passengers died, and 53 motorcyclists were seriously injured,” said Pedraza.

He explained that the number of deaths increased by 7% from 2020 to 2021.

Pedraza said the top contributing factors are speed, driver inattention, and failing to yield the right of way.

He said there are ways to avoid motorcycle traffic accidents.

“Pay extra attention when changing lanes use your turn signals, check your side mirrors twice, and check your blind spots twice. Pay extra attention when passing a motorcycle, keep a safe distance from the rider, move completely into the passing lane and give the motorcyclist a full lane, said Pedraza.

In addition to drivers being vigilant, Bernie Garza, a rider coach for Harley Davidson’s Riding Academies in the valley, said safety for riders is also important.

“The safety portion of riding a motorcycle is always to be on the defensive, always be on the defensive. Never assume that the people in the car see you,” said Garza.

Garza was a law enforcement officer on a motorcycle and has now instructed motorcycle courses for seven years, encouraging safety.

“Always use your signals, use your hand signals, try to keep moving your lane positioning, make sure that you’re visible, wear your protective clothing, but some kind of bright colors to make sure that you are seen,” he said.

He said wearing protective gear including a helmet, gloves, boots, and jacket are important.

Humeberto Rendon Jr., the sales manager at Mad Boar Harley Davidson in San Benito, said he works with new and experienced riders in getting into motorcycles but ensures his customers are aware of the safety features available.

“I don’t want to put them on a bike that is too powerful, what they do is ride the bike for a year, get the hang of it, and then come in for something bigger once they already had the experience, they’ve been on the expressway, they’ve already ridden with a passenger,” he said.

He said a great way to learn safety is by taking a training course like the Riding Academy at the Harley Davidson store.