"We have seen too many tragedies recently throughout the state in which the driver of a passenger vehicle may not have seen a motorcycle in their path."

A recent spike in motorcycle fatalities in Louisiana serves as a reminder that all drivers should be vigilant in looking out for motorcycles, which can be difficult to see in blind spots, turns and heavy traffic.

Motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges as drivers of other vehicles, but often they are more vulnerable on the road because of their relatively small size, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Lisa Freeman said.

"We have seen too many tragedies recently throughout the state in which the driver of a passenger vehicle may not have seen a motorcycle in their path," Freeman said. "All drivers must stay alert, especially as the weather warms up in the coming weeks and more motorcyclists are on the road."

In 2017, 96 motorcycle drivers were killed in crashes on Louisiana roads, according to statistics from the Highway Safety Research Group at LSU. That represents a 9 percent increase over 2016 and the most motorcycle driver deaths in the state since 2009, when 101 were killed.

Bob Courtney, president of Louisiana's Motorcycle Awareness Campaign, said high-tech entertainment, navigation and communication systems in today's vehicles can compete with a driver's attention, putting motorcyclists further at risk. 

"We're concerned because drivers seem to be getting more and more distracted," Courtney said. "That is a real issue for motorcycle drivers."

Here are some tips for car and truck drivers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

---Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, behind a motorcycle to give the motorcyclist enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. 

---Always check mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes and at intersections. Nearly 40 percent of all motorcycle crashes are caused by another vehicle turning left in front of the motorcyclist. 

---Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.

---Minor changes in road conditions can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Be aware that motorcyclists may change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement. 

Here are some safety tips for motorcycle riders from the National Safety Council:

---Always wear a helmet; a motorcycle crash is a "violent event," and more than 80% of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, according to NHTSA.

---Choose a bike that fits you; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides information on survival rates associated with various types of bikes.

---Invest in antilock brakes.

---New riders should take a motorcycle safety course, and intermediate and experienced riders should take refresher courses after being off their bikes for awhile.

---Know the rules of the road and follow them.

---Never drink and ride.

---Be aware that riding with a passenger requires considerably more skill.

---Drive defensively, especially at intersections, where half of all collisions occur.

---Watch for hazards like potholes, manhole covers, oil slicks, puddles, debris, railroad tracks and gravel.

---Assume you are invisible to other motorists, and position yourself to be seen.

---Use headlights day and night.

---Be courteous; don't weave in and out of lanes or ride on the shoulder or between lanes.

---Signal well in advance of changing lanes or direction.

---Don't speed.

---Wear bright and/or reflective clothing that is durable and boots that cover the ankles.

---Wear goggles, glasses or use a face shield that is ventilated to prevent fogging, and make sure it's clear if riding at night.

To register for motorcycle training courses through Louisiana State Police's Motorcycle Safety, Awareness and Operating Training Program, go to www.lsp.org/motorcycle.html.

Contributed by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission