Five motorcycle riders died in May in the Inland Empire -- deaths that come as motorcyclist fatalities appear to be on the rise in California. Now, Caltrans wants drivers to be aware of who they share the road with. Jacob Rascon reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 25, 2012.
The number of motorcycle fatalities on California freeways appears to be on the increase, and that trend seems to be reflected in recent deaths in the Inland Empire.
Motorcyclist Gilbert McGuire has had his share of close encounters while on Inland Empire freeways.
"People are so distracted these days," McGuire said, adding "especially on the freeways."
California Highway Patrol Officer Maurice Walker also rides a motorcycle.
"I'm trained to be a defensive rider," he said. "I’m only as safe as the environment around me."
Four motorcycle riders have died in one week in the Inland Empire and a fifth died earlier in the month.
"It could be the driver did not see the rider. It could be the motorcyclist may have been riding at an unsafe speed," Walker said.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reported this week that the number of traffic fatalities nationwide dropped last year to their lowest level in more than 50 years. But motorcycle deaths did not drop.
In California, a report from the association (PDF) found that motorcycle deaths had been on a downward trend until 2011, when they rose 21 percent from 2010 levels, according to preliminary data.
Caltrans named May "Motorcycle Awareness Month" in California, but spokeswoman Terri Kasinga admits it is disheartening to see the number of fatalities.
"What it shows us is we have to keep going with these campaigns," Kasinga said.
The campaign’s message? Look twice for motorcyclists.