Drivers urged to stay alert for motorcycles

John McCormack holds a sign during a news John McCormack holds a sign during a news conference aimed at raising awareness of motorcycle safety at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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Suffolk County officials and the biker community are calling on motorists to pay close attention to the increased number of motorcycles on roads as the weather warms.

"Our attempt is to try and get the message out to motorists that we'll be on the roads," said Jim Barr, president of Long Island's branch of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE.

His comments came Sunday at a news conference aimed at raising awareness of motorcycle safety. About 400 enthusiastic bikers stood on or near the steps of Suffolk's H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

"Too many people don't look for motorcycles, especially when turning," said Barr, noting that 16 motorcyclists are killed each year in Suffolk.

Department of Motor Vehicles figures show that 173 people died in New York State in 2012 as a result of motorcycle accidents.

The event also encouraged motorcyclists to ride responsibly when on the roads. But some say other motorists still need to treat motorcycle riders with more respect.

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"People don't watch out for us and we're everywhere," said longtime motorcycle rider Catherine Doty, 58, of Islip. "They have to share the roads with us."

Experiencing the thrill and freedom of riding compelled Patricia Chepinskas, 58, of Ridge to obtain her motorcycle license.

"A lot of people get killed on the roads because a lot of drivers aren't aware of them," she said, referring to motorcyclists.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone briefly thanked ABATE, a nonprofit organization, and the hundreds of motorcycle riders in attendance for "supporting a great cause."

"After a long, cold and snowy winter, it is a great day for a ride," Bellone said.

Former New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, who rides motorcycles, was also on hand to lend his support.

"I see it all the time; people don't pay attention to motorcycles," he said. "Hopefully, more people will pay attention."

Other organizations participating included the state DMV, the Suffolk County Police Department, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Steve's Motorcycle School.

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