Expert: What drivers can do to avoid motorcycle crashes

BOSTON — Large groups of motorcyclists are common in the summer months in many parts of New England.

Sometimes, they come out for charity rides, other times just for fun.

But if you're not sure what you as a driver should do, we asked a safety expert.

The Massachusetts Highway Safety Division said last week on Massachusetts roads, five people died and three of those killed were on motorcycles.

That number jumped again after a motorcyclist in Andover was killed Monday morning.

"We are never winners when it comes to a motorcycle and a car," said Dave Elias, of Massachusetts Motorcycle School.

But north of the state line, the number of victims impacted by the crash in Randolph, New Hampshire is shocking, even to a seasoned rider like Elias who has seen a lot on the roads.

"When I heard seven, I thought it was a typo because I know these guys, it was all Marines, they’re experienced riders," Elias said.

It's still unclear what led up to the crash, but the driver of the pickup truck involved was charged with seven counts of negligent homicide.

>> Truck driver charged with 7 counts of negligent homicide in NH wreck

He allegedly crossed a double-yellow line, slamming into the group of riders with the Marine Jarheads Motorcycle Club.

"They ride together in a group, you can’t miss them because they’re in staggered formation, they take up hundreds of feet of road, so think as far as they’re concerned there’s no way they could have avoided this," Elias said.

But Elias said many accidents are avoidable. Distracted driving is his biggest fear on the roads, and it's only getting worse.

"They’re eating, they’re texting, they’re doing everything down the road and we’re very exposed on a motorcycle," Elias said.

He says drivers can help by also knowing what to do when they approach a large group of motorcycles.

"When a motorcycle group is together and they are riding gun staggered formation, they’re a unit so you should treat them as a unit almost like a tractor-trailer. They take up about the same space. Never try to cut into them, let them go by. It doesn’t take any longer than a tractor-trailer passing you," he said.

Elias also said that safety classes are a good refresher for all motorcyclists, even experienced ones, especially to learn some techniques to handle distracted drivers.