Motorcycle Safety 101 for American riders: There’s nothing like the freedom of taking on the open road on a motorcycle.
But the sad reality is that motorcycle deaths happen 27 times more frequently and motorcycle injuries occur six times more frequently than crashes involving other types of vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Without the protection of a car body, motorcyclists are more likely to be knocked off vehicles, fly into objects like other cars, or have their vehicle totalled in an accident.
If you love riding motorcycles, here’s how to do so safely to avoid an accident, serious injuries or even death.
Only Ride Sober
Impairment plays a major role in motorcycle fatalities, with the NHTSA reporting 27 percent of motorcycle riders who were killed in traffic crashes in 2015 were impaired by alcohol. Impairment doesn’t just occur because of alcohol – marijuana and both legal and illegal drugs can cause impairment.
Always Wear a Helmet
Helmets protect your most precious body part—your brain—and save lives. NHTSA reports 740 motorcycle fatality victims could have survived if they had worn helmets in 2015, and helmets saved more than 1,770 motorcyclists. Some states require helmets, as well.
Make sure any passenger who is accompanying you on your bike wears a helmet, too. Buy a new helmet if possible, since all helmets sold now are required to meet a performance standard so that they offer ample protection. Wear a helmet with protective eye wear or a face shield, which can also help protect you in case of flying debris or road hazards.
Make Sure You’re Properly Licensed
Each state has different regulations for lawfully riding a motorcycle. In order to ride in any state, you must have a motorcycle license endorsement. Sometimes, obtaining this will require completion of a rider course. Check your state’s motorcycle requirements to make sure you’re abiding by the laws, which are put in place to protect the safety of you and other road passengers.
Maintain Vehicle Safety
Just like you should check the tires and operating parts of a single-passenger vehicle or other big car, never ride a motorcycle without ensuring it’s in proper working condition first. Avoid a dangerous tire blowout by ensuring tire pressure is optimal. Brakes, signals, headlights and hydraulic and coolant fluids should all be optimally working. Make sure the throttle, clutch and horn work, too, before each ride.
Be a Confident Rider
Riding a motorcycle is very different than driving a car. There are nuances to each bike that require getting comfortable with turns, acceleration and stopping. Even the size of your bike will affect how confident you are on it, so test many models before you even purchase one that fits you.
Practice riding your motorcycle in an empty parking lot or in a low-traffic area before taking it on a busier street. If road conditions such as rain or snow make you uncomfortable, stay off your bike.
Donning leather is one way to protect your skin from road rash or flying objects. You might also consider wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing, so you can be seen better at night by other motorists. Wear closed-toed shoes and gloves, as well.
Be Aware of the Road
Something that may surprise riders is that most motorcycle accidents occur in clear conditions, on straight or open curve roads, and when riders are riding for fun. The times when riders are feeling their most carefree on their bikes is when careless things could happen that cause accidents.
Make sure you aren’t listening to music while you ride and that you employ defensive riding techniques. This means paying attention to everything going around you, slowing down to prevent collisions, and pulling over or taking alternative routes whenever you feel you are riding near dangerous drivers. Insurance provider Geico reports two-thirds of motorcycle accidents are caused by drivers who violate motorcyclists’ right of way. Know with every ride, other drivers pose a threat to you, and ride accordingly.
What to Do If You’re Riding Safely and Get into a Motorcycle Accident
You could do everything in your power to be a safe motorcycle rider, and accidents still unfortunately happen sometimes. In some instances, negligence on behalf of another driver may be to blame. A driver who hits you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, may be driving distractedly and looking at a smartphone when they hit you, or may hit you purposely in a fit of road rage.
If you suffer serious injuries and vehicle damage after a motorcycle accident, consulting with an attorney is wise because you may be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with a Birmingham motorcycle accident attorney if the accident occurs in Alabama, or consult with a local lawyer in your area.