Ways to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle
If you’re a motorcycle owner, you know how great it can be to hop on your bike and go for a ride. You’re probably also no stranger to people thinking you’re doing the most dangerous thing in the world by riding a motorcycle. While riding a motorcycle can be fun, the statistics show that it is, indeed, risky. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders are 35 times more likely to be killed in an accident than people driving/riding in cars and trucks. Motorcyclists simply don’t have the added protection from steel and airbags that cars and trucks have. But there are ways to enjoy riding your motorcycle and still stay safe on the road.
Wear a Helmet
Many motorcyclists have very strong opinions on helmet laws. Some firmly believe helmets save lives, others say helmets block their hearing and their field of vision, a claim disputed by the NHTSA. The NHTSA has found that Helmets reduce the risk of a motorcycle fatality by 37%. The Department of Transportation recommends that motorcyclists wear full-face helmets to get the most protection. Helmets should be replaced every five years or sooner if damaged.
Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state, but Michigan stopped requiring helmets for some motorcyclists in April 2012. If you choose not to wear a helmet, Michigan requires motorcyclists to be at least 21 years old, to have insurance that covers a minimum of $20,000 in first-party medical benefits, and to either have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or to have passed a state-approved motorcycle safety course. Passengers on motorcycles are also not required to wear helmets as long as they are 21 years old or older and have insurance that provides at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits in addition to the insurance the driver carries.
Increase Your Visibility
If you’re going to ride a motorcycle, one of the best things you can do is make yourself as visible as possible to other motorists. In the majority of car accidents involving motorcyclists, the driver of the car is at fault, but the accidents occur because drivers don’t see the motorcyclist. Black leather jackets may be a part of the iconic cool biker image, but brightly colored gear and reflective strips will help make you more visible to other motorists and could save your life.
Motorcyclists should never go for a ride wearing short-sleeved shirts, shorts, or sandals. Those types of clothing will do absolutely nothing to protect you in the event of an accident. Boots, leather jackets, gloves, chaps, and reinforced denim or textile pants offer far greater protection. There is gear available designed to offer great protection but breathable enough to be comfortable enough to wear in hot weather. Eye protection is also essential; don’t depend on sunglasses or eyeglasses to keep your eyes safe. A full-face helmet or goggles will better protect your eyes.
Ride With a Clear Mind
Just like drivers should never drink and drive, motorcyclists should never drink and ride. In 2009, 29% of fatal motorcycle accidents involved motorcyclists who had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. Operating a motorcycle always takes a lot of focus and fine skills. If you’re tired, not feeling well, or otherwise mentally distracted, it may be best to leave the motorcycle at home until you’re better able to focus.
Have a Bike That Fits You
No matter how experienced of a rider you are, nobody should be riding a motorcycle they have a difficult time operating. When seated, both of your feet should comfortably rest flat on the ground and you should be able to easily get on and off the center stand. The bike shouldn’t feel too heavy and you should have no problems reaching the handlebars and other controls.
Beware Bad Weather
Bad weather can make it difficult for all kinds of motor vehicles to be on the road, but it’s particularly risky for motorcycles. Rain can make it hard to see and makes it harder for your tires to grip the road. When tires lose traction, taking corners becomes very risky. Roads are the most treacherous when rain first starts because the rain stirs up oil residue from the road. If riding in the rain is unavoidable, be sure to stay within the speed limit, give yourself plenty of room to stop, and avoid making sudden movements.