Stay Alert, Stay Aware :: Motorcycle Safety Reminders
May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. This month also marks the arrival of warmer weather – which means it’s riding season for motorcyclists in the northeastern United States. Considering they are 27 times more likely to suffer fatal injuries than car passengers are (according to an article by Dolman Law), motorcyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups on the road. As riders gear up to hit the open road for long awaited rides, putting the snowy winter months behind them, there are imperative steps they should take to help ensure their safety.
Whether you’re new to motorcycles or are a seasoned rider, the rules for safety remain the same. Just getting on a motorcycle poses some risks, but there are ways to help minimize them.
- Always perform a bike check before you ride. Check the lights (brake lights and turn signals), tire pressure, and fluids. For in-depth guidance on performing a motorcycle pre-ride inspection, head to MotorcyclistOnline.com.
- Wear the proper riding gear – even when it’s warm out. A full-face helmet, boots that go above the ankles, gloves, long pants, and a jacket designed for riding are key to protecting yourself. While New York State requires helmets by law, you may be tempted to remove it once you reach other states where there are no helmet laws. Think twice! IIHS reports that unhelmeted riders are three times more likely than helmeted ones to sustain traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash.
- Know the weather. Never head out without checking the forecast first to find out if any inclement weather is coming your way. Spring weather can be especially unpredictable and knowing how to handle wet roads and having the proper rain gear can help you stay safe. Consider pulling over and waiting out the rain if possible.
- Use signals – on your bike and your hands. In addition to using your turn signals, you can help ensure cars see where you’re going by also using your hands to reinforce the message. This article from Motor Bike Works breaks down basic hand signals and offers helpful advice for riding in groups.
- Stay alert – get rest and never drink and ride! Never ride tired; stop every 75-125 miles to take a break.
- Remember that you’re invisible – ride defensively! Drivers are trained to see other cars, but not so much motorcycles. Due to the narrow profile of your motorcycle, it’s easy to end up in the blind spot of cars and trucks. Neon safety apparel can also help ensure that you’re seen.
Watch for road hazards. A motorcycle has less contact with the pavement than a car, so things like sand, wet leaves, or rocks can cause a bike to slide unexpectedly. Bumps and potholes that are barely felt in a car pose serious dangers for motorcycles. If you can’t avoid them, try to slow down as much as possible before encountering them, with minimal steering input.
Not a motorcyclist? You can still do your part. Here are five tips to help keep our friends on two wheels safe.
- Beware of your blind spots. Motorcycles are smaller in size and harder to spot than other vehicles on the road. Know your blind spots and triple check them before making turns or changing lanes.
- Don’t tailgate. This is an important rule of the road for anyone, and most especially for motorcyclists who don’t have the protection of a steel cage surrounding them. It’s easy to misjudge a motorcycle’s speed and distance; err on the side of caution and always maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you.
- Use your turn signals to inform motorcyclists of your intention to turn. Be aware of motorcycles on the road and how fast they are going if you are turning. Left turns can be particularly dangerous due to your blind spots.
- Where there’s one – there’s probably more! Motorcyclists often travel with one or more other riders and it’s important to remember this when you’re driving. While awaiting your turn at lights or stop signs, be sure to triple check that more motorcycles are not coming through before you proceed. Drivers may assume after one bike has passed that it’s safe to go, which may not always be the case.
- Be careful when passing. Even if you have a lawful right to pass, you should take extra care when passing a motorcycle. Your increased speed can cause a wind gust that could possibly blow the motorcycle off the road or cause it to become unstable. If you must pass, signal your intention ahead of time and allow ample distance between you and the bike before returning to your lane.