Motorcycle Safety Tips
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to be killed in a crash than the occupants of a car. Yet, like flying an airplane, skydiving, shooting the rapids, or climbing a mountain, that sense of daring and danger is a large part of what the sport is all about.
It can be argued though that, due to the higher amount of traffic on the roads and an increase in the number of impaired drivers, being a motorcyclist today is more hazardous than ever before, and Utah is no exception. With its long open highways and unsurpassed natural beauty, the Beehive State is a motorcycle rider’s paradise, but it also has more than its fair share of motorcycle accidents, and in recent years they’ve been on the rise. As a motorcycle rider and regardless of the dangers you have every right to enjoy the highways any byways of this great state without being injured by a negligent driver.
According to Utah’s Department of Public Safety – Highway Safety Office, in 2014 there were 45 motorcycle accident fatalities, 14 more than the previous year, the highest total on record. Motorcycle accidents accounted for 12% of all motor vehicle crashes.
While many of these accidents can be attributed to speeding, driving under the influence, and other forms of recklessness, many others are caused by riders simply neglecting the fundamental rules of motorcycle safety.
For new riders just getting into the sport, and for veterans who’d like a refresher or just a gentle reminder, here are some of the basic rules of riding motorcycle safely.
Ride the right bike. A lot of new riders want to start out with the biggest Harley or dressed-out Japanese bike they can find, or with the fastest bike. But the fact is these rides can be hard to handle for new riders, even downright dangerous. It’s a good idea to get some advice from an experienced rider on which bike you should buy, and ask at the dealership too, they’re usually more than happy to steer you to something that fits your needs. Consider what you’ll mainly be using the bike for, and also body size and strength. The right bike should be comfortable when you sit on it, with everything within easy reach, and your feet should be firmly on the ground at rest. As smaller motorcycle is usually a good choice for beginners, and as you gain experience you can consider more advanced options.
Take a rider safety course. This is one of the best ways for new riders to acquire basic skills, or for those coming back to riding after a hiatus. It will prepare you for the skills test that most states require you to take to obtain a license, and the courses will review the traffic laws that apply in your state, cover basic safety procedures, and even talk about motorcycle maintenance. Then you’ll have the chance to practice your newly learned skills in a controlled environment before you hit the road. There are many organizations that provide courses across the nation, often for free, as well as many dealerships. One of the best is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which sponsors courses in every state and is highly respected in the riding community. It’s best to take a course in person on the bike you plan to ride regularly, with an instructor providing personal supervision, but the MSF and many other sites provide videos of their courses which are the next best thing to being there. Another benefit of taking the class is that most insurance companies will give you a break on your motorcycle insurance of about 10%.
Wear protective gear. Although riding in shorts and sandals may be more comfortable, especially in the summer heat, it’s asking for serious injury. Full leather riding outfits aren’t just for looks, although they do look good. They also help to protect you from the types of injuries that are caused by sliding over blacktop or gravel at high speeds, which can be disfiguring and crippling, as well as flying debris kicked up by other vehicles. If you don’t like the look of leather, there are other styles of riding clothing out there that offer similar protection, often with special padding for reinforcement and mesh materials to help keep you cool in the summer. Gloves are a necessity for full protection, as the natural reaction if you take a fall is to put your hands out to catch yourself. Also choose good quality riding boots that extend over the ankle for extra support. And don’t forget eye protection. Eyeglasses or a windshield really aren’t good enough. A helmet with a full visor or goggles are preferred.
Be seen. One of the biggest hazards a motorcycle rider faces is not being seen by other drivers. Make sure your headlight, brake light, cruising lights, and turn signals are in good working condition, and use them. Use reflective decals and stickers on yourself, especially on your helmet, and on your bike. Know the blind spots that cars and trucks have and avoid them as much as possible, and use your horn to let other drivers know you’re there.
Be aware of your situation. An old fighter pilot maxim is to keep your head on a swivel, and that’s good advice for motorcycle riders too. To become complacent and lax on a motorcycle is to invite disaster. Always be aware of what’s happening around you and any possible trouble in front of you.
If you’ve recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact George to learn about your legal options.