Motorcycles are some of the most dangerous motor vehicles for riders and passengers alike. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 14 percent of all traffic deaths in 2013 involved motorcycles. Additionally, when traffic accidents occurred, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely to die and six times more likely to be injured than were the drivers of other vehicles. Although riding a motorcycle is fun and exhilarating for those who own them, these statistics make clear the significance of taking motorcycle safety seriously. The following paragraphs cover the importance of motorcycle safety, as well as offering information on helmet laws and safety courses. They also provide helpful tips for riding in poor weather conditions and sharing the road with other drivers to help decrease the possibility of potentially fatal traffic accidents.
The first line of defense during a motorcycle accident is a helmet that meets the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) helmet safety guidelines. DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets are crucial for preventing brain injury and even death during a motorcycle accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recent studies have found that helmets decreased rider deaths by anywhere from 22 to 42 percent. These studies also found that helmets decrease instances of brain injury by anywhere from 41 to 69 percent.
Due to the potential of DOT-compliant helmets to help prevent injuries and save lives, many states have enacted universal helmet laws, which require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet while driving. Most other states currently have partial helmet laws requiring only some motorcycle drivers to wear helmets. According to the CDC, after enacting the universal helmet laws, some states have seen helmet use rates among motorcyclists rise to as much as 90 percent.
Motorcycle riders should look for helmets that display a DOT marking on the back, certifying that the helmet is DOT compliant. These helmets have a one-inch thick inner lining made of polystyrene foam. They also feature have a chin strap with rivets and should feel relatively substantial, generally weighing about three pounds. Drivers should be wary of lighter helmets weighing only one to two pounds.
Motorcycle Safety Courses
While motorcycle helmets are crucial to preventing head injury and death during a motorcycle accident, the best way to prevent the accidents themselves is for drivers to know how to conduct themselves while on a motorcycle. In this case, motorcycle safety courses are invaluable resources in better preparing new and seasoned riders for the road. For beginners, these courses teach the basics of operating a motorcycle, as well as techniques for braking, turning and avoiding common obstacles. Courses geared toward experienced drivers provide more advanced riding techniques. Beyond providing hours of supervised riding practice and giving motorcycle riders techniques to help avoid crashes, many motorcycle safety courses also offer endorsements that students can use to secure discounts on their insurance premiums. Students may also be eligible to receive dealer rebates on motorcycle purchases for attending these safety courses.
Riding in Various Weather Conditions
Those who ride motorcycles recreationally or use them as their primary mode of transportation will inevitably need to drive under poor weather conditions. Although learning to drive in various weather conditions is important for all drivers, motorcyclists in particular must take care in dealing with inclement weather, as they have relatively little protection from the elements while riding. Road issues that represent minor obstacles to cars can be dangerous to motorcycles.
Whenever possible, motorcyclists should carry rain gear, including a rain jacket and waterproof shoes, as remaining dry in rainy weather can help avoid distractions. Additionally, riders should wear a motorcycle helmet shield or goggles to protect from rain and keep their eyes from watering in windy conditions. Goggles and helmet shields are also useful in helping riders keep debris out of their eyes. Riders should avoid wearing sunglasses for this purpose, as sunglasses will not prevent their eyes from watering and can easily fall off on the road.
Motorcyclists riding in the rain should ride at a slower speed than usual and, in the event of sudden heavy rain, consider pulling over altogether until conditions improve. Riders should keep in mind that the first rainfall after a long period without rain can contribute to dangerous riding conditions, as the asphalt will be slippery with oil and other car fluids. As a result, riders should ride slowly and ensure they leave enough room to brake.
Safe Riding Tips
Besides using a helmet and riding carefully in poor weather conditions, there are many strategies riders can implement to increase their safety while riding. It is important for motorcyclists to share the road; cars are much larger and heavier than motorcycles, and although car drivers must do their part to prevent needless accidents, motorcyclists must be aware of their relative disadvantage and ride accordingly.
While riding, motorcyclists should obey all traffic laws and avoid risky riding. They should ride defensively and stay out of cars’ blind spots, keeping in mind that a motorcycle’s small size makes visibility issues common. In general, it is a good idea for riders to pay careful attention at intersections, as these are areas of high motorcycle accident rates. Finally, motorcyclists should avoid riding altogether until they have read their manufacturer’s owner guide and understand their motorcycles’ controls well. They should also adhere closely to their motorcycle manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations and check their motorcycle regularly to ensure it is working properly.