Riding a motorcycle has been described as a combination of hyper-sensitivity, pants-wetting fear, and mind-blowing exhilaration, and that combination is so liberating that millions of people choose to ride a motorcycle. Add in the fact that motorcycles are typically less expensive than their four-wheeled counterparts, and they get better fuel economy, and millions more choose a motorcycle as their first, and perhaps only, form of transportation.
In a world dominated by four-or-more-wheeled vehicles, including cars, sport utility vehicles, delivery trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers, the two-wheelers are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to visibility and protection. Regarding visibility, while riders enjoy what could only be described as a panoramic view of the world, drivers have a number of blind spots that could easily hide a motorcycle. At the same time, no matter how much protective gear a rider puts on, he’s still very much exposed. Finally, road conditions and weather conditions that would barely affect a driver are entirely different for a rider.
Unfortunately, this disparity is altogether more astonishing once one compares safety statistics between motorcycle riders and car drivers. In the UK, one study found that, while motorcycles make up just 1% of total road traffic, they account for 19% of all fatalities! Similar studies, from South America to South Africa, come to comparable conclusions, that motorcycle riders are significantly more at-risk then drivers. How can we make the roads safer for everyone, whether riders or drivers?
Here are some motorcycle safety tips that can give everyone a better chance of enjoying the day.
Riders – Be Alert!
Because you are more vulnerable, you need to pay special attention to, well, everything! While you shouldn’t let fear of the unknown paralyze you into riding recklessly or not riding at all, knowing the dangers can help you avoid them. Generally, riders should always yield to larger traffic. The law of the land may give you the right of way, but the laws of physics say that the car will win.
Perhaps the best piece of advice that we can give you would be to take a motorcycle safety course, not simply to get your license, but to learn advanced evasion strategies. Such courses typically cost extra, but could save your life one day.
Before you ride, make sure your motorcycle is running right. Check and adjust your tire pressure, chain or belt tension, horn, headlights, taillights, and turn signals. Always drive with your headlights on.
Wear appropriate protection. At a minimum, basic protection should include motorcycle-rated helmet, abrasion-resistant gloves, and protective boots. Protective body armor, especially covering the chest, is an excellent addition to your rider’s outfit, as well as abrasion-resistant pants and jacket. Bright colors and reflective clothing make you that much more visible to drivers, especially at dusk and dawn.
Drive defensively, even paranoid, as if you’re invisible. Most drivers who cause accidents with riders never even notice that there was a rider there in the first place. That being said, you need to be super-alert to your surroundings, particularly other vehicles, making sure that their possible paths don’t intersect with yours. Give bad drivers even more room.
Part of driving defensively includes always having an exit strategy. Always be on the lookout for a way out.
In addition to using your turn signals, at least three seconds before you make a lane change or turn, consider using hand signals.
Use your head, and neck! Don’t count on your mirrors or peripheral vision before you merge with traffic, change lanes, or make a turn. Turn your head and double check before you make a move!
If you can do so, avoid rush hour stop-and-go traffic. First, it’s no fun. Second, all those cars crammed in and jostling for space make your tiny space particularly attractive, and one wayward car cannot share the same space as a motorcycle.
Learn and avoid other drivers’ blind spots. Car blind spots are typically by the rear fenders, while truck blind spots are behind and by the front fenders, particularly the opposite the driver.
If lane-splitting is legal in your area, use caution when doing so, and pass slowly to avoid being cut off or pinched between two vehicles.
Drivers – Share the Road!
We admonish drivers especially to pay attention to the way that they drive. Remember that you share the road with motorcycle riders, and that they are far more vulnerable than you are! Even though you don’t ride, these motorcycle safety tips will help you avoid being the cause of rider stress and injury.
Knowing that riders are out there is only half the battle. Now that you know, keep on the watch for motorcycles.
Adjust your mirrors to reduce or eliminate blind spots, which can easily hide the narrow profile of a motorcycle.
You should already be used to a safe two-second following distance with other cars and trucks, but you should increase this to three seconds, or more, when following a rider. Riders need room to maneuver around obstacles that would normally present no problem to an automobile.
Also, following a rider too closely could be intimidating or interpreted as aggressive, prompting unwanted behavior on the part of the rider.
Just like drivers, riders have their own space on the road, the whole lane from line to line. Don’t attempt to share that space, which riders need to safely avoid things like road debris or potholes.
If you parallel park on the side of the road, look twice before opening your door into traffic. A car may simply take your door off, but your door could seriously injure a rider.
Unlike the turn signals in cars, the turn signals on motorcycles isn’t self-cancelling, which means that a rider may have inadvertently left it on at his last lane change or turn. Don’t assume the turn signal means anything. Look for indications that he’s actually going to turn before passing.
Finally, and we really should not have to remind you, but texting while driving is just a bad idea. One moment’s distraction is bad enough, but the thirty seconds you spend texting could get you into an accident. A minor accident, in a car, may only garner you minor injuries, if any, but could be fatal to a rider. Just don’t do it!
The next time you go out for a ride, whether your vehicle has two wheels, four wheels, or more wheels, pay special attention to these motorcycle safety tips, and you just could save a life.