Motorcycles, for obvious reasons, cannot include the safety features found on cars. There is no exterior frame to absorb crash forces, so the forces of a collision are borne directly by the bike and the rider. Neither do motorcycles have seatbelts, so there is an increased risk that the rider will be thrown off the bike in an accident. And then there’s the matter of being on two wheels – Motorcycles are simply not as stable as cars.
But, with common sense, riding a motorcycle doesn’t have to be an exercise in cheating death. There are a lot of things motorcyclists and drivers in cars can do to keep everyone safe.
Wear a Helmet
Not only is it the law, but the single most important thing you can do to stay safe on a motorcycle. Head injuries are the leading cause of death for motorcycle riders. According to the NHTSA, In 2016, 2,089 motorcyclists lost their lives by not wearing a helmet. Almost all states have a helmet law that requires wearing one while riding.
You also need to make sure you are wearing the right helmet. Be sure you wear a helmet that is DOT certified or compliant. The DOT-certified helmet should have the manufacturer name, model, the text FMVSS218, and DOT on the helmet.
In addition, make sure your helmet fits properly. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. It shouldn’t obstruct your vision, but it should cover most of your head. For more protection, opt for a full-face helmet with protection all the way around. A simple windshield can at least protect your face from bugs, rocks and rain, but a full-face helmet will have a piece that goes around your chin, so your face won’t make contact with the road if you get into an accident.
This tip is more for drivers than bikers, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning here: Look for motorcycles. Motorcycles are small and tough to see. That means many drivers miss them, causing collisions that are often fatal to the motorcycle rider.
Keep your eyes and ears open for motorcycles. Look twice before changing lanes, and always check your blind spot. A bike may be there. Also, before pulling into traffic, look for motorcycles. They’re harder to spot than cars, but taking an extra second to look could save someone’s life.
For riders, ‘look twice’ is still a good rule to follow. Never assume that a driver sees you. Ride defensively and take responsibility for staying safe around cars.
Educate Your Passengers
Having a passenger with their arms around you as you cruise the open road can be quite romantic. But your passenger has a part to play in keeping both of you safe.
Make sure anyone you carry on your bike has the right gear. Like you, they should wear sturdy shoes and protective clothinng. You should also practice having a passenger, especially if they’re bigger than you, in a safe place, like a parking lot. That will get you used to having the extra weight on the bike and the passenger used to how the bike feels, and how they need to move with you in various maneuvers. Make sure your passenger knows not to distract you, and what things like stopping and turning on a bike feel like, so they won’t panic. If you’re carrying a young child, check the laws of your state. In many states, you need to be over a certain age to ride on the back of a motorcycle.
Watch the Weather
Riding a bike in the rain is much riskier than driving a car. Without windshield wipers, your visibility is compromised, and riding through the driving rain can hurt.
When you’re preparing to go for a ride, check the weather. If heavy rain, snow or ice is predicted, leave the bike at home. If you absolutely must ride in the rain, don’t ride right after the storm starts. When rain first hits the road, it brings up oil and other residue, making the road extremely slippery. If you wait a while, the rain will wash away the oil and slick stuff it brought up. Give the rain time to clear the road for you. Then, when you’re on your way, be extra cautious. Go slowly, leave plenty of space for stopping, and if the weather gets worse, stop and wait it out.
Leave Enough Space
One of the biggest mistakes drivers and motorcycle riders make is not leaving enough stopping distance for bikes. While it’s true that since bikes are smaller and lighter than cars, they need less space to stop and maneuver, they still need more than you might think.
Anti-lock brakes are still relatively new on many bikes, and older models don’t have them. That means that bikers can’t just slam on the brakes like a driver could. Practice stops on your bike in a safe environment and know how much space you need. Then, make sure you give yourself that much space in traffic. Leave a generous following distance between your bike and the vehicle in front of you, and try to keep an escape route open to the side (onto the road shoulder, for example) if you can’t stop in time.