May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and warm temperatures have already coaxed many riders onto the road. Here are some motorcycle safety tips for both four-wheelers and two-wheelers already cruising the highways.
Whether for the sense of freedom, the joy of the open road, or simply for better fuel economy, motorcycles are a fairly common sight on the road. Motorcycles can be dangerous, however, because riders are less protected than their automotive counterparts, no matter how much protective gear they don. Motorcycles take up less room on the road, especially when seen from the front or rear, and they can easily escape drivers’ notice.
Motorcycle Safety Tips for Riders
The key to motorcycle safety is to drive defensively, be vigilant and drive as if other drivers are unable to see you properly. In states that allow lane-splitting, be extra vigilant. While riding, don’t hang out in other drivers’ blind spots. Although black is often associated with motorcycles, wearing bright colors instead can improve your visibility to other drivers.
Getting into an automobile requires little more than your keys, license and regular clothes, but you need proper gear to ride a motorcycle. Protective gear should be appropriate for the season, including boots, gloves, a jacket and a DOT-approved helmet. Protective pants, body armor and shins guards add even more layers of protection between you and the road.
Taking a safety course is essential for any rider, especially those new to the scene. Learning how to ride is one thing that most can handle with little practice, but learning advanced emergency evasive maneuvers can be a lifesaver one day. It may even save you money on insurance in the meantime.
Every time you head out for a ride, perform a quick inspection of your motorcycle, making sure your headlights, taillight, turn signals and horn are all in working condition. Check and adjust your tire pressure, drive chain or belt tension, triple clamp, brakes and suspension.
Motorcycle Safety Tips for Drivers
Since motorcycles aren’t as easy to see as other vehicles, motorists must pay extra attention to the road to spot riders. Your blind spots are especially dangerous when changing lanes or merging onto a highway. If an entire semi-truck can hide in your blind spot, imagine how much easier it is for a motorcycle. One way to improve your chance of seeing riders is to adjust your mirrors properly. Still, always check your blind spots before lane changes or merges.
Riders have all the same rights and responsibilities as drivers do, including their place on the road. Road hazards, such as gravel, potholes, pavement seams and road debris, are a lot more dangerous for a rider than for a driver. Even though a motorcycle may take up only half a lane, respect that space and give them room to maneuver. When following a motorcycle, leave three or four seconds’ following distance to allow the rider space to slow down and avoid obstacles safely.
Just like that old lady that forgot to cancel her turn signal five miles back, most motorcycle turn signals aren’t self-canceling, so don’t assume that a rider intends to turn before you pass on the other side.
Finally, it’s already illegal in most states to drive distracted, including talking on the phone or texting, which can put other drivers and riders in danger. Pro tip: Just don’t do it! Unfortunately, because riders don’t have the same amount of protection, an accident with a distracted drivers can be fatal.
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