a double (motorcyclist in Colorado)Because of the dangers of riding a motorcycle — with riders 30 times more likely to die in an accident than people in a car, according to Consumer Reports — two recent articles offer tips to help motorcyclists stay safe while riding.

In an article appearing on Courant.com, Consumer Reports notes that motorcyclists over age 60 fare even worse, because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, and are three times more likely than younger riders to require hospitalization after a crash.

In 2010, 48% of motorcycle fatalities involved speeding, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Consumer Reports writes, and alcohol was involved in 42%. And Brandpoint reports in MorningSun.net that although motorcyclists comprise 2% of vehicles on the road, they account for 14% of all road traffic deaths, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety.

Consumer Reports gives the following advice to motorcyclists:

  • Don’t buy “more bike than you can handle.” Today’s bikes perform more powerfully than ones made 10 or 20 years ago, even models with small-displacement engines.
  • Invest in anti-lock (ABS) brakes, which are a proven lifesaver and are available on many models. IIHS data shows that motorcycles with ABS brakes are 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • Take a course to become a better motorcycle operator. It can teach you both the basics and advanced techniques, like emergency maneuvers. Courses range from free to around $350. And taking a course might help you to get an insurance discount, and in some states to skip the road test or the written test part of the licensing process. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is one source of courses.
  • Wear a helmet. Riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to have a fatal head injury in a crash, and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those wearing helmets, government studies show. The Colorado Department of Transportation writes the following:

Although helmets are proven to save lives, riders age 18 and over are not required to wear helmets in Colorado. However, if the motorcycle operator or passengers are under age 18, they must wear DOT-approved helmets.

In 2006, 65% of fatally injured motorcycle riders were not wearing a helmet in states without all-rider helmet laws, compared with only 13% in states with all-rider helmet laws. (NHTSA, 2007)

  • Wear the right gear. Wear a leather or reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants, and over-the-ankle footwear, even in hot weather, and also effective eye protection. These will protect you from wind chill, flying bugs and debris, and “road rash if you should slide out.”
  • Ride defensively. Be extra alert; look for cars changing lanes suddenly or pulling out from side streets; don’t tailgate. A recent study by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, car drivers were at fault 60% of the time.
  • Avoid bad weather. Rain not only limits your visibility, but also decreases a motorcycle’s tires’ grip on the road, which can make it difficult to turn corners. If you need to ride in the rain, try to avoid riding right after the rain begins to fall, as the water can cause oil residue on the road to rise to the surface and make the road even more slippery.
  • Look out for road hazards. Because a motorcycle has less contact with the road than a car does, a bike can slide unexpectedly because of sand, wet leaves, or pebbles on the road. And bumps and potholes can present a serious danger.
  • Check your motorcycle before each ride you take. Make sure your lights, horn, and directional signals are working. Check the chain, belt or shaft, and the brakes. Also inspect the tires for wear and to make sure they are set at the correct pressure.

In addition, Brandpoint gives the following tips:

  • Be careful approaching intersections, where Allstate Insurance says 46% of all motorcycles occur. Make eye contact with car and truck drivers, especially at intersections to make sure they see you.
  • Ride with your lights on, and use hand signals in addition to your lights.
  • On the highway or in a city, avoid being in a car or truck’s blind spot.
  • Check your insurance, and don’t assume your car insurance covers your use of a motorcycle, scooter, or moped. And always have proof of your insurance on you in case of a crash.
  • Wear bright-color outer clothing to increase your chance of being seen by drivers.
  • Know your bike, especially if it’s a new one for you. Practice with it so you understand how it reacts, like in an emergency stop situation. Read your owner’s manual.
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