Motorcyclists ride single file down a two-lane street.

There are several key precautions motorcyclists can take to stay safe.

Judging by recent sobering statistics, the need for motorcycle safety has never been greater. According to the latest data available from the Insurance Information Institute, there were about 8.4 million private and commercial motorcycles on the road in 2013, compared with 8.0 million in 2009.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2013, 4,668 motorcyclists died in crashes, and 88,000 were injured.
  • From 2004 to 2013, motorcycle fatalities among the 40-and-older age group increased by 39 percent, according to the NHTSA. All motorcyclists should be aware of key precautions they can take to stay safe.

Get the Proper Training

Training is one of the most effective ways to stay safe and minimize the risk of injury. There are many organizations across the U.S. that offer United States Motorcycle Safety Education courses, including state agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporations.

The Colorado DOT administers a Motorcycle Safety Foundation approved program known as MOST, Motorcycle Operator Safety Training. Those who successfully pass a MOST exam can take their completion card to a Colorado state driver’s license office and receive their M endorsement without further testing. MOST provides high quality, low-cost training and offers a variety of course levels, from basic to advanced. Passing the MOST exam gives Colorado riders the training that will enable them to ride safely in almost any situation and qualifies them for discounts at local retailers and insurance companies.

Wear Protective Clothing and Equipment

One of the main reasons that motorcycle accidents are often so deadly is because the motorcycle itself provides little or no protection in a crash, and this risk is compounded if the rider is not wearing the proper protective clothing and equipment. Helmets, eye protection, and protective clothing not only increase riding comfort but also reduce the severity of injury should the rider get into an accident.

Practice Defensive Driving

Motorcyclists need to ride confidently and assertively, but not timidly or aggressively. An assertive rider practices defensive driving by using choosing his position in a lane to help increase their visibility in traffic, while an aggressive driver often disregards lanes entirely. Weaving in and out of traffic, riding on the shoulder of the road, and lingering in another motorist’s blind spot are all non-defensive driving practices that can result in accidents.

Be Aware of Road Conditions

The most adverse weather conditions for a motorcyclist are rain, excessive heat, and extreme cold. If a motorcyclist must ride in these conditions, he should take a short break every few hours to avoid fatigue, slow down if visibility is poor, and when in the middle of a long trip, consider stopping for the night as opposed to continuing on, as operating a motorcycle at night can be challenging even under normal weather conditions.

Don’t Forget to Maintain Your Motorcycle

A motorcycle requires a high degree of maintenance, and part of the responsibility of owning one is either performing this maintenance or seeing that it gets done. The simple act of washing and detailing a motorcycle can reveal areas of concern, and changing the oil regularly, every three months or 3,000 miles, will keep a motorcycle running smoothly. Chain tension and lubrication are very important, as is tire inspection. If you buy only one motorcycle maintenance tool, it should be a good quality air pressure gauge – the investment might save your life, as well as the lives of other motorists on Colorado’s roadways.

Image by Aberdeen Proving Ground

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