Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
Resources for Colorado Drivers on Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents
More than 8 million motorcycles are registered in the United States, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). A startling statistic: The number of deaths of motorcyclists in 2014 , per mile traveled, was more than 27 times the number for people traveling in cars.
Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars, yet often have high-performance capabilities. Motorcycle riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they’re much more likely to be injured or killed in crashes. Some ways to help stay safe while riding and avoid a motorcycle accident include:
Get Proper Training
Training is one of the most effective ways to stay safe and minimize the risk of injury on a motorcycle. Many organizations across the U.S. offer United States Motorcycle Safety Education courses, including state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.
Motorcycle training teaches the skills for driving on public roads, much as driver’s education teaches people how to safely drive a car. Many motorcycle training courses in the U.S. utilize Motorcycle Safety Foundation course materials: 31 states use the MSF test for motorcycle licensing, and 41 use the MSF motorcycle operator manual. All but five states waive license testing for motorcyclists who have completed MSF training courses.
Wear Protective Gear
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one of the main reasons that motorcyclists are killed in accidents is because the motorcycle itself provides little or no protection in a crash, and the rider was 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.
Because serious head injury is common among motorcyclists involved in accidents, helmet use is very important. The IIHS reports that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, despite the fact that only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate their use by all riders.
Colorado does not require adult motorcycle drivers or passengers to wear helmets, although all operators and passengers under 18 years of age must wear helmets that meet or exceed the standards established by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for motorcycle helmets.
Practice Defensive Driving Techniques
Motorcyclists need to drive defensively by riding confidently and assertively, but not timidly or aggressively. Hesitant and indecisive riders can be unsafe, as they tend to make sudden, unexpected maneuvers that force other drivers to react suddenly.
Motorcyclists should generally avoid aggressive maneuvers such as abrupt lane changes and impatient acceleration and deceleration when in heavy traffic. Defensive driving is about sharing the road and having the skill and patience to control your part of it to help keep everyone safe.
Being Aware of Weather and Road Conditions
According to DMV.org, the most adverse weather conditions for a motorcyclist are rain, excessive heat, and extreme cold. If you must ride a motorcycle in these conditions, play it safe by:
- Taking a short break every few hours to avoid fatigue
- Slowing down if visibility is poor
- When in the middle of a long trip, consider stopping for the night as opposed to continuing on.
When riding in the rain, a motorcyclist should aim for smooth control, be gentle with the brakes and throttle, and always complete a turn before beginning to accelerate. When riding in high heat, a motorcyclist should take care to stay hydrated, taking plenty of water breaks but avoiding soda, which will actually cause dehydration.
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, make it a good quality air pressure gauge — the investment might save your life, as well as the lives of other motorists on Colorado’s roadways.