Riding a motorcycle seems exciting; you’ll get to feel the power of the wind as you ride, you’ll have the freedom of the open road, and you’ll feel the rumble of a powerful engine beneath you or in front of you. But those thrilling features also come with inherent risks, and if you aren’t careful, those risks could put you in the hospital or worse.
The Prevalence of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents are inherently more dangerous than accidents in other vehicles because of the vulnerability of the rider. Riders aren’t protected by an external frame or a secure seatbelt, so they’re more likely to be thrown from the vehicle or directly impacted by an oncoming force. Add to that the fact that motorcycles are less visible than other vehicles, and their speed and stopping power, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.
Important Safety Tips
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to maximize your chances of avoiding an accident, and staying safe while you ride:
1. Wear a helmet, always.
Motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths, and 67 percent effective at preventing traumatic brain injuries. If you’re thrown from the vehicle or impacted head-on, they could be all that stops you from premature death. Regardless of how you feel about their comfort or fashionableness, it’s important that you wear one every time you ride.
2. Wear the right clothes.
You should also protect your body when you’re riding. Getting knocked off your bike while moving quickly can result in road rash, a gruesome and painful injury that can easily be prevented with the right clothes. Make sure your legs, arms, hands, and feet are sufficiently covered with thick material; in other words, shorts and sandals are not appropriate attire. You’ll also need clothes that can protect you from the wind, bugs, and debris.
3. Buy a bike you can handle.
There are thousands of different varieties of motorcycles out there, so make sure to buy one that fits your skill level and needs. For example, you may want to invest in a bike with more powerful brakes, one that’s fitted for your size, or one that’s ideal for beginning riders; otherwise, you’ll be at increased risk to lose control of the vehicle.
4. Stay visible.
Motorcycles are often involved in collisions because they’re harder to see than other vehicles, but there are ways for you to compensate for this. You can wear high-visibility gear and make your motorcycle brighter to the eye, and tap your brakes occasionally to illuminate your taillights. You can also work to stay out of other driver’s blind spots for added security.
5. Practice riding.
It’s not a good idea to ride as fast as you can down the highway immediately after purchasing your motorcycle, tempting though it may be. Instead, practice riding in a safe area, such as side streets, until you’re more comfortable with how the bike handles. If a car stops suddenly in front of you, or if you’re encountering bad weather for the first time, your inexperience could result in overcorrecting, and ultimately, an accident.
6. Use defensive driving.
Defensive driving is important for all operators of motor vehicles, but it’s an especially worthwhile practice for motorcycle riders. The main philosophy here is to drive patiently and cautiously, controlling your speed, and looking far ahead to anticipate the unexpected. You’ll need to watch and respect other drivers, and follow them at a safe distance as well.
7. Inspect your vehicle before riding.
Before you head out, take a moment to inspect your motorcycle for any damage or mechanical failures. Learning that your brakes aren’t working properly or noting insufficient tire pressure could spare you from unsafe conditions while you’re doing 60 mph on the freeway. While you’re at it, keep your bike maintained to reduce the risk of failure; replace any worn or questionable parts as early as possible, and get it inspected routinely.
8. Avoid inclement weather.
While some bikes are made to handle conditions like heavy rain or snow, it’s better to avoid inclement weather altogether. You may be able to handle your bike perfectly fine, but you have to worry about the other drivers on the road; decreased visibility and longer stopping distances mean you’re going to be at a much higher risk of getting into an accident, even with perfect vehicular control.
If you follow these tips, you should dramatically reduce your chances of being involved in a collision. You can’t eliminate all the risks of riding a motorcycle, but then, any method of travel is inherently risky. Stay smart and ride reasonably, and you’ll keep yourself significantly protected.