Whether you are a novice or an expert, following proper motorcycle safety tips every time you ride is essential. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash." No matter what your skill set, it is worth your time to not only take a safety training course, but also to follow these simple guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience.
Motorcycle Safety Tip #1: Know your bike Learning to ride a motorcycle safely is one of the most important steps you can take before hitting the open road. The best way to accomplish this is to take a reputable training course, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's RiderCourseSM. These courses are inexpensive and teach you basic skills for safe handling and riding. Loaner bikes often are available if you do not already own one. Advanced courses also are available for more skilled riders.
Completing a motorcycle safety course may offer additional benefits, too. For example, you may become eligible for discounts on your motorcycle insurance, or your riding test may be waived when you apply for your motorcycle license.
Other methods to ensure motorcycle safety include reading your owner's manual to become familiar with the features and capabilities of your bike and to practice, practice, practice! Riding frequently not only helps you get accustomed to how your bike handles in various situations, such as inclement weather or heavy traffic, but it also improves your overall riding technique.
Motorcycle Safety Tip #2: Wear appropriate gear To protect yourself while you're on the road, it is essential that you wear the proper gear. A full-face helmet (required in some states) and durable jackets, pants, gloves, ankle-covering boots and a rain suit will help protect you not only in the event of an accident, but also from weather and debris. Choose items made specifically for motorcycle riding, including a helmet with a DOT label inside to ensure it meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards. To make it easier for other drivers to see you, wear bright colors.
Motorcycle Safety Tip #3: Drive responsibly In a recent study by NHTSA, the fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists was 5.5 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. By following specific motorcycle safety tips, you can decrease your risk of an accident to not only protect yourself, but also protect surrounding drivers. Before you take your bike for a ride, give it a visual inspection. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends checking the bike's tires, controls, lights, oil/fuel levels, chain, sidestand/centerstand and brakes. You also should check the battery once a month and follow the routine maintenance schedule outlined in your owner's manual.
Once you're ready to hit the road, employ the MSF's SEESM system - Search, Evaluate and Execute - to look for and safely deal with any potential road hazards. Be cautious at intersections; the NHTSA states nearly 70 percent of motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur there.
A good rule of thumb when following other motorists is to ensure at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you. To do this, first focus on a non-moving object. Start counting when the car in front of you passes the object. You then should pass the object once you have counted to two seconds. When driving at highway speeds, increase the time to four seconds, and always follow posted speed limits.
Finally, ride in the portion of your lane where you are most visible to other drivers and where you have the most visibility of the road ahead of you. Avoid riding in the blind spots of nearby vehicles, especially trucks. If you need to pass, be sure to check your mirrors, as well as perform a head check. Use your turn signals to indicate the action you intend to take. You may want to use the corresponding hand signals, too. Be courteous to other drivers, and avoid weaving in and out of traffic. When braking, use both of your brakes together to ensure a slow and safe stop.