Motorcycle Safety Tips
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,286 motorcyclists lost their lives in traffic crashes in 2016 alone. This represented a 5.1% increase in fatalities from the previous year. In 2015, more than 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in crashes that ranged from serious drunk driving crashes to minor low speed accidents. Unfortunately, even in minor accidents that occur at low speeds, motorcyclists can sustain serious and life-threatening injuries. Unlike cars, motorcycles do not have reinforced steel cages and airbags protecting their riders from harm—motorcyclists sustain the majority of the injuries.
To minimize the risk of getting into a serious accident and suffering injury, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Being safe on a motorcycle involves both preparation before you start riding, as well as safe driving once you’re out on the road.
Wear the Appropriate Gear
When it comes to motorcycle safety, wearing the right gear can change your life. When purchasing safety gear, be sure you purchase bright and reflective clothing that can help you stand out on the road or in traffic. While black may look cool, it can make it even more difficult for bikers to get noticed and this can cause serious accidents. It may seem simple but high visibility clothing and reflective tape can help save your life.
Before hitting the open road, be sure you’re dressed in the appropriate safety gear, including:
- Motorcycle helmet – Even though Arkansas law doesn’t require adult riders to wear helmets, safety experts agree that all riders should wear a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle helmets saved the lives of 1,870 motorcyclists in 2017 alone and they have been shown to reduce the risk of serious head injury by 69%.
- Motorcycle jacket – Riders who wore full protection motorcycle jackets suffered from fewer injuries during crashes and were closer to a full recovery six months later. That’s because motorcycle jackets protect your skin from road debris, burns, road rash, and lacerations.
- Long pants – Similarly to motorcycle jackets, long pants should be worn when riding a motorcycle. Riders can suffer serious disfiguring injuries due to road rash or burns when their skin isn’t protected during a crash.
- Motorcycle boots – Wearing close-toed shoes, such as motorcycle boots, can prevent devastating foot and lower leg injuries from occurring. Wearing comfortable but sturdy shoes while riding is necessary to protect your feet from the bike’s exhaust pipes, cold weather, road debris, and injury.
Follow Traffic Rules
Motorcyclists should follow traffic rules, even if they seem mundane. Traffic laws are there to protect motorcyclists, and others who share the road, from harm. Even if you’re in a hurry, follow the rules of the road in order to avoid serious and fatal accidents. Some of those rules include:
- Follow all posted speed limit signs
- Wear DOT-approved helmets if under the age of 18
- All riders must wear appropriate eye protection
- Lane-splitting is not allowed in Arkansas, even in traffic
- Lane sharing is allowed – only two bikers per lane
- All motorcyclists must have a motorcycle license endorsement
- All motorcyclists are required to carry liability insurance – minimums 15/30/10
Defensive riding is a strategy that allows the motorcyclist to remain in control while riding. Riding defensively means constantly observing, anticipating, and planning ahead. It means always being on the lookout for what other drivers “might do” so that you can stay one step ahead of them and avoid serious and fatal injuries. Defensive riding focuses on three main areas:
- Observing – Defensive riding requires motorcyclists to stay alert and constantly observe what is going on around them. This means vigilantly checking mirrors and being aware of the drivers around you, as well as your changing surroundings.
- Anticipating – While you’re busy making observations, you should also identify potential hazards and dangers that could pose a serious threat to you on the road. This could be a car that’s inching forward at an intersection or a texting driver next to you.
- Planning – Once you’ve identified the hazard, defensive riding teaches motorcyclists to use this information to put themselves in a better position to avoid an accident. This might mean changing lanes, slowing down through an intersection, or giving yourself more time to stop suddenly.
When riding a motorcycle, staying alert and focused can literally save your life. Motorcyclists have to be extra cautious on the road because they need to watch for other drivers, as well as changes in weather conditions, debris, and road surfaces. A pothole on the road, for example, may be a mere nuisance to a car or truck driver, but for a motorcyclist, it can be deadly. However, there are certain things that can impair a driver’s alertness, such as:
- OTC or prescription medications
- Illicit drugs
- Driving drunk
Drunk driving is not only illegal, it can significantly impair a motorcyclist’s ability to remain alert and focused on the road. In the State of Arkansas, any driver operating a vehicle on the road with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater can be arrested and charged with DUI. In addition to risking a DUI on your driving record, driving under the influence of alcohol can be deadly. In 2016, motorcycle riders were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities, when compared to other type of vehicle drivers. In fact, 37% of motorcycle riders who died in single vehicle crashes were driving impaired at the time.
Ensure that your motorcycle is in proper operating condition prior to riding it. This includes keeping it regularly tuned and serviced and having it fully evaluated at the start of every riding season. Motorcyclists should also perform a basic safety check before every single ride. This safety check should include:
- ✓Transmission fluid
- ✓Brake fluid
- ✓Primary fluid
✓Check battery voltage
✓Check brakes for proper function
✓Check oil filters and air filters
✓Check tire pressure
✓Check foot pegs
✓Complete electrical check
- ✓High beams
- ✓Low beams
- ✓Running lights
- ✓Turn signals
- ✓Brake lights
Stay in Your Comfort Zone
Motorcycle riding is fun and exhilarating, but it is also dangerous. Motorcycle riders need to ride within their comfort zones. If you’re not comfortable about something, don’t do it. Trust your gut and only ride on certain roads or under certain conditions when you’re ready. If corners or tight turns make you nervous, for example, respect that fear and reduce your speed. Going around corners or turns at a lower rate of speed may give you more control and help you remain calm throughout.
One of the best ways to be comfortable on your bike, however, is to make sure that your bike is the right size and weight for you. When purchasing your first bike, visit numerous dealers to get a feel for different sizes and models. If it feels too big or too heavy, it probably is. You’ll want to choose a bike that is the right height, weight, and engine size for your body and your riding experience.
- The Right Weight – You need to get a feel for the weight distribution from side to side. A good fit should allow you to control the bike with ease. This might mean choosing a bike that is lighter so you can control the bike when it begins to lean over.
- The Right Height – The right height bike will also allow you to sit on the seat and still have both feet flat on the ground. Additionally, check to see how far from the seat your foot and hand controls are. Are you overreaching?
- The Right Engine Size – Engine size is important. If you are a beginner, choose a lower powered engine because these are easier to control for less experienced riders.
Know How to Drive in Inclement Weather
Riding in bad weather conditions can be risky for motorcyclists. Whenever possible, motorcyclists should avoid riding in poor weather. However, there are times when you may have no choice. Maybe a sudden rainstorm occurs while you’re already out on the open road or the wind picks up along a stretch of highway when you least expected it. When you’re forced to ride in bad weather, remain even more alert and cautious and follow these tips:
- Wear a full-face helmet to improve vision
- Go slower than the speed limit
- Double the distance between yourself and other vehicles
- Avoid road paint, it gets slick when wet
- Ride staggered in bad weather
- Don’t ride through puddles
- Avoid shiny looking surfaces – could be ice or an oil slick
- Remain calm
Group Riding Tips
Motorcycle riding is more fun when you do it with friends. Hitting the open road with buddies or riding groups can be a great experience. However, a little riding etiquette goes a long way towards keeping yourself and your friends safe on the road.
- Know where you’re going
- Map it out ahead of time
- Be prepared with first aid kit and tools
- Designate a group leader to follow
- Assign a sweep rider to ride last to help with emergencies
- Stay together
- Ride in a staggered formation and no more than 2 in a lane
- Ride at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you
- Use hand signals
- Take frequent breaks along the way
- Keep up with the pack – only if you’re comfortable
Know that you are still in control of your ride, even when riding in a group. If the group is riding at a pace that is uncomfortable to you or if you believe that your safety is at risk, leave the group immediately. Signal the sweeper and pull safely out of the formation. You can either choose to meet up with the group at a later time or you may decide that this riding group isn’t a good fit for you. Remember, your safety comes first – always.
Know How to Drive Properly
Riding a motorcycle properly may take a little time. That’s why it is always recommended that new riders take a beginner riding course. In these motorcycle riding classes, riders will learn how to ride properly, including what to do in emergency situations.
The correct body position for riding a motorcycle will depend largely on the type of bike you’re riding. Motorcyclists sitting on a sports bike will be in a very different position than those riding on a cruiser. In general, however, you should be able to sit on the seat with both feet flat on the ground and your arms should be able to comfortably reach both handlebars and brakes without struggle.
- How to Accelerate and Brake – When riding a motorcycle, your right hand is the one responsible for accelerating and braking. Twisting the grip towards you will apply the throttle and rev the engine. The same hand also controls the front brakes, which is similar to a bicycle. Simply pull the brake lever to begin stopping the bike. Just like the throttle, a little goes a long way. Braking or throttling too hard can cause you to lose control of the bike. The rear brakes are operated by your right foot. Safety experts say that in most situations, it’s best to apply the rear brakes first and then slowly applying the front brake.
- How to Operate the Clutch – The clutch is the lever that is located ahead of the left-hand grip. This engages and disengages the transmission and engine. When you squeeze the clutch, you are putting the motorcycle into neutral gear. Letting go of the clutch releases it from neutral and back into gear.
- How to Shift Gears – You can shift a motorcycle into different gears by moving a lever up and down with your left foot. There are sometimes six gears on your motorcycle that you can access by moving the shift lever back and forth.
Sometimes There’s Nothing You Can Do
Sometimes, even when you take all the necessary safety precautions, make all the necessary safety checks, and ride defensively and safely, accidents still occur. This is because the vast majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by other drivers who simply fail to recognize the motorcyclist on the road. They may turn left into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist, open a car door into their lane, or change lanes into their path.
An experienced and compassionate motorcycle accident lawyer can help you obtain the money you need to put your life back together again. You are entitled to financial compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. This includes medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, bike repair costs, and pain and suffering.
We’re There When You Need Us
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in Arkansas or Tennessee, you may face a long, uphill battle trying to collect the money you need to recover. Insurance companies often have biases against motorcyclists, and many believe that bikers are reckless on the road. These biases can jeopardize your claim and make it more difficult to receive full compensation after an accident. At Rainwater, Holt, & Sexton, our motorcycle accident attorneys don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of our clients. We fight aggressively for your future and will handle the insurance companies so you can focus on your recovery.