But lurking just below these statistics is the proof that, if they will make just a few changes, motorcyclists will dramatically reduce their chance of serious injury, or worse, while riding. Consumer Reports notes, for example, that a huge percentage of motorcycle fatalities involve speeding (48%) or alcohol (42%). So, simply not speeding or drinking alcohol makes an enormous and positive difference in safety.
Here are some other things to do to make riding significantly safer:
(1) Buy the bike that’s right for you, not one that’s too big or uncomfortable for you to handle. Today’s bikes are faster and more powerful than their predecessors of just a few years ago. It’s easy to make a mistake when buying. So, observe some simple rules: make sure your feet can be flat on the ground, that the handlebars are well within reach, and that you feel comfortable with the bike’s size. Start with a smaller engine, to make sure you can safely control the bike…..300 cc’s instead of 500.
(2) Get a bike with an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Bikes with an ABS are 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash. That’s because, without ABS, a sudden braking can lead to a loss of driver control, and a “skid and crash”. Now it’s true that ABS costs a few hundred dollars more, but reduced insurance premiums will make up some of that cost. Plus, keep in mind: 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Isn’t that worth a couple hundred dollars?
(3) Practice: As in everything in life, practice makes you better. But it’s especially important in biking, where the punishment for making a “rookie” mistake can be so catastrophic. There are 2,700 Motorcycle Safety Foundation locations throughout the country, where you can get training in how to be a better biker, no matter your level of experience.
(4) Wear a Helmet: You’re 40% more likely to die in a crash if you’re not wearing a helmet, and 3 times more likely to suffer a brain injury. The fact that you may live in a state that doesn’t require riders to wear helmets certainly says something about the intelligence of the people making the laws, but their recklessness does not have to be yours. Get yourself a full-faced helmet. Wear it. Replace it every 5 years. Live to ride longer.
(5) Wear the right riding gear. Wear bright colors, so you can easily be spotted by car drivers, who report in every study that they do not notice motorcyclists out on the road. Wear pants and a shirt that are thick enough to protect you against “road rash” should you unfortunately get knocked from your bike. Protect your eyes, so they can help you make good decisions while riding. Use a helmet with a visor, and goggles.
(6) Drive defensively. There are more distracted and impaired car drivers than ever on the road today. These drivers pose more of a threat to motorcyclists than to anyone else, because of how relatively unprotected you are. They either don’t see you at all, or are unable to reliably judge how close to you they may be. So, the bike rider unavoidably must take responsibility for his/her own safety. Be extra mindful of everything going on around you on the road. Do not trust your safety to anyone else.
(7) Watch out for bad weather. Rain and wind are the biggest threats. Rain both reduces your visibility, and makes your grip on the road more tenuous. Leave yourself lots of time and space when riding in the rain. No sudden stops, turns, or lane changes. As for wind, leave yourself lots of room in your lane in case a gust comes along and pushes you. You don’t want to wind up suddenly in the other lane, or off the road.
(8) Beware road hazards. Remember that even minor things that don’t bother the car driver-like stones, bumps, potholes, leaves, spilled liquid-can create life-threatening problems for the motorcyclist, because his/her bike has less contact with the pavement than a car. Be observant for these problems. Respect their ability to cause you great harm, and slow down around them.
(9) Make sure your bike is in good working order. Is your safety equipment ready to protect you? Lights, horns, signals? Check them, to be sure. And then there is perhaps the most important safety equipment: brakes and tires. Are the brakes working correctly? Are the tires properly inflated? Experts tell us that under-inflated bike tires cause problems handling and steering the bike, greatly reducing safety. Check tire pressure regularly.
None of these precautions require much time or money to incorporate into your cycling habits. They greatly reduce the chances of serious injury, or worse, and therefore greatly enhance the chances that you will be able to have fun riding for a very long time.