If you love your motorcycle as much as many do, you know how tempting it is to view discussions of safety as overblown. Unfortunately, while some people do make too much of the statistics at times, motorcycles can be dangerous. They can be a lot less so, however, if you take some common sense steps to protect yourself.
Understanding the danger
The National Safety Council compiles statistics on motorcycle use, and the numbers are hard to ignore. Of all the road-legal vehicles in America, motorcycles only make up 3% of the total and only 0.6% of the miles traveled by motor vehicles every year. Yet motorcyclists make up 14% of traffic deaths.
There’s nothing we can do about some of the dangers. Motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles and more likely to go unnoticed. Distracted driving is on the rise. About 30% of motorcyclists who are killed on the road are impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time.
Can you stay safe?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. While you can’t prevent all accidents, following some basic safety precautions can significantly decrease your chance of ever having an accident.
Wear the right gear
Those motorcycle helmets really do keep you safer on the road. You’ll hear arguments that they don’t, but the proof is in the pudding: A significant percentage of motorcyclists who are killed aren’t wearing helmets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds them about 40% effective in preventing a fatal head injury.
Make sure your helmet gives you full coverage, has a DOT sticker, and is brand new. Never buy a used helmet. If it’s been in a crash, it could be compromised. And while black might be cool, it’s the hardest color to see. Choose helmets in white or cream.
There are no rules about what clothes you have to wear, but a savvy cyclists knows how important the right covering can be. Outside the US, clothing has to conform to CE standards; thankfully, it’s easy to find CE-certified motorcycle gear even within the US.
Good clothes give you protection against abrasion impacts and cuts if you fall. Good gloves keep your hands safe and warm so you’re able to use controls easily in an emergency. The right boots support your feet and ankles and even protect them from breaks.
Drive the right bike
The best bike for you is the one you can safely and confidently drive. You’re four times more likely to be killed on a supersport motorcycle than on standard bikes, so only ride what you can control. You should be able to touch the ground easily at a stop and reach all the controls comfortably.
Make sure your headlights work and you have antilock brakes installed. Always do a maintenance check before you get on the road. That means making sure there’s enough tread on your tires, the brakes are working efficiently, no oil is leaking, and no loose cables are flapping around.
Practice to live
When nothing goes wrong on the road, all driving is easy. You might not know if you’ve got the skill to stay safe until the moment of truth: and that could be your last moment. Moving naturally in a panicked situation is hard, but you can make it second nature by practicing.
Find an empty parking lot, wear the right safety gear, and practice emergency braking and steering. Once you’re good at it, do it again. Repetition trains your muscle memory, and when the emergency arrives, your body and mind will be trained to work together to keep you alive.
To read more on topics like this, check out the travel category.