Driving your Motorcycle Safely

motorcycle safety
Photo by Halfeez

If you’re thinking about purchasing your first motorcycle, safety should be first and foremost on your mind. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,612 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2012 (the most recent year for which data exists).

40 percent of these riders were not wearing helmets.

But beyond always wearing a helmet, there are plenty of proactive steps you can take to ensure your safety while on the road. Read on to learn more about protecting yourself while driving a motorcycle.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

Practice Awareness

Many of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents can easily be avoided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these factors include:

bike riding tips

Photo by Roberto Corralo

  • poor weather conditions
  • driving between two lanes
  • ignoring traffic signals, signs or warnings
  • not using a turn signal
  • speeding or ignoring other traffic laws
  • lack of driver visibility
  • driving under the influence, and
  • driver inexperience

By being prepared for these factors, you can increase your safety on the road.

Always Wear a Helmet

As mentioned above, wearing a helmet is one of the most important safety tips for motorcycle riders.

When getting ready to purchase your first motorcycle, visit a professional shop to ensure that you also get a high-quality Department of Transportation-approved helmet that fits correctly.

If you are ever involved in a crash, your helmet should immediately be replaced.

Practice Defensive Driving Techniques

Make sure that when you’re riding, you keep in mind your visibility to other motorists.

Avoid driving positions that may hinder drivers from seeing you, and always avoid aggressive driving and speeding. When possible, ride in areas where there are fewer cars (sometimes referred to as the “traffic bubble.”

Inspect Your Bike Before Each Ride

Before embarking, always make sure that you have enough gas to reach your destination before getting on the highway, and that your tires are properly inflated to the recommended pressure.

You should also make sure that the brakes, engine chain, suspension, lights and fluids are checked and functioning properly before you set out.

Wear Proper Riding Gear

Motorcycle safety gear doesn’t stop with your helmet. Heavy clothing that will protect you from injury in the event of a crash is recommended.

motorcycle safety hi-viz bike

Photo by s-bahn

This includes a heavy leather or denim jacket, jeans or leather pants, and boots, as well as extra knee and elbow protection (these areas are most likely to hit the ground first in the event of a crash).

You should also wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes on the road.

And if you’re riding at night, you should wear high-visibility apparel that allows motorists on the road to see you.

Many manufacturers now sell neon vests and other clothing designed specifically for bikers who are on the road at night.

Obey Speed Limits and Traffic Laws

Speeding is one of the most common causes of motorcycle fatalities, so sticking to the speed limit (and closely following other traffic laws) is an important part of protecting yourself.

As a motorcyclist, you are already at higher risk of a crash than other drivers, so there is no reason to further increase your risk by driving recklessly and flouting speed laws.

Look for ABS Brakes

When shopping for your first motorcycle, make it a priority to purchase a bike with an antilock braking system (ABS).

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2013 data shows that bikes with an optional ABS system have a 31 percent lower rate of fatal crashes than identical models where the owner has not opted for ABS. In addition, collision insurance claims are 20 percent lower for drivers whose bikes have ABS.

Check Your Riding Posture

Maintaining correct posture and a comfortable stance while on your motorcycle will make you a more comfortable and confident rider, which lowers your likelihood of getting a crash.

Taking an accredited motorcycle course from a licensed instructor before getting on the road can help you perfect your stance and posture before hitting the highway.

Prepare for Bad Weather

not a very safe motorcycle

Photo by Gerald Yuvallos

Weather conditions can quickly make the road dangerous when you’re out on a motorcycle. Check the report before you go out on the road so you know what to expect.

Make sure that your gear is weather-appropriate, go gentle on your bike in rain or light snow, and maintain a safe following distance at all times.

If conditions are foggy, you’ll also want to make sure to wear your high-visibility gear so that other cars can see you easily.

Never Drive Impaired

As with other types of vehicles, driving a motorcycle under the influence is extremely dangerous and is a factor in many fatal crashes. Plan an alternate route home if you’ll be drinking, and don’t let your friends ride if they’re impaired.

While it’s true that motorcycles are 35 times more likely to be involved in a deadly accident than passenger cars according to data from the NHTSA, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid buying a bike.

What it does mean, though, is that following the safety tips above and completely preparing to be a safe driver before getting on the road is critical to protecting yourself from serious injury.

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