For many riders, getting a motorcycle is a dream. Something they’ve always wanted. There’s really nothing like feeling the wind in your hair and the freedom of the road. But one of the things that is rarely talked about is the risks that come with riding a motorcycle. Getting in an accident can be one of the worst things that can happen and actually happens more often than you would think.
Motorcycles are involved in 11% of all accidents on the road in the U.S. and an estimated 80% result in serious injury or even death. In New York state alone, an average of 166 people die every year from motorcycle crashes. Many drivers on the road can be careless when it comes to motorcyclists, so planning to avoid accidents is something every rider should do before they hit the road.
We asked New York motorcycle accident lawyer Andrew Finkelstein to present us with ten different ways you can avoid a motorcycle accident and things that will help you along the way.
Make Sure You Have All of Your Paperwork in Order
Besides having your basic paperwork for your motorcycle, make sure you have your insurance card as well. If an accident should happen, you need all of the necessary insurance documentation to present to the other driver.
Attend a Motorcycle Training Course
Riding a motorcycle isn’t just like riding a bicycle, it’s completely different. You have an engine and will share the road with cars and trucks as well as full-sized semis. A training course will help you learn or review how to properly signal, stay in sight, and drive your motorcycle safely.
Wear Appropriate Apparel
This may sound obvious. But just think of it this way—you’re not in a car, so if you crash, you must protect your body from the road as well as the elements. Motorcycle outfits usually include leather, blue jeans, and boots. There’s a good reason for that.
Basic personal protective gear includes a high, close collar, insulated suit or windproof outer layer, thermal undershirt or layered clothing, insulated gauntlet gloves or heavy gloves with liners, and heavy, insulated boots. Think of it as armor that can protect your skin if you crash.
In addition, wear reflective gear, such as bright-colored clothing, to improve your visibility at night.
Never Ride Without a Helmet
If your outfit is another layer of skin, a helmet can protect your head in an accident. They are designed to take the impact if you hit the concrete and reduce the impact on your skull. Look for a helmet endorsed by the Snell Memorial Foundation, which rates helmets for effective crash protection.
Keep Your Distance
We ask drivers to give bikers space, but we need to give them space as well. Remember, they have a longer stopping distance than you do. Give other vehicles room to make quick decisions. They may not see you right away if you follow too closely. If you see a car swerving, never try to pass them.
Never Ride Between Lanes or Side-by-Side With Another Motorcyclist
Did you know it is illegal to ride between lanes (also called lane-splitting) in most states? Always ride in a separate lane or at a safe distance from other motorcyclists. When you are driving with other bikers, stagger where you drive—this will give you all safety spaces if something happens (and prevents other accidents).
Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It’s super-important to check your local weather forecast before heading out, as you don’t want to be caught in a storm. Slick roads can make stopping quickly difficult for motorcycles, and you may run the risk of your back tire sliding out. As cars should keep their distance from you, keep your distance from them. When entering any construction zone, watch for loose pebbles and stones that could flip your bike.
It is also key to know where to go for assistance if you need it. Mark out your fuel stops before you go as well. Don’t find yourself stuck in an area without fuel or a place to stop if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Learn the Proper Use of Your Brakes
Knowing how to use the breaks on your motorcycle could mean the difference between a good ride or crashing. Did you know there is a brake ratio of 70% braking effort on the front wheel (which uses the hand lever on the right grip), and 30% to the rear (which is operated by the right foot pedal)? This ratio can vary by the type of bike, however. Front brakes require more effort because weight transfer from slowing down will shift the bike’s balance from the rear wheel to the front, enabling the front tire to handle more load. With less downforce on the rear tire, it becomes much easier to lock up and slide that wheel, resulting in loss of control. The front is much less likely to slip because of the weight that transfers to that end.
Know Basic Maintenance Tips
Learn basic maintenance tips so you can regularly conduct a safety check on your bike. A motorcycle needs more maintenance and safety checks than a car. If you end up with a problem on the road, you want to know how to fix it. If you’re not handy with working on your bike, join a group that can teach you how to work on your bike.
Join a Motorcycle Riding Club
Biking clubs can bear a stigma, but finding a motorcycle club can help you in more ways than you’d expect. Not only will you find friends with a similar interest, you can pick up other great tips to help you grow your passion for riding while learning how to avoid accidents.
There’s no surefire way to avoid every accident, but if you use these tips, you’ll have a better chance to avoid them and prepare yourself if the worst happens. Preparing is one of the most important things you can do.